Turning toward autumn

There’s a point in August when nature seems to speed up and change direction. The languid days of July fade along with mid-summer flowers and it’s time for plants to make fruit and seeds, and for humans to harvest.

I feel autumn coming. Sunflowers are dropping petals and filling with seeds, cucumber vines are withering, and it is impossible to keep up with the daily ripening of tomatoes.

I’ve cut back all the early summer perennials and welcome the self-sown cleome that volunteer in my flower garden. This prickly, showy bloom fills in the gap between the lilies and the asters.

I hope you’re finding your way in the midst of the pandemic. I had to put the boardinghouse on hold last March but I’m looking forward to the new year and will take reservations for 2021, with the understanding that everything can change if there’s a resurgence of the virus. In order to keep everyone safe, I am only booking longer visits of at least 3-4 weeks, and multiple month stays are certainly possible.

Remember to vote. Freedom of speech and the right to participate in elections are what separates our political system from dictatorships, oligarchies and non-democracies of all kinds.

Talkin’ weather

When observing day to day, week to week, season to season changes in the natural world is built into your life, weather matters. For farmers, naturalists, rangers.

It’s raining today and that’s the biggest news in the north country because we’ve been in a drought for close to two months. My garden brightened–a sigh of joy from the lilies and corn.

We are all very happy. Simple. My neighbors stopped by, smiling. No grumbling today–let our angst over viruses and strange politicians wait until tomorrow. The rain came, finally.

Coming up for air

It’s been almost four months since the corvid19 pandemic turned our world upside down. But we carry on.

Garden planted and producing, flowers blooming, and nature keeps on keeping on.

I expect to welcome guests beginning this summer. Contact me if you think you’d like to get away for a few weeks or months. I have rooms available as of July.

Listening to John Prine

I came of age during the great folk music revival of the ’60s and ’70s. Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Greg Brown, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, and a guy named John Prine, to whom I did not pay much attention.

John Prine zoomed in on me during the past 20 years. I listened carefully to his lyrics and that was it. He became one of my all time favorites. If you know his early work but haven’t kept up in recent years, I highly recommend his last two albums, “The Tree of Forgiveness” and “For Better, or Worse.” So smart, so funny, so true.

He died recently–from corvid19, though he had been fighting cancer for a number of years. I’ve been listening to him in the quiet of my morning kitchen, and turning the four young people staying with me onto his words and music. Like all great artists, age doesn’t matter. He gets through.

What have you discovered–or rediscovered–during this time of self-isolation? What’s gotten through to you?

Love in a time of corona

We have passed the two-week point in our quarantine, following the arrival of my son and three friends from New York City. A big relief. My son lives and works in mid-Manhattan–literally the epicenter of the corona virus outbreak in the country.

The bright side of all this is time spent with ones I love. Some, like my son Jacob, are here with me. Others, like my son Pierre and brother Ben and dearest friend Laurie, are far from me, but I am spending much more time with them on the phone and online. This is a joy.

I hope you are close to dear ones and are staying healthy and safe. We will see each other on the other side of this plague. Happy Passover.

Jacob and Nelson at the evening game of dominoes.

Cat, man, quarantine

That’s my neighbor Phil, with Winooski. I went down his driveway this morning, on my way back from the daily five mile walk. We met through the window.

I’m being careful to keep my distance from everyone–my son and four friends arrived here from NYC five days ago. We have another ten days to go to be reasonably sure none of us are infected with the corona virus.

The boardinghouse is full at this moment. But do contact me if you’re hoping to get away later this spring, summer or fall.

Let’s all take care of each other by staying safely distant. Weird, huh?

Old things

Some trees live a long time. Depends on species, growing conditions, and disease and pest risks.

These old sugar maples–100+–are just down the road from my house. Years ago, I tapped this stand of maples, along with enough other trees to produce about 30-50 gallons of syrup each spring.

These days, I get syrup from my neighbor Bryan who has a permanent sugar shack and much more sophisticated equipment than I ever had. We tapped trees with the old-style spigots, buckets and lids, gathering by hand with a horse or tractor-drawn wagon. Bryan uses the modern piping system and has a carefully calibrated evaporator.

Photo below was taken in the ’70s–that’s me on the left with my old neighbor Milan Conklin and my dog Sheba–boiling sap on our outdoor sugar “arch.” I’d stay up all night to watch the boil, continuously adding sap to the sugar pan.

We know how to have fun on the Maple Ridge Road.

When a puddle is home

The first pair of mallards showed up two days ago, paddling around a large puddle in the front meadow. While the snow has melted, except for random patches in the woods, the ice has not yet gone out of the pond.

There are people who live near lakes and ponds who track the date ice leaves these bodies of northern water. I have to admit I’ve never written down the precise date for ice out of our pond, but it’s usually sometime in March, at least in recent years. Back in the ’70s and early ’80s, the ice could hang on into April, along with frozen ground and piles of snow. The climate is changing.

Took this earlier today–most of the pond still iced over. Tonight’s low temperature expected to be 5F.

Local traffic

On my walk this morning, six Amish buggies passed me, plus one pick up truck. Kind of cool to live in a place where horse-drawn traffic can outnumber gas-fueled vehicles.

The north country of NYS is home to a substantial Amish community, largely members of the Swartzentruber branch–the most traditional Amish people, a far-cry from the folks featured on sensationalist “Amish” cabel tv programs, and much more conservative than the better-known “Pennsylvania Dutch or Amish.”

My Amish neighbors are deeply connected to the land–operating family dairy or vegetable farms, and often supplementing their income with small sawmills or wood-working shops.

Lizzie, one of my closest Amish friends, makes quilts in the winter which she sells to a buyer somewhere downstate. Basket-makers are also busy in the cold months. I get this. I’m pretty bound by the land and the seasons myself. I crochet blankets in the winter–while I hardly pick up a crochet hook during the spring and summer months when I’m busy outside–and my hands are always dirty.

Swarzentruber Amish avoid having pictures taken of themselves–I even ask if it’s okay to take a picture of their horses or homes.

Seasonal tilt

March is a month askew. For me.

The ice is in transition. Treacherous. Not what it seems. Do I use up the firewood on the porch, or conserve it in case it turns deeply cold again? Do I pack away the long underwear and dig out the t-shirts?

It’s a psychological thing most of all. I understand the groggy bear in late winter. Hungry for sunlight and fresh food, but wary of leaving the warm cave.

Soon, the ground will thaw, we’ll smell it. But right now, I’m tempted to bury myself under the covers and dig out another book.