Showing posts with label ; upstate New York. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ; upstate New York. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Eye of the Beholder

Ugh. This is not the time of year when the Northeast looks its best. It is grumpy season here, when winter has held on just a little too long, when mud is the dominant feature of our backyard.

And yet, this morning, when I looked out the back door, there it was, that yellowing up of the forsythia bark, especially noticeable against the still-gray woods. I ventured out with my camera and sure enough, there are fat green forsythia buds just waiting for a warm spell.

The small dogwood tree near the house has plumped up buds, too. Like a good gardener, I continue my inspection. While a casual observer may see only mud and mess, I know where to look for signs of promise and to me, beauty.

A hydrangea shrub still has a few flowers clinging on from last fall. Delicate chestnut-colored shad-bush buds are lengthening. The soundtrack for my walk around the yard was birdsong and babbling brook.

Under the shelter of a limbed-up spruce tree, the rhododendron is also sporting thickening flower buds.

Around in front, the bark of red-twig dogwoods is aglow. There are still some red blossoms left from the winter's bloom of the witch hazel. In a sunny spot, early daffodils are inching up.

Now is the time of year when I appreciate evergreen shrubs and hardy lavenders. I have made a mental note to plant more.  We need more plants for winter interest, I often think in March. But flibbertigibbet that I am, I lose that thought come May and June, when iris and peonies and such are filling up the spaces that look so empty now.

We recently had two ailing Norway maples cut down. I was glad to have that taken care of before birds could start building nests there. We have lived in this house for eleven years now, and for all of that time, two weathered soccer balls have been stuck in the top branches of one of those maples. They were artifacts left from the three boys who lived here before us. When the tree guys took that maple down, the balls were finally freed, and the young men in the work crew began kicking the soccer balls around to each other. It was a funny moment.

After the crew left, I found the soccer balls set neatly at the edge of the garden. I can't quite bring myself to throw them away just yet.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Glorious February Saturday morning

Today is the start of both the Presidents' Day three-day holiday weekend and of the mid-winter school break in our neck of the woods. The city of Saratoga Springs gets happily busy during holidays and today was no exception.  

I got out and about with greater alacrity than usual this morning and headed to the indoor farmers' market at the Lincoln Baths in Saratoga Spa State Park. Into my shopping bag went some honey crisp apples and the makings for an easy dinner for tonight: fresh crab cakes, local sweet potatoes, a rustic loaf of whole wheat bread, and in honor of  George Washington, a small cherry pie. 

I had planned to go for a walk while I was already in the park, so I stowed my purchases and set off on my favorite two-mile loop.

I love a winter day like this one. The sun was shining brightly on still-clean snow. The temperature was climbing above freezing and there were no frigid wind gusts. Lots of people were already out, walking dogs, jogging, pushing strollers, cross country skiing. Although I had only intended to walk, the pavement on the path was mostly clear of snow so I thought, why not jog a bit? And off I trotted. 

I wasn't really dressed right for a run, but I managed to jog nearly the whole two miles. I did slow down to pick my way across occasional icy patches, but I still made pretty good time (for an out-of-practice lady approaching 67, that is.) After a too sedentary January, to be outdoors, breathing in good clean air, rediscovering  the joy of running all over again felt wonderful. It's time to get back on a regular fitness schedule, for certain.

There are also many indoor pleasures in February. I am knitting a second pink "resist" hat at the request of a friend. Dreamily, I look at plant catalogs and think about what I'd like to change in my garden this spring. I have the pot of lilies of the valley that I bought recently from White Flower Farm to inspire me. From tiny pips, the plants have shot up and the blossoms are giving off that lovely Muguet de Bois scent. 

I've just finished reading Purity, by Jonathan Franzen, an author I usually enjoy. Didn't like this one so much. 500-plus pages of a slightly creepy dysfunctional cast of characters. Deciding I needed to cleanse my literary palate, so to speak, I've picked up a collection of Marilynne Robinson essays to read next: When I Was a Child I Read Books. And also on the night table is Convictions, by Marcus Borg. This last one I am reading along with the "theology book group" at the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church in Saratoga Springs. Ridiculously long name but an active, stimulating church that is involved in a lot of good stuff. This weekend, for example, they are hosting a public forum: Uniting Communities Against the Politics of Hate.  It will take place on Sunday, February 19, from 4pm-6pm. Check out the calender on their web page here for more information.

Enjoy this lovely winter weekend!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Black and white and red all over

Yesterday, Saturday, was a pretty low-key day for me. Still nursing a sore knee and the tail end of a cold I feel I have had forever, I decided to just plain take a day off. The most ambitious things I did were to refill the bird feeders and to walk down the driveway to get the mail. 

Although the temperature wasn't so terribly low for this time of year and for this neck of the woods, the feel of the day was sharp, damp, and chilling. I enjoyed making some exotic hot tea with the aid of my new infuser. I didn't used to drink much tea and when I did, I just used grocery store tea bags.  This loose tea was fun. The interesting flavor helps to fend off snack attacks in the late afternoon.

When I went outside to fill the feeders, I saw a large raptor-like bird fly slowly in and settle on a tree near the edge of our woods (see photo # 4). We are used to seeing red-tailed hawks come around, looking for careless rabbits or slow-moving mourning doves, but I was pretty sure this wasn't one of those. I quickly snapped a photo but the bird was really too far away to get a good look. By the time I grabbed my binoculars, it had moved on. After checking the bird guides, I am pretty certain it was a goshawk.  It is interesting to see a new-to-me bird. I just hope he doesn't prey on the smaller birds I lure here with feed all winter. I enjoy the life and color they bring to the back yard. Throughout the winter, we will have regular visits from about twenty varieties of birds. 

In my experience, there are two types of knitters: those who knit socks and those who don't. I am not yet sure which category I will end up in. I knit a pair of socks a couple of years ago and they came out a bit funky and misshapen. But I had bought some sock yarn on sale back then and still have an ample supply. So, I thought I would try it again. Alas, these socks are not going all that well, either. But for now, I will keep plugging along. Maybe I will eventually figure out how to get a more pleasing result.

Happy January to you. I hope you are keeping warm and happily busy, indoors or out.

Not required reading, but here below is a list of the 17 birds that I saw in our yard yesterday, January 7, 2017:

Finches: gold, house, and purple
Woodpeckers: Northern flicker, downy, and red-bellied

tufted titmouse
blue jay
mourning dove
slate-colored junco
Carolina wren
White-throated sparrow



Saturday, December 17, 2016

No such thing as bad weather: Showing off my northern woodswoman skills

My plans for this morning were somewhat altered by the weather, which brought us a good bit of snowfall and warnings about possible freezing rain to come. So we stuck close to home and and waited for the snow to let up.

 I decided to make some homemade bread, since we happened to be out of any store-bought. I had planned to buy some at the farmers market, but that was off the agenda for today.  I fished around in the cupboards and came up with everything I needed and got down to it.

By the time I had the dough mixed up and set to rise, the snow had let up a bit and the Handsome Husband went out to start snow-blowing the driveway out in front.

So, with an hour to kill while the dough was rising, I grabbed my beloved Sorel boots to go out back and start shoveling the deck there. 

 I liked Sorel boots better when they were actually made in Canada, but I am pretty sure they aren't made there anymore. Still, they are good toasty boots. They have thick felt liners that are awesome in cold weather. They work so well in this part of the world that they make me think of that expression: There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. 

Which got me wondering who first said that. It turns out that it is a bit of folk wisdom from either Sweden or Norway. No one seems to know for sure. In both languages, the word for "clothes" rhymes with the word for "weather".

Swedish: Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder.

Norwegian Bokmål: Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær.

So I guess it works as a little rhyming ditty of wisdom in either language.

Anyway, I did my share of shoveling (with very warm, dry feet) and then wielded the roof rake to clear snow from that pesky overhang that is prone to ice dams.

And by then, it was time to bake the risen bread. 

I am pretty proud of my north country winter survival skills. Who needs a Florida condo when you can have an hour of useful exercise in the bracing winter air and then come inside to warm, yeasty bread, right from the oven.

PS The recipe for this whole wheat bread came from my late former mother-in-law, Marjorie Machell (for whom my granddaughter is named.) Marge got the recipe from her Home Bureau days. I don't know if Home Bureau chapters still exist, but they were great for teaching all kinds of useful skills. It was kind of like 4H or Girl Scouts for adult women. We should bring this back. When the entire world's cyber systems collapse, knowing how to bake bread will come in handy.

PPS and update:  
My friend Gretchen emailed this picture of the Home Bureau Creed. Gretchen tells me that her street had an active Home Bureau in the 70's and 80's. I, too, remember belonging to a Home Bureau chapter in Warren County, NY, for a brief time in the early 1980's. It really is too bad that Home Bureau has faded away. Their meetings were both fun and useful. Thank you, Gretchen, for the photo. 


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Good weather for reading and knitting

The weather here in upstate New York has been typically November-ish: lots of gray, sometimes cold, sometimes wet. In between, when it's bright, we dash out to squeeze in a woods walk. My Handsome Husband is a more faithful walker than I and does not let the weather deter him. I need to toughen up or it is going to feel like a much longer winter.

While I am indoors, knitting regains its appeal at this time of year. We are blessed to have a gas fireplace, where a simple click! produces a pleasant warmth to sit near.

I have been trying to use up some yarn from my out-of-control stash. I had a bunch of miscellaneous cotton yarn, leftover from this and that. I turned to a favorite source, Mason-Dixon Knitting, for inspiration. They have lots of easy ideas that can work as stash-busters.

I adapted their idea for "Absorba, The Great Bathmat" , but did an even simpler version.

 I just cast on about 80 stitches, held the cotton yarn doubled, and knit simple garter stitches until I ran out of cotton yarn.  I used a size 10.5 circular needle, knitting back and forth, not in the round. Poof! Four-plus balls of cotton yarn are gone from the stash and a usable, if not very elegant, bathmat has been created.

Next up: finishing some other projects on the needles:  a hat for myself and ...

...this sweater I started (ahem) last year.

Because I am linking up with Small Things yarn along today, where bloggers share what they are knitting and reading, I am adding a little about recent and current books here, too. I just finished Lila, which I enjoyed very much. It's the third in a Marilynne Robinson trilogy that includes Home and Gilead.

I have just started Purity and continue to pick my way through The Old Ways.

Having time to knit and read indoors while staying cozy on dreary days are very nice perks of being retired.