descriptions of commonplace things

“October” by Willard Metcalf

Back in March, when I was sorting through the boxes of family stuff, I found the following undated, typewritten account of a lovely October day Tim’s great-grandparents spent together many years ago. Charles Amos Hamilton (1866-1943) wrote it for his wife, Gertrude Mabel Hubbard (1874-1965). They lived in Batavia, New York.

AN OCTOBER DAY

Written for the delectation of my good wife, Gertrude, who delights in reading descriptions of commonplace things, written in rather grandiloquent language.


The poet wrote,
“What is so rare as a day in June,
Then, if ever, come perfect days.”

Without questioning the judgment or belittling the taste of the writer of this couplet, I make the assertion that, with equal or even greater veracity, it might have been written with the substitution of “October” for “June.” For, in old October, Nature gives us examples of a brilliance of coloring, and a tang of ozone, which June, for meteorological reasons, cannot duplicate.

I arise on a bright October morning and raise the shades of my bedroom window. What a riot of all the hues of the rainbow meet my eyes. From the pale green of maple leaves not yet touched by autumn’s frosty fingers, up through the entire gamut of the spectrum, to the vivid scarlet of maples of a different species. As the leaves rustle in the light breeze, they seem to be whispering “Goodbye” to their companions of the departed summer. The dark green limbs of the evergreens nearer the house, stand out like sentinels, bravely daring the blasts of the coming winter. The sunlight lies in little pools in the verdancy of the lawn, dotted here and there by vagrant leaves which have thus early abandoned the protection of their parent branch. The clump of spireas, which last June resembled a snow-bank, now has the appearance of a cluster of shrubs, which in the serene consciousness of a duty well done, are now nestling quietly and unobtrusively together. A belated hollyhock, and a few sturdy petunias, render an additional dash of color. Glancing from the the rear window, I behold the majestic line of cedars, bowing gently before the breeze, but standing with all the dignity of a line of knights in full armor. The row of sweet alyssum shows the same white purity it has maintained for several months. Two scarlet rose-buds, with youthful optimism, raise their heads fearlessly to the autumnal skies, disregarding the improbability of their ever being able to attain maturity.

Later in the day, we take a drive in our Buick, through the farm lands of the vicinity. The same magnificent coloring marks the foliage everywhere, outdoing the most artistic efforts of the painter’s brush. Huge stacks of golden straw stand beside the farmer’s barns, testifying to the repleteness of the barns with fodder for the stock. We know without inspection, that the cellars are well filled with fruits and vegetables, destined to adorn many a well-filled table, and to furnish apples and pop-corn for groups of merry young people. In the fields, the sheep are quietly nibbling, already comfortably clad in their winter woolens. The cows are lying placidly chewing the rumen of contentment. Everything denotes peace, harmony and plenty. Occasionally, a vagrant leaf flutters down momentarily upon the hood of the car, then, as if disdaining its warmth, flutters away to joining its companions by the roadside.

In the evening, fortified by an excellent dinner, maybe washed down by a flagon of “Old October ale,” we sit by the bright flame of our fireplace, and as we listen to the occasional snap of the apple-tree wood, and watch the sparks seek freedom via the chimney, we feel that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.” Yes, what is so rare as a day in October?

Viking Days #2

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

Last year’s Viking Days at Mystic Seaport was such a success that they decided to have another one this year. The weather was cool and comfortable and there were plenty of Vikings out and about.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

We again enjoyed strolling through the Viking encampment set up by Draugar Vinlands.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

No Norwegian fjord horses this year, instead there were Gotland sheep, a domestic breed named for the Swedish island of Gotland.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ weaving with Gotland sheep wool
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ a bag lunch for sheep
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ one finally came up for air
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ skeins of the wool
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ the wool is very soft
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ close up of weaving
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ ???
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

The Draken Harald Hårfagre Viking ship (above) spent another winter here. I’m not sure what its future plans may be. It was open for tours.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

The majestic wooden whaleship Charles W. Morgan (above) is always a pleasure to see.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ the blessed green of summer

I was happy to see the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center‘s presentation about birds of prey again. The Vikings were falconers but the birds we were shown are from Connecticut. All were injured and brought to the nature center but were unable to live in the wild after their recovery.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ screech owl with head turned away
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ short-eared owl
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ short-eared owl
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ kestrel
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ kestrel

The first birds shown we’ve seen before but a new one has joined the group. It’s a red-shouldered hawk who was found hit by a car and brought in to the nature center. He had a recently broken wing and an x-ray revealed an older break, too, that hadn’t healed well. He’s all right now, but cannot fly far enough to survive in the wild. So he’s getting used to his new life educating the public. This was only his third time being shown. He seemed as awed at the sight of us as we were of him.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ screech owl
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
~ red-shouldered hawk

After the birds of prey presentation we spotted a couple of young Scottish Highland cattle. We were told they are 8 months old.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ Scottish Highland cattle

And of course, we were mingling with Vikings…

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport

On our way out we spotted these purple alliums.

6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ alliums in sea of green
6.2.19 ~ Viking Days at Mystic Seaport ~ allium

We left with three bottles of mead for summer solstice, two skeins of Gotland sheep wool, and a camera full of pictures in my backpack. It was just as much fun as last year!

living by voices we shall never hear

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5.19.15 ~ Neu-Anspach, Germany

We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.
~ Henry Beston
(The Outermost House)

grass-powered organism

“Kneeling Cow” by Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) French Post-Impressionist Artist
“Kneeling Cow” by Paul Gauguin

So this is what commodity corn can do to a cow: industrialize the miracle of nature that is a ruminant, taking this sunlight- and prairie grass-powered organism and turning it into the last thing we need: another fossil fuel machine. This one, however, is able to suffer.
~ Michael Pollan
(The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals)

Flåm

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Morning light in Flåm, Norway, looking off the balcony of our hotel room. (above) Morning is my favorite time of day and this particular morning we did not have to rush off to catch a train or a ferry or a bus so we could enjoy a a few leisurely hours in the village before our next adventure.

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good morning! ~ friendly little curious bird

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later on we would cross this bridge on a bus to get to a long tunnel to Gudvangen

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it didn’t take me long to find a few gulls

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entrance to Ægir Brewery & Pub, where we had dinner the night before

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wood carvings in a dead tree near our hotel

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so many lovely birch trees

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Ægir Brewery & Pub ~ it’s only open for dinner

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Flåmsbrygga Hotel, the warmth of knotty pine floors and doors

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Ægir Brewery, sign above entrance

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Tim on a little stone seat sticking out of the wall of the Flåmstova Restaurant

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wall in the Flåmstova Restaurant, where we had breakfast

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ceiling in the Flåmstova Restaurant

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While we were eating breakfast by a picture window, enjoying the view of garden, fjord and mountain, a cruise ship very slowly pulled into port! Then we could barely see the mountain over the top of it! Cruise ships are amazingly large – Flåm was such a tiny port I am sure it couldn’t possibly accommodate more than one of them at a time.

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I still can’t get over how it was spring on the fjord and winter in the mountains

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there was a hiking path up through the farms hugging the side of the mountain

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wish we had time to hike up there, but the zoom lens came in handy to capture this scene

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We boarded a small bus to take us through the mountains to Gudvangen. This is the entrance to Flenja Tunnel (above) which is 5,053m long. (16,578′). We came out of it for only 500m (1,640′) before entering Gudvanga Tunnel, which is 11,428m (7.1 mi) long, Norway’s second longest road tunnel.

Next stop: Ferry ride on Nærøyfjord from Gudvangen back to Flåm.

mind the cows

Carl-Larsson.thestable2
“The Stable” by Carl Larsson

Many said that now there was no hope of salvation, for a man might do anything and be in the wrong. There was no way to tell. It was better to stay on the steading and mind the cows and be content with such days as are left to one and cease to wonder about life everlasting.
~ Jane Smiley
(The Greenlanders)

Buttonwood Farm

7.20.14 ~ Griswold, Connecticut
7.20.14 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

Last year at this time Tim & I discovered Buttonwood Farm, and since our niece Bonnie and her two children were in town we decided to take them with us to this amazing place. Waiting in a very long line (above) for farm fresh ice cream – made from the milk of grass-fed cows – was well worth it!

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7.20.14 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

This shagbark hickory tree (above) caught my eye as we were waiting in another very long line for a hayride through the cow pasture and the sunflower field. The ride was bumpy but the tractor stopped every once in a while so we could feed the cows hay and Khari could take pictures of cows (below) to his heart’s content.

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7.20.14 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

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7.20.14 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

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7.20.14 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

At Buttonwood Farm, 14 acres of sunflowers are grown to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut, a non-profit organization devoted to making wishes possible for children with life-threatening medical conditions. 100% of the $5 donation made when one buys a bouquet of these sunflowers goes directly to the foundation, a worthy cause. In spite of a cool wet spring which has delayed the blooms in the cutting fields, the farm went on with its 11th Annual Sunflowers for Wishes campaign.

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7.20.14 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

Camera back in my hands, above and below are two of my sunflower-with-bee shots! It was fun getting these pictures at eye-level with the blooms. The wagon we were in was high off the ground and the tractor pulled us along into the middle of the field. The driver turned off the engine and let us take pictures and marvel at the sea of sunflowers in every direction. It was interesting to see the many unopened blooms mixed in with the ones all ready for picking.

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7.20.14 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

The photo below was taken by Kia, when she finally got her turn with the camera. The late afternoon ride back to home in our car was very quiet. When Tim looked in the rear-view mirror he found all three of our guests sound asleep. A wonderful day!

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sunflower and bee by Kia Ward

cows and sunflowers

7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut
Buttonwood Farm ~ 7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut
7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

Cows are amongst the gentlest of breathing creatures; none show more passionate tenderness to their young, when deprived of them; and, in short, I am not ashamed to profess a deep love for these quiet creatures.
~ Thomas de Quincey
(Confessions of an English Opium-Eater)

7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut
pesky flies ~ 7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut
7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut
7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

At Buttonwood Farm, 14 acres of sunflowers are grown to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Connecticut, a non-profit organization devoted to making wishes possible for children with life-threatening medical conditions.  100% of the $5 donation made when one buys a bouquet of these sunflowers goes directly to the foundation, a worthy cause.

7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut
7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

Tim & I spent a pleasant afternoon there, even if it was hot and humid, meeting cows and taking a tractor ride through the sunflower field!  We enjoyed our cheerful bouquet on our dining room table for the week following.

7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut
7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

I have the sunflower, in a way.
~ Vincent van Gogh
(Letter to Theo van Gogh, January 22, 1889)

7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut
7.21.13 ~ Griswold, Connecticut

a sap run

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts
3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

Before the bud swells, before the grass springs, before the plow is started, comes the sugar harvest. It is the sequel of the bitter frost; a sap run is the sweet goodbye of winter.
~ John Burroughs
(Signs & Seasons)

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts
3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

We had no idea what a treat we were in for when we checked into a motel in Orange, Massachusetts Saturday night. Our plan was to spend the night, grab a breakfast somewhere, and head over to a family reunion in the neighboring town of Athol on Sunday afternoon. In the morning we discovered a great place to have breakfast, on Johnson’s Farm, a restaurant, sugar house, and gift shop! Maple syrup production was well under way, the old-fashioned way.

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts
3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

Sugar weather is crisp weather. How the tin buckets glisten in the gray woods; how the robins laugh; how the nuthatches call; how lightly the thin blue smoke rises among the trees! The squirrels are out of their dens; the migrating waterfowls are streaming northward; the sheep and cattle look wistfully toward the bare fields; the tide of the season, in fact, is just beginning to rise.
~ John Burroughs
(Signs & Seasons)

If only some way could be found to share the smell of New England in maple sugar season on a blog post! Our olfactory receptors were tickled with delight to whiff in the aromas of wood-burning stoves and sap boiling down into syrup. We bought a couple of jugs of pure maple syrup! Mostly we’ll be using it in marinades, since pancakes are no longer on our grain-free diet…

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts
3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

It was if we had been transported back in time to a place in the heart of New England. It made me appreciate anew that there are more “seasons” than the four four we normally notice as the year goes around. The gnarly old tree in the above picture caught our attention – what an amazing life it has had. And I loved the knotty pine interior of the sugar house in the picture below – so typical of New England.

3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts
3.10.13 ~ Orange, Massachusetts

When we got home Sunday night Zoë and Scarby seemed a little angry with us (ears pinned back, ignoring us) for leaving them overnight, but they’re back to purring and following us around, rubbing our legs and talking to us again.