Category Archives: New England

Halloween Treat

 

This Halloween, Yang and I treated ourselves to a hike in the cold autumn air at  Colbrook Reservoir Park.  Once a small town was on this land, but the river was damned to create a reservoir here that flooded it out.  Relax, they moved the people out first.  Appropriately for the day, when the water is low in times of drought, there’s a ghost to be seen.  More on that later.  However, as you can see in this picture, though the colors might not have been flamingly spectacular, they were still pretty.

 

In one direction, you can head toward the dam, which you can see here. 
We went the opposite way, down the old highway that is often covered when the reservoir is not in drought mode.  The two-lane highway makes for a  pretty smooth walk and is in surprisingly good condition for something that’s been submerged off and on over forty or so years.  You can see from this photo that the water level is waaaay down.  The boat launch is yards from the water and the water looks to be extremely shallow.
There are lots of interesting rock formations and trees on either side of the road.  There’s also supposed to be lots of wildlife around.  We were fortunate enough to see an American Kestrel, a bird I haven’t seen too much of lately.  The blue feathers on its back are gorgeous, especially when they contrast with the rusty red of its sides.  I was surprised not to see much in the way of waterfowl- only a mallard powering along the water.  You’d think there’d be plenty taking a rest stop on their migration route-whichever way they were going.  Perhaps the water was too shallow to provide much of a traveler’s buffet.  We didn’t see any beavers, but we did see the evidence of them.

There was also some nice views of the autumn colors in the hills surrounding the valley through which we walked .

If you click on this picture and look carefully, you can see the remains of old stone walls that marked the property boundaries of the people who had lived here

 

 

 

 

I love this tree!

 

We came to an old bridge over a run-off into the river and could see further upstream the remnants of another bridge that had once led into the town.  Looking down into the river and valley from the old highway, I couldn’t help thinking of what a beautiful setting this place was in which to live, with the hills and forest flanking you on one side, the small but swift river separating you from the highway, and the hills of rock and trees rising on the other.  And then there was that clear blue sky!  Greenly gorgeous in summer, brilliantly flaming in fall, and Christmas-card white in winter.  It must have been hard to leave such a beautiful place behind. Of course, that’s just my imagination running fanciful and feeling.
Now, I promised to tell you about the “ghost” of the reservoir.  Well, it’s neither human nor animal, but metal.  “Huh?” you say?  The phantom is known as the Ghost Bridge.  When the reservoir is not in drought, the bridge is submerged.  However, in seasons where there’s a dearth of water, like this year, the water recedes enough for you to see a metal bridge that crosses from one bank to the other of the old river bed into the little settlement that had been there.  This year, we were in luck!  Behold some neat shots that I got.  You can tell by looking at the length of the bridge that the river must have been much narrower, originally-unless cars back then had aqualungs as standard equipment.  Some other people we talked to that day (from over six feet away and masked) told us that someone had placed pumpkins on the boulders on our side of the bridge entrance.  If you click on the first picture and look carefully, you can see an orange object.   If you click on the second picture, you can see those boundary-marking stone walls.   Boo!
As beautiful an embodiment of fall as this day was, it also presaged winter.  Not only was the weather brisk, but what I consider one of the first signs of winter appeared there:  hundreds of slate-colored juncos!  I love their slate blue coloring, with the white flash in their tails when they fly off and make a sound like little castanets!

 

Here are a few more shots of the foliage and  rocky landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

The End

An Autumn Walk in St. John’s Cemetery

Between Halloween and fall foliage, October seems the perfect month to post blogs on my cemetery visits.  St. John’s Cemetery is one of my favorites, a beautiful rural setting that was just starting to put on display its lovely autumn colors.  Unlike the rolling hills of some Romantic-style cemeteries, the layout is fairly flat, but it has a plethora of  old trees providing shade in summer and wonderful colors in the fall.  A river runs alongside with all kinds of  brush that serves as home to many different birds.
There is plenty of beautiful statuary in this cemetery, as well.  Some of it shows magnificently against the backdrop of autumn’s leafy splendor.  Here we’ve got Jesus.
And here we have a sad woman shouldering the sacred cross, perhaps striving to lift the burden from Christ’s shoulders with repenting her sins.
There are so many beautiful statues here celebrating Catholic figures of holiness-many of which you won’t find in non-Catholic cemeteries.  We found many different versions of the Virgin Mary.  These are some  especially interesting ones.  This monument evokes the Infant of Prague motif.

 

 

These other two images of Mary are intriguing as well.  The first figure reminds me of Our Lady or Lourdes or of Fatima.  The second shows her crowned Queen of Earth and the Heavens, with the Christ child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The images of angels were fascinating, too.  I love this relief that seems to show Saint Michael, sword in hand, ready for Someone Special.

 

 

 

 

 

However this exquisite carving of an angel struck me the deepest.  I’m including more than one shot, I’m so impressed with it.  Look at the deep contemplation in the features.  What is this angel thinking?  Brooding on the fall of some many angels and humans once bright with promise?  Or is there a trace of a smile in the subtle shaping of his cheeks and lips?  Take time to delight in how the material of his gown seems to drape gracefully as a part of his body.  What does he hold tucked behind?  A sword or a staff?  The features are so gracefully, believably carved that not a single Dr. Who fan would blink in his presence.

 

I’m just not sure who this saint is.  He’s in monk’s robes, so it can’t be Joseph-and no baby Jesus. There are no animals around, so it wouldn’t be Saint Francis.  No baby Jesus on his shoulder-not St. Christopher.  Maybe St. Anthony or St. Peter?  He is holding a cross, the way Peter was martyred, but what about the skull?

 

 

There are other wonderful statues that are not of Saints, much in line with what you’d expect in any cemetery.  Behold this piece that looks like a cathedral.

 

 

 

 

Then there are some lovely statues of women, like this one of a mother reading from a book to her daughter. The book is probably a Bible, but I like to think of it as something by C. Brontë.  Charlotte was actually pretty spiritual.
You can also find some impressive examples of Celtic Crosses in this cemetery, some with intricate relief designs carved on them.  Below are two examples I found captivating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The river that parallels one side of this cemetery hosts many wonderful critters.  We’ve seen ducks and a Great Blue Heron here.  Once we even saw a muskrat swim gaily upstream.  The brush and trees along the banks host flocks of Robins, Chickadees, Vireos, Phoebes, Catbirds,  and King Birds.  In the summer, we’ve seen Orioles and woodpeckers flying and perching on the imposing tress on the grounds.
Speaking of birds, one time we showed up in the cemetery too late to be allowed to continue our walk.  As we were driving slowly toward the main road to leave, Yang asked me, “What’s that on the tomb stone ahead?”  It was a great big red-tailed hawk!  The pictures aren’t perfect because it was night and we took them through the windshield of our car, but they are pretty darned neat.  I especially like the one where Mr. or Ms. Hawk does an almost 180 with the head and stares right at us.  Yikes!
Lastly, this gravestone raised  an important question for me.   If Curley’s here, where did they plant Moe and Larry?  Or Shemp?

 

NH Adventures: Claude Rains, Mt. Roberts, and the First October Full Moon

This month has blue moons, two in one month.  The first day of October this year was the first full moon of the month.  So, we celebrated  with a trip to New Hampshire that was a triple header for us.  First, we visited the grave of my favorite actor, Claude Rains, in the Red Hill Cemetery.  It’s a small, peaceful place, with lots of firefighters R.I.P.ing there.  The graves of Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary are beautiful polished black stone Gothic arches.  To pay tribute, we brought one of the pumpkins that we had grown ourselves this year.  I liked presenting a little gift that Yang and I had worked hard to cultivate together.  The foliage by the cemetery hadn’t quite turned yet, but there were still some pretty trees.  When we go a bit later in the season, you often see some magnificent colors.  Check this link to a blog with pictures of the foliage in a past visit.
It was still a lovely place for Mr. Rains and his wife Rosemary to take their final rest.  I did want to place the pumpkin between the graves to honor them both, but I was a little worried it might roll off or get pushed away if it weren’t resting against the stone.  So, Mr. Rains got the pumpkin.  Maybe next time, I’ll bring two, especially if we have a bigger pumpkin crop.  Click here for news on what we did harvest.
We also did a drive- by of the classic colonial with it’s three pillars where Claude Rains last resided.  I wonder what the inside is like?  It was nice to see a Jean Shaheen sign out front.  You can’t see it in this photo, though you can see a beautiful sugar maple behind and to the left of the house.

Next on the agenda was to hike the Mt. Roberts trail in Moultonborough.  It’s on the grounds of the Castle in the Clouds, but it’s free to visit and hike.  Usually, we go up Red Hill, but I asked if we could start with something that ascended a bit less steeply, as this was my first major mountain climb of the year-major for me, anyway.  It really wasn’t all that easy, but the hike was definitely worth it!  We enjoyed the terrain, the changing colors, sighting a Brown Thrasher and a Wood Thrush (thank God for binoculars!).  When we got to an overlook, we sat and ate tea eggs that Yang had made, then chunks of the yummy pumpkin bread I’d baked the night before.   I was tired when we got back down, but I loved it!  There are lots of trails on these grounds, so I’m looking forward to going back.

 

We thought this little toad was cute, too!

Does anyone know what kind of tree this leaf comes from?  It’s actually a little darker in real life.  The camera was accidentally set to overcompensate, so I’ve tried to properly adjust the color to match what I actually saw.  So, if you know what the tree is, drop me a line in comments of on FB.  I’d really like to know!

 

Last and never least:  the first full moon of October!  Yang took me to Weir Beach-I hadn’t been there since I was a teenager!  It was pretty deserted, after the summer season was done, but there was a nice boardwalk from which to view the moonrise.  When the moon first came over the trees, it was ENORMOUS!  I thought Kronos was rising.  These picture don’t do it justice.  Click on them to get a bigger image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a lovely evening to complete an exciting day.  Gosh, I love our autumn rambles through the Northeast!  I hope you’re having some fun ones as well.  And if you can’t get out, please enjoy these.

 

 

Adventures of a Pumpkin Grower: Harvest Time

My last post was about the denizens growing in my pumpkin patch.  Now, I can write you about the harvest.  I still have one large orange pumpkin on the vine, and two embryos actually got fertilized about a week ago-who knows if they’ll make it.  However, most of the others are now decorating my house!
Number One Son is here in the living room, decorated appropriately for Halloween.  He may not be the biggest of the family, but he’s the brave first to be fertilized and survive.  He’s right next to the television, so we can see him all the time.

 

 

 

Here is Number Two Son on the dining room table-another place that we spend a lot of time.  He’s a bit bigger than his elder brother, and he is strong and handsome.  You can also see he shares the table with a lovely striped gourd.  Each of these was the only survivor on its respective vine, but both do the mother plant proud.  They certainly fit nicely with the Halloween decorations, don’t they?

And speaking of handsome gourds in the dining room, here’s this gorgeous  melange of orange and green.  He’s a perfect fall color!  The first gourd on his vine grew for a while, but didn’t make it.  This chap grew up next, initially hanging from the fence where the vine had climbed.  His healthy form soon brought the vine down to earth.  Beautiful color and shape, wouldn’t you say?
I have already harvested three more orange pumpkins.  I suspect they are sugar pumpkins, but they are just too pretty to eat.  Two of them, I have put by the fireplace with a white pumpkin and a green striped one.  I think they make a neat combo.  How about you?

 

The white pumpkin was actually attacked by a grub and has a hole in it, but a little peroxide seems to have ended the invasion.  I put the side with no wounding out to face the world.  Good-sized guy, isn’t it?  When we harvested it, we found it also had a local root coming off the stem.  I guess that’s how it got enough nutrition to grow this big.

 

There’s also this good sized pumpkin or squash that’s green with stripes.  I don’t know what kind it is, but it sure is pretty.  Does anyone out there know?  I’d love to hear from you so I could find out what I have.  I wonder if there was some cross pollination that created a hybrid?

 

Remember the runaway/escapee?  That pumpkin grew into a real beauty.  There’s even an almost bluish cast to it’s white skin.  Is this a Lumina or  is it another breed of pumpkin?

 

Last but not least, remember I said I’d harvested three orange pumpkins?  Well, the third one is not on display at home. Instead, I brought it to the grave of my favorite actor, Claude Rains and left it as a token of esteem.  Presents you work to create yourself are usually the best!

 

Tales of a Pumpkin Grower

I was surprised to realize recently that I have been growing pumpkins for almost thirty years!  And it all started by accident.  One early summer afternoon, when I lived in Connecticut, I was sitting  in my yard under some shady trees with a friend, when I noticed we had these big orange flowers growing in the composting area.  I had no clue what they were.  When I asked my friend, she said they looked like squash flowers-but I hadn’t planted any squash seeds.  Yang was away in China visiting his family, but when he checked in with me by phone, he said those were probably from the Halloween pumpkins we’d put in with the compost last fall.  He told me to check for a bump under some of the flowers, which I sure enough found:  embryos on the female flowers.  I even learned how to pollinate the female with male flowers.  Happily, we ended up with some giant pumpkins for Halloween that fall. My pumpkin growing with Yang was off to a successful start!
Eventually, we had to re-purpose that area, but we created another pumpkin garden next to the house.  They loved it there!  We had gourds, pumpkins, decorative squash and even hulu!  You can see how the vines spread out and took over. The land was so rich we had the best of luck growing.  You can also see that in my thirties, I was a natural blonde-just saying.

When we moved to Auburn, we had a lot of land, but not all of it was good for growing vegetables.  Still, after the first year, we did get some nice pumpkins and gourds, as well as other veggies (peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, soy beans, corn).  However, the earth in the first garden we had started to wear out after almost twenty years.  About three years ago, we got NO pumpkins or gourds.  Yang decided to do something.
He developed a circular garden in the middle of our large lawn, filling it with lots of good earth and cow manure.  Last year, we got plenty of veggies and some outstanding pumpkins and gourds.  One white pumpkin is still whole and unrotted over a whole year later.  Of course, Yang also circled the garden with a fence and chicken wire at the bottom to keep out the critters.  This year he expanded the garden and replaced about six inches of bad earth with cow manure and good soil.  Boy did we do well with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, and PUMPKINS!

 

Here’s Number 1 Son, the first pumpkin to get fertilized (thanks to me), as well as the first pumpkin to be picked.  He’s not the biggest, but your first born is always special.  He came off the vine of some seedlings that we bought.

 

 

 

We also have a sister to last year’s big white pumpkin.  I think this one might even grow to be bigger than last year’s.  This pumpkin grew from seeds that I saved from an early pumpkin.  When I buy pumpkins for decoration, I always look for good “breeding stock” from which I save the seeds for growing the next generation.

 

I’m not sure what the heck this one is.  It’s green with stripes.  I don’t remember buying seeds or saving any that looked like this one, so it’s probably some kind of hybrid.  If anyone recognizes the type, please let me know.  Maybe it’s part squash?

 

 

We bought a bunch of pumpkin seedlings from Howe’s in Paxton, and I also planted seeds from previous years’ pumpkins of a similar variety.  I did plant the seedlings and the seeds in different quadrants, but the vines just went wild, so it’s hard to tell which is the source for these beautiful orange pumpkins.  this one, I can trace back to a seedling, but the others are hard to tell.
Some of the plants are more adventurous than others.  This guy snaked through the fence and is now growing wild and free (and subject to rabbits and ground hogs) in the yard.  What a rebel!

 

 

 

As you may have noticed, we have some sunflowers in this garden.  I successfully planted delphinium and bachelor buttons, then said, “What the hey!” and dropped in two sunflower seeds.  We’d had a mammoth sunflower that I bought last year, towering about seven feet.  Well, one of my seeds (either from a package or that sunflower) has shot way up.  Here it is next to me (I’m 5’3″) for scale.  So, I hope your growing season this year, despite the drought, was as successful as ours!

 

Touring the Gardens and Meeting the Animals at Chez Yang

So, summer is here and all the flora and fauna is out in full force at chez Yang.  We have plenty of avian visitors, as well as furry beasts.  The flowers are coming along nicely – or were until the insects and fungi started to stage their voracious assaults.  Anyway, lets take a tour!
Yang and I were joking that we have about 14 gardens spread around our property.  He set out to improve some of them this year.  We had a triangle of standing flox, dianthus, balloon flowers, and black caps, with a delphinium and two fox gloves returning from last year – all overrun with God knows what.  Yang cleared out what we didn’t want, and we added new delphinium and foxgloves, transplanted some more delphinium, and rounded things out with asters and ageratum.   Above is how the plot looked initially.
Now, the foxglove in the foreground is literally (and I know what the word actually means) taller than I am.  The delphinium from last year has also shot up.  The other foxglove from last year is also doing well, despite a slow start (left of big foxglove).  The black caps are ready for harvest – I’ve already had black cap and walnut scones and black caps with ice cream.  There are more to be plucked.  Sorry, I didn’t take the pictures earlier, so that you could see the flowers in full bloom.  Here’s a close up of the tip of the tallest foxglove, where the flowers remain.  The bees love this garden!
This is the peony garden on the other side of the house, named for – you guessed it! – pink peonies given us by Rosemary Adams years ago.  You’ll notice that there is chicken wire around this garden. Why?  That gets us to the fauna flourishing this year.   We’ve been sighting innumerable rabbits around our property and that of the neighbors on either side of us.  Apparently, they believe delphiniums are delicious!  Especially, the expensive ones you send away for in the mail.  Grrrr! Anyway, here you see one of the wonder bunnies taking a sun bath alongside a Flicker hunting for her dinner in my neighbor’s yard, right next to my fish pond.  Sociable little devil, isn’t s/he?  Some days, I look out in the backyard and see one of the rabbits, some birds, and a chipmunk or two amicably chomping away on clover and seeds or bouncing about under the bird feeder there.  It’s like living in a Disney movie.
 
Speaking of chipmunks, we’ve got quite a few digging holes and taunting my cats in the yard, especially when the girls are looking out the window.  Natasha is particularly in  Ahab mode, sitting patiently outside a hole or drain spout in the yard, waiting for the munk to make a fatal mistake.  She nabbed one once, but we managed to get it free of her.  Our reward will be more holes, devoured sunflower shoots, and gnawed planks on our porch.  Behold what Natasha calls Nemesis.

With all these evil fur balls waiting to decimate everything we’ve planted, Yang created a larger central vegetable garden, fortified by a wire fence and chicken wire.  We’ve got pumpkins, peppers, eggplants, bachelor buttons and delphinium growing in here – yes, we know we can’t eat the last two.  We even have some volunteer tomatoes growing from last year.  This fence is DEFINITELY necessary.  Several times, I looked out to see a rabit sitting outside the fence and staring in.  Another time, I found a big pile of rabbit scat directly outside the gate (which is tight to the fence and flush to the ground).  I know wascally wabbits when I see them.  I’ll keep an eye out for heavy equipment deliveries from ACME.

The birds are less destructive visitors, and they enjoy the gardens – especially the ones with feeders.  Here is an oriole feasting on orange halves.  I haven’t seen any in a few weeks or even heard any in the woods.  Perhaps they have moved on to their next migratory stop.  The catbird loves our suet feeder, and loves to hang out on various perches around the gardens.  We caught him in is ablutions.  You can enjoy a commentary from me and Natalie Wood in Inside Daisy Clover.
We also have window boxes filled with lovely color combinations of flowers. Some flowers have passed now, but the pots and window boxes, on the whole, most are still a pleasure to see.

 

 

 

Our roses have done nicely as well.  Years ago, I bought about four sea-rose bushes and now they have spread to create a slope of beautiful scent and sight behind our house.

 

 

 

One of my favorites is a single yellow rose given us by my mother-in-law about twenty years ago.  Every year we get at least one bloom. Lately, it has only been the single bloom.  However, this year, that single bloom was the biggest I’ve ever seen on the bush.  Beautiful, isn’t it?

 

Happy Gardening!

Summer Peregrinations: Joan Bennett and Sherlock Holmes

Last week, Yang and I made one of our periodic visits to Joan Bennett’s final resting spot in Lyme, Ct.  We had planned to try to clear up any overgrowth as well as pay our respects, but, fortunately, the caretakers had mown the cemetery and Alixandra Lindberg (on a brave February visit) had put things on the grave stone in order.  In fact, I can’t praise Alixandra  enough for the fabulous job she did on Joan’s headstone.  You can see that clearly in this picture.  A tip of one of my many hats to you, Alixandra (I have about 136 of them!).  There was an old Christmas wreath at the grave, but we didn’t remove it because we didn’t know if a family member had left it. Doing so felt intrusive.
The cemetery is a small one, but it’s pretty. We even saw some Phoebes flitting about – birds not girls.  Across the road used to be a riding stable, now closed, sadly.  I used to think Joan would have liked that location, given her experience as a rider – except for  the Gilda Grey incident.
All we really needed to do was clip some overhanging grass with scissors and brush away some dirt.  Yang did the clipping and I did the brushing.  Here’s photographic evidence of me with a brush, anyway.  By the way, Yang made that gorgeous blue blouse I’m wearing.  There’s little he can’t do!

 

We didn’t just go to see Joan – that’s a two hour ride for a twenty-minute visit.  Afterwards, we went to the nearby town of Essex and had lunch at the Griswold Inn:  socially distancing of course.  We also wore our masks – except when we were eating. Then we drove to fairly nearby  Gillette Castle, built by William Gillette at the turn into the twentieth century.  Gillette was a famous Sherlock Holmes  for his day.  Kind of an early twentieth-century Benjamin, er, Benedict Cumberbund, um, bach – you know whom I mean!  Fortunately, there were few people around, so we hiked the extensive wooded grounds, avoided poison ivy,  and saw many Bluebirds!  Gorgeous! We also strolled around the outside of the castle and enjoyed the gardens and the extraordinary views of the Connecticut River below.  Just for fun, we had taken the car ferry across the river to get to the castle.  The ride was under ten minutes, but hey, nice river views. Even nicer views from the terrace of the castle.  Imagine waking up every morning to these images.

So, it was a lovely expedition and a lovely way to spend the day.  You may not see us wearing our masks in the pictures, but that’s only because we took them when no one else was around at all!  We also picked places to go where infectious incidents were low, as well as a time of day and day of the week when most people would not be visiting.  No dangerous interchanges!  So, I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour and adventure.

Backyard Birds 2

Right after I did my last backyard bird posting, wouldn’t you know that Mr. and Mrs. Grosbeak made their return.  And they were ultimately joined by some exciting friends.  But enough about the friends later – first, let’s get to the Grosbeaks.
First, I saw the female and managed to get some nice shots of her.  I never noticed this on females before, so I’m not sure if this gal is unique, but you can see from these pictures that this gal has some lovely orange coloring, analogous to where her hubby has his rose breast – a broad splash, with a narrow taper. There may be another couple, because I believe that I have also seen a female this year without the orangey coloring. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled.  We’ve been having Rosebreasted couples visit us for more than five years.  At first, we had only females, then one year males joined in.  One year we had two males.  We may have more than one couple as it is, but I just haven’t seen all four at the same time.
Anyway, is it me or is this girl giving Yang a smile?

It’s fun to watch the male and female come and feed together.  They seem to prefer the single copper-topped feeder.  I usually hear one of them singing, then, there they are, having a meal out!  I love to hear them sing in the trees as well.  I can’t help wondering if they have any nests nearby.  I do know that the pair with the gal in the peach-colored breast feathers makes the round with some of my neighbors, as well.  According to the Cornell Ornithology site, both parents brood the children, with the Daddy often singing away in the nest.  Here’s a link for more information on these wonderful birds.  I also love to watch the males fly away, with the flash of black and white on their wings like a special optical effect.
I have also noted that these birds can be pretty aggressive.  No Grackles, Starlings, Mourning Doves, or Blue Jays better mess with them when they want to feed.   Who you Lookin’ at?
Another fairly aggressive beauty that I found on my feeder this year was the Baltimore Oriole.

Yes!  We do have Orioles this year! Usually, one or so will cruise through in May, take a look at our suet and seeds, then turn up his beak and take it on the wing.  This year, I got wise and noted how people placed their orange halves for Oriole delectation.  It worked!  I cut the oranges  across the equator, then impaled them on the trellis for our Morning Glories.  Now I can’t keep the Orioles away.  We have two adult males, one juvenile male (below), and two females, one orange and one yellow (yellow to the right).  And woe betide the Oriole who wants to join another Oriole at the juice bar, even if it’s a female with a male  or they can sip from different halves.  Orioles may have lovely calls to announce their coming, but their aggression chatter is NOT soothing.  We even had an Oriole/Grosbeak confrontation – Mr. Grosbeak won.  Still, if two Orioles can rarely feed together, the disappointed party will usually go to town on the suet. One time, Yang looked up to see a male Oriole perched on the window ledge and staring in  at him!

 

If all this weren’t exciting enough, on three separate days we had a hummingbird on the hummingbird feeder.  I couldn’t tell you if it’s the same one or not, but there have been repeat appearances.  Yang was even able to snap some photos, as you can see – well, you can see better if you click on the photo.  I normally don’t see these guys until July, but I’d been hearing on FB about all kinds of sightings. So I thought, maybe if there are no flowers around, the hummers would be more interested in my feeder.  Bingo!  It worked.
Now, for my final extraordinary sighting.  I’ve never had a clear look at one of these guys before.  I’ve always wanted to see one in all his glory.  It seemed as if everyone in Massachusetts was sighting these guys but me!  Then, yesterday, while we were watching the episode of Father Brown that I’d dvr’d, Yang said, “Wow!  What is this strange bird.  I’ve never seen this before.”  I hopped up, took a careful peek around the window curtain, and there it was in all his indigo  glory!  Yes!  My first full-color Indigo Bunting!  Well, I guess he has completely changed from his winter to his summer duds, but he is still something!
I don’t know if he’ll be back.  He wasn’t crazy about the oranges, he was skeptical of the suet, but the sunflower hearts did seem to grab his attention – though the Grackles kept getting in the way.  Let’s hope we see more of him!  Wow!  What a bird- watching season!

The Marvelous Marble of the Barre Cemetery

I hadn’t had a chance to do up a blog of this wonderful, remarkable cemetery in Barre, VT before,  which Yang and I visited three years ago in the Fall.  What makes the spot so unique?  Well, this town in Vermont is famous for its marble quarrying and this local product is beautifully worked to produce the most creative, unique monuments.  Many of these take on unique forms to honor the life work or interests of those they honor in death.
Thus,  you can find a musician with this apt memorial.  I wonder what instrument this person played?

 

 

 

 

Appropriately, this man was a sculptor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re a fan of Dr.  Who, don’t blink. Otherwise,  you could be pursued by those pesky stone aliens by car or plane.

 

 

 

 

 

The Fukuda family chose to celebrate their Japanese heritage with this rendition of a Japanese house.

This man seems to be dreaming of or lovingly guided by the spirit of his late wife, though her wafting out of cigarette smoke probably wouldn’t please the Surgeon General.

There are also some startlingly unique works of funerary art, such as the following:

 

 

 

The blocks
The pyramids

 

 

 

 

The open book, as in his life was  an. . . all in French.

And there were more traditional statues, equally beautiful. There was the Pieta.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the traditional weeping women.

 

 

 

 

 

I particularly love the detail you can see in this closeup shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we can never forget the angels and urns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were also striking columns

  

 

and mausoleums
and reliefs:

 

All were lovely to see on a clear Vermont Sunday morning, with the fall colors tinting the trees in gorgeous contrast to the blue skies and white wisps of clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard Birds, Part One

Despite the polar vortex heading our way this weekend, spring is trying to sprung on us.  And the feathered visitors to my backyard are showing the way.  Bright new plumage is emerging and old friends are returning from warmer climes, though some winter visitors have lingered on.
The bird I’ll introduce to you first is a Downy Woodpecker.  We’ve seen these lovelies all winter long, and this spring they’re still pecking away at trees and the wooden poles holding up our feeders, as well as chomping away at suet.  I noticed that they seem to come in different sizes.  I’m not confusing them with Hairy Woodpeckers, who seemed to disappear from my feeders in the winter, only to return in the spring- especially for suet. We also have gotten a few Yellow-Bellied Woodpeckers throughout winter and spring – and a Flicker or two. Unfortunately, so far this year, we’ve only gotten  photos of the Downys.
Bluejays can be real stinkers – one of the biggest bullies at the bird feeder.  We have four who show up together and try to boss the other birds away.  Often they succeed, but we also have some extremely aggressive Cardinals, Chickadees, and Goldfinches who won’t take excremental effluvia from no one.  So, the Bluejays aren’t always the boss of everyone.  Still, they are beauties, aren’t they?
Speaking of Cardinals, we have more than a few pairs visiting.  I suspect the same couples hang out here through the years, and their kids may even take up residence in the yard as well.  The other day, I saw a female feeding a male black-oil sunflower seeds off the feeder.  I guess when you both brood and fledge the kids and take them out to lunch, you split courting and parenting even-steven.
And in these pictures below, you can get a gander (so to speak) at the ‘ttude both Cardinals and Chickadees possess that enables them not to take any guff from Bluejays.

Who you lookin’ at?

Here’s a less belligerent  chickadee.  They have to be one of my favorites!  I love their cheery calls and the way that that bounce through the air in flight.  They seem to disappear in the mid summer and not return in number until almost fall. Then they stay winter through spring.

 

Juncos always herald the beginning of winter, with their castanet-like calls and the flash of white fanning out in their tales when they take flight.  I haven’t seen any for about two weeks now, but they did seem to linger much later this year.  I love how on some their grey feathers almost shine blue.

 

Speaking of blue, I adore the soft blue backs of the White-Breasted Nuthatch.  It’s fun to watch them scoot up and down a tree, searching for a snack.  You can always tell they’re around by the ack-ack-ack call they give.  Like the woodpeckers (in that family, right), they go for suet the way my cats go for dental snacks. I used to see Rust-Breasted Nuthatches when I lived in Lowell or in Connecticut, but I can’t remember seeing any in Auburn.

 

But let’s look at some spring birds.  The Goldfinches never completely left us, even in the winter, but now their numbers have increased.  Better yet, the boys have shed their drab winter coats and put on their bright, yet soft, yellow finery. You can see that the fellas in these pictures have pretty much converted their outfits to suit (ha!) the season. They LOVE sunflower seed hearts the best of all, but real troopers that they are, they will also go for black oil in the shell.  They also will take guff from no one when food is involved.
One of my favorite returnees is the Catbird.  Another suet gobbler, this guy bobs her tale and shoots about with glee. I especially like this picture because you can see the bird has got her cap on.   Like the Mockingbird (a relative), this character has many calls.  My favorite is when she calls my name, “Sharon!”
We don’t yet have pictures of all the return visitors.  The Rose-Breasted Grosbeak has been back for several days, but we haven’t gotten a good picture of him.  I’m waiting hopefully for the Baltimore Oriole, though I did see one on a rail trail yesterday. You can see one of the first harbingers of spring in this group shot:  the Redwinged Blackbird (center). 
Another typical spring sojourner is the grackle.  Mourning Doves are always with us – and pretty greedy, too.
However, we did have some real excitement when we saw this fellow on the ground beneath out feeder this week:  a male Rufus or Rufous Towhee (I have heard it both ways!).  It’s not the best shot because we had to grab it fast from indoors and a little far away.  Still, you can see the wonderful colors.  I haven’t seen one of these guys in like three years – when I was on a rail trail in Millerton, NY.  Thrilling, isn’t it?

So, I guess that’s all for  now.  The end is in sight!