We got our groundhogs out for a nice walk this morning. Meet Basil and little Basil, if you haven’t already. For those of my new readers who don’t know the story, Basil is named for my paternal grandfather, who was born on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1882 in a village near the city of Stanislav, now known as Ivano-Frankovsk, Ukraine. When Pop arrived in America in 1909, instead of translating his given name, Wasyl, to its equivalent in English, Basil, he started using the name William, by which he was known for the rest of his life.
After taking the pictures we decided to walk through a meadow, a path we hadn’t had a chance to follow yet. It was lovely covered in snow, still on the ground four days after the blizzard. But today the temperature got up over freezing so it is starting to melt.
Looks like Friday will be a mess with an ice storm. I was grateful for this lovely day.
O barren bough! O frozen field! Hopeless ye wait no more. Life keeps her dearest promises — The Spring is at the door! ~ Arthur Ketchum (The Atlantic Monthly, February 1904)
What a gorgeous day for a walk! First we strolled through a meadow full of blooming buttercups…
Even though Brown-headed Cowbirds are native to North America, many people consider them a nuisance bird, since they destroy the eggs and young of smaller songbirds and have been implicated in the decline of several endangered species. ~ All About Birds website
Nature will bear the closest inspection; she invites us to lay our eye level with the smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain. She has no interstices; every part is full of life. ~ Henry David Thoreau (Excursions)
We climbed until we reached the lookout indicated on the map.
Wouldn’t you know it, we spotted a tiny cemetery right below the lookout. We kept following the trail hoping to find a way down there. A man about our age came up behind us, noticed my camera and asked if I had spotted anything. I mentioned the gravestones and he led us along the path and pointed us to another path and gave us directions on how to get there.
To-day is very beautiful — just as bright, just as blue, just as green and as white and as crimson as the cherry-trees full in bloom, and half-opening peach-blossoms, and the grass just waving, and sky and hill and cloud can make it, if they try. How I wish you were here, Austin; you thought last Saturday beautiful, yet to this golden day ’twas but one single gem to whole handfuls of jewels. ~ Emily Dickinson (Letter to William Austin Dickinson, May, 1854)
It was a long way around but we finally came to the side path leading off to the right and to the cemetery. Much to my delight there was a “wolf tree” on the corner.
Sacred to the memory of Starr Chester Esqr. who was born Aug 23rd 1759 and died Feby 12th 1812 This spot contains the ashes of the just who sought to honour; and betray’d no trust. This truth he prov’d in every line he trod.
Sacred to the memory of Mary Chester relect of Starr Chester, Esqr. Born Nov 11, 1758 Died Jan 12, 1826 May faithful angels guard my moulding dust until the general meeting of the just. Then rise triumphant from the dark abode to realms of light, to love and praise the Lord.
Since I have both Starrs and Morgans (Mary’s maiden name) on my tree I imagine these are distant cousins of mine…
While inspecting the stones two unusual things happened. First, a young man appeared above us at the lookout with a dirt bike. He rode off the edge of the precipice, flew through the air and landed a few feet away from us. As if he did such things all the time, as I’m sure he does.
Another retired couple was a little ways down another path and saw the flight, too. We got to talking and stood there for at least half an hour chatting about all kinds of things. They moved here from Pennsylvania to retire. They love the area, close to the sea. They’ve explored many of the same parks we’ve been exploring.
After we parted ways, we finished following the other trail, stopping to see the wolf tree as we joined it. When we got close to the car I heard and finally spotted another catbird. 🙂 What a lovely ending to a pleasant ramble!
Due to illnesses and the births of grandchildren and other distractions I’ve never had a chance to participate in Robin’s Walktober invitation. See here if you think you might be interested in taking a walk and posting a blog about it: This is it: Walktober! Finally, this year, I can join in! Tim & I took this walk at Haley Farm State Park on October 7th.
Two things have worked to keep us very close to home this year. Health problems and the coronavirus pandemic. And this has led us to discover that our hometown has over 3,500 acres of open space preserved, 17% of the town’s total land area. We have 463 acres in land trusts, 1,511 acres in town and city recreation and conservation areas, and 1,586 acres in three state parks. (We live in the tiny City of Groton, which is part of the Town of Groton, and yes, we pay property taxes to both!)
We started walking south, the narrow boardwalk leading to a wide dirt road following along Palmer Cove.
Connecticut’s first governor, John Winthrop Jr., owned part of the farm in 1648. Over the years the land passed through various hands, including the Chester family in the 18th century, whose headstones are still on the property. When Caleb Haley owned and farmed the land in the late 19th to 20th centuries, he had a very unique hobby which can be seen throughout the park – the building of stone walls. Boulders found on the property were extracted and placed by an ox drawn stone-puller. The walls separated a number of pastures. Some remains of the farm’s buildings are still visible near the entrance of the park. ~ Haley Farm State Park website
Ahead: glimpses of Palmer Cove and one of Caleb Haley’s many stone walls.
And then the road eventually led us into the woods, narrowed to a trail, and to the locally well-known Canopy Rock, a glacial erratic and favorite hang-out spot for local teens. We didn’t climb up there. 🙂
We cut through the woods to return to the parking lot, consulting the park map frequently because there are so many criss-crossing, unmarked trails in this 267 acre park. The stone walls are also indicated on the map, which was helpful in determining which path we might be on. map
In 1963, efforts to protect the farm from being sold to developers began. The State of Connecticut agreed to match funds raised for the purchase of the farm. The Groton Open Space Association with the help of The CT Forest & Park Association led a successful fund raising effort that led to the purchase of the property. In July of 1970, Life Magazine featured an article on Haley Farm titled “Battles Won”. Haley Farm became an official Connecticut State Park in July of 1970. Nearby Bluff Point State Park and Coastal Reserve was protected from great development pressures and was saved in 1975. It can be reached from Haley Farm via a bridge over the railroad tracks. The two parks, combined, offer over 1000 acres of land and are permanently protected as open space for public enjoyment. ~ Haley Farm State Park website
Living in the southernmost part of New England, we will be the last to get a peak of fall colors. More brilliant days to look forward to. Thank you, Robin, for hosting Walktober!
Not too long ago my friend Kathy, over at Lake Superior Spirit, looked around her little house in the snowy Michigan woods for colorful or meaningful objects to take outside and put in different places in the snow for a photo shoot. She suggested I might try it sometime.
Well, sad to say, it hasn’t been snowing much here in southeastern Connecticut since the winter of 2011, which was the snowiest winter we ever had. But I decided to carefully pack up the most meaningful of my objects, a large doe figurine, and head out to hunt for a little patch of relatively unspoiled snow.
We wound up at Haley Farm State Park and chose a few spots on a crumbling, lovely old stone wall. For the first picture, which is my favorite, I positioned my doe on a stone that had fallen in front of the wall. For the second spot I put her up on top of the wall so she was a little above the camera. Tim suggested the third setting, placing her on the ground in front of the wall. The little birds came from home, too, as they are usually perched with the doe on a special shelf in my room.
It was fun, Kathy! Then something wonderful happened after we had packed up my precious doe and her little bird friends. A few people came along with their dogs, who were off-leash. Some of my readers may know that I’ve been afraid of large dogs ever since one bit me when I was a toddler. But I watch Cesar Millan on the Dog Whisperer all the time, trying to understand dog behavior and overcome my deeply entrenched fears.
With my deer totem safely in my bag and my husband by my side I watched in awe as three dogs, who seemed to belong to several different couples, greeted each other and asked each other to play. All agreed and a fast game of chase ensued! I suppose dog owners see this kind of thing all the time but for me it was amazing. The dogs were running like the wind, making huge circles around a tree, and barking for the joy and thrill of being alive. Their energy was boundless, and they whooshed close by us several times. I wasn’t afraid! I could interpret their behavior correctly! Tim took the camera and tried to get a few pictures. I will never forget this experience!
Winter is well over the half-way point and we’ve had no snow to show for it. After last winter’s record-breaking snowfall amounts this is a bit unsettling. We did have a lot of snow and power outages for that freak Halloween Nor’easter in October, but that was an autumn storm, not truly a winter storm… What strange weather.
Bulbs are coming up months too early. Witch hazel is blooming at Mystic Seaport. Tim & I went for a walk on Saturday at Haley Farm State Park, looking for photo opportunities. The birds were chirping away as if it was a sunny spring day! This time it was warm enough for my fingers to hold the camera and take 86 pictures. Perhaps I should have tried a landscape setting for a few of them. But I’m still getting used to holding it properly and finding the shutter button at the same time…
Caleb Haley owned and farmed this land in Noank, Connecticut, and took on the daunting task of building stone walls between the pastures all over the property. The crumbling foundations of his house, stables and barns remain. In October of 1898, Walter Hill came from New York to visit his friend here and wrote an account of their time together. Excerpts following are from the Haley Farm Souvenir Book, found transcribed at the Groton History Online website.
If there is any one thing in which my friend delights more than another, it is the works of improvement which he is carrying forward at Haley Farm, Long Point; so breakfast dispatched we, of course, drove at once to the locality of the improvement now going forward. ~ Walter Hill
It may be mentioned here, that the land in this vicinity and for miles in all directions is covered with boulders, boulders large and boulders small, sometimes ledges, but boulders in all shapes, boulders in all positions, boulders on boulders—everywhere. The first settlers simply removed or cleared the smaller rocks, such as a horse could easily drag out of the way, leaving hundreds of heavier ones half embedded in the soil in all directions. ~ Walter Hill
Thus thousands upon thousands of acres of splendid soil have been fit for naught but cattle runs of natural pasturage. To clear such land of everything to obstruct the free running of a plow, is a herculean task and it is this wrestling with the stern face of nature, that I found to be the delight of my host. A forenoon spent in watching and assisting in the operations, found me deeply interested. A device called a “Stone-puller” was quite fetching, and was the invention of a near-by resident whom I was disappointed to learn had never realized much out of it, for without it, such operations as are here going forward, would be prohibited by the question of cost. Mr. H— has 428 acres of just such land as described; skirting the shores of L. I. Sound with deep coves running up on either side of his property; forming between them, Long Point, which is all included in the Haley Farm, with the exception of a tract on the extreme point, which is owned by parties who started to boom it for Summer cottage purposes, but came to a dead-lock with the town authorities regarding approaches, and who should bear their cost. ~ Walter Hill
According to the the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection website:
In 1963 efforts to protect the farm from being sold to developers began. The State of Connecticut agreed to match funds raised for the purchase of the farm. The Groton Open Space Commission led a successful fund raising effort that led to the purchase of the property. Haley Farm became an official Connecticut State Park in July of 1970.
We found several burls on the outstretched branches of this tree:
I think this is a private boathouse across the water. I thought it looked especially cheerful and welcoming!
So we had a good time poking around our local historic “ruins” and enjoying the scenic views of Palmer Cove. It was nice enjoying a spring day in February, but I’m starting to get a little nervous about what weather we have in store for us this summer. For now, though, perhaps I can manage to stay in the present… It is what it is and what will be will be!
Groton is also home to Haley Farm State Park. Last year in February Beverly and I took a long walk here, too. This winter I have not been as interested in getting outdoors, but it’s nice to remember when I had a bit more energy, and blog about last year. Above is a lovely view of Palmer Cove from Haley Farm.
The backside of Canopy Rock, above. It seems to be a place for kids to hang out and leave artwork. We didn’t see any litter, which was thoughtful of them.
In the above side view picture the “canopy” part of the rock is clear. In the distance is the Amtrak railroad elevation. In the picture below is a tunnel under the railroad tracks, originally used for livestock – it must have been small livestock – clearance is only 4 feet! Can’t imagine a cow crawling under there!
If one doesn’t mind crawling through, our map tells us that on the other end of this tunnel are paths connecting to the trails in Bluff Point State Park. We didn’t attempt it, curious or not, we’re not engineers but we wouldn’t want to be under there if a train should zoom by overhead. A little close for comfort, too. At least we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, still… If we turned around now, we could see Race Track Pond, or actually the reeds surrounding it.
We decided to follow a deer trail, figuring they would know the easiest way through the reeds to find the pond for a drink of water.
We did find a spot where the ice had been broken through and guessed that might be where the deer would find their water.
I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature)
It was beautiful with the long winter shadows of the reeds on the snow-covered ice. We didn’t know it then, but we were to be inexplicably unable to retrace our steps. Lost!
When a man named Caleb Haley owned the farm he built a lot of stone walls around his pastures, using an ox drawn stone-puller. I meant to photograph some of them on our way out, but, we were very cold and had very likely been walking around in circles trying to figure out a badly drawn map. When we finally saw the entrance (exit!) I quickened my step and fell on an icy spot of snow. Wrenched my shoulder so badly it still hurts a little even now, a year later.
So perhaps this year, maybe in the spring, I’ll return and try to get some stone wall pictures!