summer solstice in the woods

6.20.22 ~ Bluff Point State Park & Coastal Reserve

This is the third year we’ve celebrated Midsummer since this endless coronavirus pandemic began. Driving on our way to a walk in the woods I was chattering to Tim about the “end” of the pandemic, how it was becoming more or less endemic now and that maybe I should stop tagging my posts with “pandemic.”

last quarter moon

Monday was a perfect summer day and the trees were green and lovely. Tim was already wearing shorts and I was still in my hoodie, typical between-season attire for this couple. 😉 We had forgotten it was a 3-day weekend, a Monday holiday for Juneteenth, so there were lots of people in the state park. No matter, everyone was friendly and in good spirits.

a peek at the Poquonnock River

We had a nice conversation with a young couple from New Hampshire who were very excited about a bird they had spotted. (We finally got a glimpse of it but couldn’t see it well enough to identify it.) And another conversation with a man, about our age, who commented on how good the honeysuckle was smelling and asked me about the zoom lens on my camera. I really didn’t feel too nervous being so close without a mask since we were outside.

it looks like these two trees are lifting the glacial erratic up off the ground

I took a picture of these trees holding the boulder (above) in November 2020. See here. Interesting difference between autumn and summer surroundings.

beach rose blossom
honeysuckle blossoms
greenery!

It turned out to be the longest walk we’ve taken in ages, a whole hour and a half! And I don’t know what it is about catbirds this year — they are turning up everywhere! It was one of those days where it simply felt exhilarating to be alive and present.

gray catbird
twig art on glacial erratic
the twig and the glacial erratic in the above picture
clover blossom
another sunlit glacial erratic
another gray catbird

I’m still enjoying daily encounters with the catbird coming to the birch tree outside my kitchen window. He usually announces the visit with a few meows and then begins his repertoire of varied melodies, songs that I imagine he has picked up and adopted along the way.

on another branch

People who watch a banded gray catbird outside their window all summer will find it hard not to wonder exactly where it’s spending the winter, or to marvel that science still doesn’t have the answer. And if the catbird doesn’t come back, they, too, will inevitably wonder why.
~ Miyoko Chu
(Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds)

looking the other way
hawkweed (thanks to Eliza for the id)
a chipmunk on the path

But perceptions will inevitably shift, as fickle as the weather. On arriving home we learned that a fully vaccinated relative has come down with covid and had a very high fever. The news shattered my hopeful illusions. Other relatives who have had the virus have said it was no worse than a cold. One of the most disconcerting things about the illness is that it is impossible to know how it will hit you until you actually catch it.

And then, the next morning I woke to the news that a play we were planning to attend outdoors this week was put on hold:

Update on PEER GYNT: Due to COVID delays, our production will not be opening this weekend (June 23-26) in Wilcox Park. We will update on our revised schedule of performances as soon as we can. Thank you for your understanding and stay safe!
~ Flock Theatre

Connecticut’s positivity rate is hovering around 8%. So, all things considered, I guess it’s too soon to remove the pandemic tag from my posts. This refreshing walk will be recalled as our third pandemic summer solstice celebration. Feeling gratitude for the company of sociable strangers, playful catbirds and a chipmunk with the munchies on this memorable, bittersweet day.

that’s summer

“Platter with Seashells, Roses, Pearls & Earrings” by Georgios Jakobides

My Garden — like the Beach —
Denotes there be — a Sea —
That’s Summer —
Such as These — the Pearls
She fetches — such as Me

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #469)

maple syrup for sale

sunrise at home, 6:52 am, Spring Equinox
3.20.22 ~ Goshen Hill Maples, Lebanon, Connecticut

In our area the spring equinox comes close to the traditional weekend of the maple sugarhouse open houses, fun places to visit to celebrate spring and see how maple syrup is made. Sadly though, probably due to climate change, the sap stopped running and the last boil of the season happened on Friday, two days before we got to Goshen Hill Maples. The friendly couple running this one, though, had a fire going and boiled water to illustrate the process to visitors.

the little sugarhouse, the evaporator is just inside the barn door
a few of the 700+ sugar maple trees that are tapped
all tap tubes lead to the holding tanks

It seems the days of tapping a tree and hanging a bucket under the spout to collect the sap are gone by. These days tubes bring the sap to the holding tanks and then to the evaporator. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to yield 1 gallon of syrup. One tree will produce about 10 to 20 gallons of sap, or a quart to a half gallon of syrup.

sap is pumped into the evaporator
I get a lesson in bottling (using water) the syrup

We bought two quarts of their maple syrup which should last us for a year. 🙂 I have a salmon recipe that uses maple syrup in the marinade which we have at least once a week. Our days of eating pancakes or waffles with maple syrup are long gone, but we have many fond memories of the deliciously sweet weekend breakfasts.

the great spring murmur

image credit: ArtTower at pixabay

The ghostly winter silence had given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life. This murmur arose from all the land, fraught with the joy of living. … Squirrels were chattering, birds singing, and overhead honked the wild-fowl driving up from the south in cunning wedges that split the air.
~ Jack London
(The Call of the Wild)

lobster trap tree

12.19.21 ~ Stonington Town Dock, Stonington, Connecticut

Sunday evening we went to visit this holiday “tree” built from 376 old lobster traps, and decorated with 360 buoys for ornaments and over 800 lights. The buoys were painted by local artists and school children. The “tree” was topped with a lighted anchor. The creation looked more like an igloo to me!

I know of two other places, in Massachusetts, that have lobster trap trees, one in Provincetown and one in Gloucester. This is the first year Stonington has tried it. The place was mobbed! (We had our masks on even though it was outside.) You could go inside but the line was very long, with no social distancing, and it was freezing outside. Even Tim was complaining about how cold it was!

While we were there we overheard a marriage proposal happening on the inside. The bride-to-be was beside herself with surprise and shrieks of delight and disbelief. Way too much excitement for us. I did manage to get a picture of one of the buoys before we hightailed it out of there.

It will take us a while to get used to crowds again when the time comes, after almost two years of quarantine and social distancing. Sigh…

Connecticut’s covid positivity rate is 9.02%, the highest it’s ever been.

waiting for our grandchildren

Wednesday morning we tried something new. I saw a cute gift wrapping idea on a blog I follow, My Scandinavian Home. Tim & I crafted the two gift wraps on the left, the bear (or dog?) and the deer, using paper bags, cardstock and a sharpie. Now we keep our fingers crossed that everyone will test negative and show up for Christmas.

Many blessings to all my blogging friends ~ stay safe and may your winter holidays be merry and bright! Let it snow!

in the dusk beyond

image credit: pixabay

It is in midwinter that I sometimes glean from my pines something more important than woodlot politics, and the news of the wind and weather. This is especially likely to happen on some gloomy evening when the snow has buried all irrelevant detail, and the hush of elemental sadness lies heavy upon every living thing. Nevertheless, my pines, each with his burden of snow, are standing ramrod-straight, rank upon rank, and in the dusk beyond I sense the presence of hundreds more. At such times I feel a curious transfusion of courage.
~ Aldo Leopold
(A Sand County Almanac & Other Writings on Ecology & Conservation)

crunch and rustle of leaves

“Autumn Morning” by Grigoriy Myasoyedov

A few days ago, I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different, and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.
~ Eric Sloane
(Seasons on the Farm: A Celebration of Country Life Through the Year)

with fields of lavender

6.18.21 ~ Lavender Pond Farm ~ Killingworth, Connecticut

Picking our own strawberries used to be a favorite way of marking the summer solstice, but since my diet is so restricted now we decided to visit a different kind of farm this year. The beautiful, sweet-smelling Lavender Pond Farm fit the bill perfectly.

I had to laugh at myself. We were almost there when I realized I still had my house slippers on! So I wore my slippers all day! (Absent-minded old lady!) Thankfully there was no mud on the ground to deal with.

There were quite a few attractions and activities and it looks like they are still adding more. First we took a walk through the formal garden.

“Enjoy a relaxing game of giant chess in our formal garden.”

The air was fragrant with a thousand trodden aromatic herbs, with fields of lavender, and with the brightest roses blushing in tufts all over the meadows.
~ William Cullen Bryant
(Prose Writings, Volume 5)

a bee!

Then we took a nice long, slow train ride on the purple Lavender Express, through the lavender fields and around the ponds. We also passed by more than a few fairy gardens in the woods.

“There’s nearly 10,000 lavender plants in 30+ beds.”
“On sunny days our honeybees are busy as, well, you know…
and you can see them working around the hives.”

We are wont to forget that the sun looks on our cultivated fields and on the prairies and forests without distinction. They all reflect and absorb his rays alike, and the former make but a small part of the glorious picture which he beholds in his daily course. In his view the earth is all equally cultivated like a garden.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Walden)

“Our farm is solar powered. In 2017 we became only the second site
in the USA and first in CT to put in a SmartFlower.”
approaching the covered bridge
“We’ve got an Arnold M. Graton authentic covered bridge at our farm.
See the work of a master bridge wright.”

After the train ride, we did a quick walk-through in the gift shop, which smelled lovely, and then met a sleepy rooster outside. Tim spent a fair amount of time admiring a very old red truck. It felt a little strange being so close to people without a mask on, actually, just being close to people, period. I never know what to make of people who are wearing masks. Are they unvaccinated? Or playing it safe?

“Our ‘Broadway Chicks’ are always excited to make new friends.”
well, this one was too sleepy to make new friends…
1947 Ford Pickup ~ “Half Ton”

We had a lovely taste of the best kind of summer morning, with low humidity and comfortable temperatures. On the way home we stopped at my favorite restaurant for lunch, where they graciously take and prepare my special order. 🙂

The next day we went to an estate sale, something we haven’t done since before the pandemic started. Again I felt uncomfortable being in such close proximity to people with and without masks. (We’re not wearing them unless required by an establishment.) But I found a nicely-framed needlepoint of two chickadees on a branch, for only $5! And since the garden rake we use to spread mulch every year was falling apart we found one in good condition to replace it, also for $5. It doesn’t take much to delight us! 🙂

theory of sundials

“Midsummer Twilight” by Willard Metcalf

From astronomy we find the east, west, south, and north, as well as the theory of the heavens, the equinox, solstice, and courses of the stars. If one has no knowledge of these matters, he will not be able to have any comprehension of the theory of sundials.
~ Vitruvius Pollio
(Vitruvius, the Ten Books on Architecture)