After years of trying I was finally able to capture some good pictures of a mourning dove! She seemed to be posing for me on a tree in Janet’s yard and I was thrilled.
Janet and I had a great time celebrating the summer solstice on Saturday. We went strawberry picking in the morning, then made a lunch out of grilled eggplant with goat cheese and other veggies, devoured it outside on her sundeck and finished with our fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
We took a long afternoon walk in the woods and meadows at Machimoodus State Park. The day was breezy and warm – we could not have ordered more perfect weather! Back at Janet’s we had grilled wild turkey and veggies, enjoying supper outside as well.
Then, as dusk finally fell on the longest day of the year, we shared a campfire and watched the stars come out and the fireflies twinkle in the trees and eventually the embers dying down. We even heard a pack of coyotes howling in the distance. It was wonderful to have spent the entire day outdoors with the companionship of a good friend.
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!
So far this winter has given us only very cold days alternating with unseasonably warm days. Without a blanket of snow, everything looks barren and oddly exposed. Last January was the snowiest month ever in Connecticut history and it made for some very nice pictures! But now that we have a new camera there is no inspiration to get out there and put it to good use, but we decided to give it a try anyway.
Close to home is Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park. War is not my favorite subject, but this is the site where, on September 6, 1781, the traitor and Connecticut native Benedict Arnold led the British on a raid during the Revolutionary War. About 150 colonial militia and local men under the command of Col. William Ledyard were outnumbered. The British demanded surrender but Ledyard refused at first. There were heavy losses on both sides. The last picture tells how it ended.
The first picture was taken outside the dirt and stone wall surrounding the top of Fort Griswold. The second picture is Tim standing in a trench leading up to the top of the fort. The picture above is the entrance to a tunnel leading in to the highest part of the fort, and the picture below was taken inside the tunnel.
Through the tunnel now, in the picture below we are standing inside of the stone and dirt wall, which is taller than us, looking toward the Thames River and New London.
In the next picture we have climbed up the wall and are looking down at the Thames River and New London on the other side. British troops had set most of New London on fire, and from here the men from Groton must have seen all the fires burning and the British ships in the river…
It was a gruesome battle — aren’t they all? The British made it to the top in spite of many casualties… It’s sobering considering what happened here.
I took all these pictures with my gloves on — it was cold! — and I can’t remember which settings I was using on which shot. Clearly I am going to have to wait until spring to practice with the camera outside. Will have to see what I can learn about using it inside while I’m waiting for warmer weather!
About 38 miles (61 kilometers) northwest from here is a town called Moodus. The Native Americans called the area “morehemoodus,” or “place of noises.” The noises come from the earth, fault lines running under the community. Modern citizens refer to them as Moodus Noises. With the disaster in Japan on my mind I took more note than usual when news reports came in on Thursday that Moodus had experienced a little 1.3 magnitude earthquake Wednesday night at 8:42 p.m. The epicenter was close to Devil’s Hopyard State Park.
We didn’t notice it here, and it caused no damage, but in Moodus they heard a loud bang and felt some movement, causing residents to call the police department and the police to drive around looking for what they feared might be an explosion. At 11:00 p.m. the U.S. Geological Survey called to tell them of the quake and the search was called off.
I’ve never felt an earthquake before and started to wonder about the local geological history of Connecticut. It turns out that on May 16, 1791 Connecticut experienced what they believe was about a 7.0 quake in the same area. “The stone walls were thrown down, chimneys were untopped, doors which were latched were thrown open, and a fissure in the ground of several rods in extent was afterwards discovered,” an observer said. It caused damage across southern Connecticut and it could be felt as far as Boston and New York. There were more than a hundred aftershocks overnight. It was the largest known earthquake in Connecticut’s history.
Apparently there was a 5.0 earthquake in southern Connecticut on November 3, 1968, but being an eleven year old in northern Connecticut at that time, I missed that one, too. Not that I necessarily want to experience an earthquake! When we lived in Greece in the early 1970s I felt there was a good chance of having one while we were there. And there was a little one my parents felt in Athens, but Beverly and I were away on a school field trip.
And happily imbibing, as I recall! As far as I know, children of all ages were allowed alcoholic beverages in Greece at that time. My parents actually told us not to drink the water as there was a meningitis outbreak in the area. We were instructed to drink only the wine. There were a few overly tipsy evenings on that field trip, this being a wild treat for the American students in our school… The European students were not sure what all our excitement was about. 🙂
This was one of those experiences that had an effect on my opinions about having an age of majority for alcohol. If you grow up drinking wine with your family it loses its fascination and thrill and all sense of novelty.
But I digress…
So, anyway… I started wondering, again, just how far above sea level are we, in case we have an earthquake here big enough to cause a tsunami. (After all, there was a 3.9 earthquake off Long Island on November 30, 2010, just a few months ago.) Beverly pointed me to an online topographical map of Connecticut: UConn Map & Geographic Information Center (MAGIC). Looks like we’re about 20 feet above sea level. The entrance gate of the campus where Tim works is about 90 feet above sea level, so we’ve decided that’s where we’ll meet. Happy for me, if driving there isn’t possible I can walk uphill to get there, or run rather, IF we ever feel the earth rumbling here. Somehow it feels better to be prepared, to have a plan.
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!
It was 4°F when I got up this morning. A year ago in January it wasn’t this cold when we had visitors for a weekend, Tim’s youngest cousin and her three children. Allegra is 18 years younger than Tim, who is the oldest in that group of cousins. (The span between the oldest – Nate – and the youngest – Lizzie – second cousins is even greater – 30 years! But they are not part of this particular story.) I hadn’t started By the Sea yet, so I’m remembering this wonderful day here now.
So… on one day of the visit we decided that taking a long cold walk at Bluff Point would be an invigorating way to release some pent-up energy…
Bluff Point is a 1½ mile long peninsula here in Groton which juts out into Long Island Sound. It is part Connecticut State Park and part Coastal Reserve. The trails meander through the woods and open areas and finally lead to the bluff. The main trail is a four mile loop.
Winter is an etching… ~ Stanley Horowitz
The Poquonnock River (above) is on the west side of the peninsula, and on this day we followed the river. Cold as it was there were lots of people out and about, walking dogs, riding horses, and jogging, as well as walking like we were.
The winter sun is striking… Families who come outdoors find some satisfaction for the hunger to connect with nature and with each other, in any season.
A glimpse of a beach in the distance helps to encourage us forward, in spite of very rosy cheeks!
We didn’t make it to the bluff because we took a detour to Bluff Point Beach, which faces the sound and stretches into a barrier between the sound and the river, Bushy Point Beach. The Great Hurricane of 1938 (aka the Great New England Hurricane) washed away more than a hundred cottages here, which were never rebuilt. (Mother Nature doesn’t have to tell the typical New Englander twice when rebuilding would be a bad idea!) The storm surge also breached Bushy Point Beach which created an island at its western end.
We endured the wind a little while to explore the beach, and Allegra found a whelk egg case.
We were so cold by then that we decided to retrace our steps back to the car. So in the end we walked almost four miles, according to the pedometers. We came home to a round or two of hot cocoa…
Maybe our family will come see us again in a different season, and perhaps then we’ll make it to the bluff – we were so close! – and finish the loop on the other, eastern side of the peninsula!
Each of our lives is a path. To know this requires intuition and trust. If we are true to the steps we take, the travel makes sense and the journey confirms itself. ~ Lin Jensen
Saturday afternoon Tim and I drove north up Connecticut State Route 169, a National Scenic Byway, to do some more leaf peeping in the “Quiet Corner” of Connecticut, and have a late lunch at the Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret.
It’s been a nasty political season in this state, with tight races for governor and US senator. Sick and tired of it, I can’t wait for election day to put us out of our misery one way or the other. It didn’t help to see huge Linda McMahon signs lining up one after another all along the roadside – I’ll stick my neck out and say I hope she will NOT be Connecticut’s new senator!!! I was hoping the ride would get my mind off such horrifying possibilities. Dick Blumenthal isn’t perfect, but I’ve watched him over the years, as our Attorney General, fight hard against the corporatocracy our government has become, and no amount of McMahon’s $50 million of corporate riches spent on advertising will tear him or his record down in my eyes.
After arriving at the popular restaurant/coffee house and settling down to chattering away and eating our salmon pesto salad and turkey sandwich, out of the blue, gubernatorial candidate Dan Malloy came up to our table and introduced himself and shook our hands! It was the first time either of us had met a politician face to face! Now to be honest, I had been supporting his opponent in the primary, but since Malloy won that contest I had shifted my support to him. Meeting him was an encouraging experience, but it was what I realized after he left that made an impression on me. It wasn’t a photo op! There were no reporters or TV cameras following him around. He was spending a Saturday afternoon out on his own, connecting with and listening to citizens in a rural town, out of the limelight. And of course, I had left my camera in the car…
After that bit of excitement we drove through Mashamoquet Brook State Park, enjoying the fall scenery and crisp autumn air, and then found two charming shops in Woodstock, the Christmas Barn (oh what a 12-room wonderland of a barn!) and Mrs. Bridges’ Pantry (British imports and a tearoom/restaurant). We found the perfect indoor pumpkin for Halloween and returned home by way of the Interstate as darkness fell around a full bright Harvest Moon. ‘Twas a good day. 🙂
Yesterday we had a taste of summer. Low 70s! Janet took Tim and me on an adventure through her neck of the woods. First we took a hike on the Old Airline Trail – can’t remember which section – that runs across eastern Connecticut. It’s one of those Rails-to-Trails projects. We crossed over a very tall viaduct and were treated to lovely views, although everything is still brown and gray from winter. The trail also cut through some hills so we saw a lot of water from the saturated earth dripping down the moss and rocks bordering much of the trail.
Next stop was the Hebron Maple Festival. By then it was lunch time and uncomfortably hot in the sun. It was a relief when we got to the chainsaw woodcarving demonstration that was tucked in the woods on a back road, and of course we bought some real maple syrup!
And finally we stopped at Tangletree Farm in Colchester where Roger had been joyfully riding his horse, Tsultan. Janet introduced us to all the horses in the barn, including a new foal. He was born on Saint Patrick’s day, so his name is, of course, Patrick. He was very busy nursing so I couldn’t get a better picture of him!
Also, I did a brave thing, brave for me. I fed Janet’s quarter horse, Cruiser, a couple of carrots and actually petted his nose! When I was in eighth grade a girl in my class fell off a horse, broke her neck, and died one weekend. It was such a shock to come back to school on the following Monday and hear this news! And back in those days they did not have grief counselors come to a school to help students cope with their losses. The whole episode left me profoundly afraid of horses. But I have a feeling that this may be about to change.
Needless to say, we were pretty tuckered out by the time we got home last night. Today we’ve been catching up with computer stuff and a stew is in the slow cooker, and dinner is smelling good!