Sunday, September 25, 2016

Early Fall at Dundee

Is there a better time of year than early fall in northern New England? This past weekend we stayed at one of our favorite retreats near Jackson, New Hampshire, breathing deeply of crisp fall air. Dundee is a special place that we get to experience on occasion thanks to the generosity of one of my clients/friends. It sits on the south slope of South Doublehead overlooking North Kearsarge.
Signs of early fall were evident along every trail that we travelled in this lovely landscape.
As soon as we get back home, we discuss how soon we might return to Dundee...especially as news of events and politics disrupts our reverie. Escape to Dundee, I wish it could be more frequent.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New York City

We were in New York City the weekend of September 10th-11th, staying with friends in their 16-foot wide, six-story restored brownstone in Harlem. These homes have many steps, especially if you want to hike up to the terrace for a view of the city at sunset.
The NYC subway system itself is a bit of a museum with beautiful mosaics on the wall of each station. The 125th Street Station in Harlem features a mural by Faith Ringgold: Flying Home: Harlem Heroes and Heroines.
It was a hot weekend in the City. The subway cars are air-conditioned but the subway stations are not and were stifling, especially if we had a wait a while for a train. But mostly it was easy to take this public transport to various corners of Manhattan that we visited--the 9/11 Memorial Museum, Wall Street, Staten Island Ferry, Greenwich Village, Central Park, American Museum of Natural History, the Met. We also walked a lot. 

Early Saturday morning we rode the subway to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. Under a clear blue sky we walked around the twin reflecting pools, reading the names of the people who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center. We found the name of Robert LeBlanc inscribed on the bronze panels surrounding the pools. He was a professor at UNH and husband of our former veterinarian. He died on Flight 175 when it was flown into the South Tower.
My favorite parts of the 9/11 Memorial were the contemplative spaces and displays, offering opportunity to reflect on the engineering feats to build the original twin towers and the new outdoor and indoor memorials, the courage and determination of the first responders, the sacrifices of all who died, as well as to ponder the meaning of evil acts, both small and large, by individuals, groups or nations.
Swamp white oaks were planted around the reflecting pools,
creating a soothing, cool glade of trees
beneath the towering new One World Trade Center
My favorite installation in the Memorial Museum
We wandered through parts of Central Park, including the Conservatory Garden tucked in the Park's northeast corner.
We rode C&J Trailways bus from Portsmouth, NH to the Port Authority in NYC. A great way to get to the City without the worry of driving and parking, and the bus is so much more comfortable than an airplane, so much more.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Back to the Mountains

It was nearly a year since we last hiked in the White Mountains, so it was good to return this past weekend for several hikes. From our base in Jackson, we took in two very different hikes. On Saturday we drove over Hurricane Mountain Road and up Route 113 through Evans Notch to the Caribou Mountain parking area. Lots and lots of other people had the same idea to hike this weekend, but we still found quiet spots and solitude, at least on the hike to Caribou Mountain and later along the East Branch of the Saco River.
On the Caribou Trail, on the way to the summit, I spotted a cow moose feeding among the underbrush of a storm-damaged yellow birch stand. It was a perfect late summer day: blue sky overhead, mid-70s, a light breeze, no mosquitoes or black flies.

Yesterday we hiked a portion of the Franconia Ridge to Little Haystack, and Mts Lincoln, and Lafayette. It was overcast with thunderstorms forecasted for the afternoon. The summits were in and out of the clouds, but no rain fell. Hundreds of others were making the same trek so we encountered a steady stream of hikers going and down. Still, it was wonderful to be on the ridge amidst the clouds and the temps and wind were refreshing. And most surprisingly the brooks were flowing with water, despite the long, dry summer.

The Falling Waters Trail to Little Haystack Mountain crosses Dry Brook several times,
showcasing a series of falls that were definitely not dry.
We reached the summit of Little Haystack (4,760') by 11:30. Clouds constantly shifted across the ridge; sometimes Mt Lincoln was visible, then moments later it was shrouded in clouds, then emerged again.
Franconia Ridge Trail on the way to 5,089-foot Mt. Lincoln;
a mat of cranberry borders the trail.
Mt. Lafayette (5,260') was in the clouds when we reached just past midday.
It didn't matter to me that we had no view from the summit of Lafayette. Being on top of one of these high peaks, reached on my own two feet, is exhilarating enough. The rocks and plants at my feet are just as beautiful as a long, sweeping view.

At lower elevations hobblebush is the common shrub along most any trail in the White Mountains. I suspect that most people don't notice it since it is so common, but I notice it all the time, stopping to admire the buds and fruits, and changing leaf color, and even a large toad that hopped beneath a leaf.
This morning, before leaving Jackson, we explored the East Branch of the Saco River. We weren't there for tubing (not enough water for that anyway). It was at this spot that we found our solitude. We listened to the water flowing over rocks and watched a solitary sandpiper feed at the water's edge. We sat on and wandered among the river's rocks, noting individual plants that have taken hold, logs washed downstream then caught by large boulders, and the myriad sizes and colors and patterns of stones.
It is bone dry back home in southern New Hampshire. I'm comforted knowing that the high peaks are often shrouded in clouds and rain and that the brooks and rivers meandering down from up high are still flowing and nourishing life along the way.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Taking Stock

It is about this time of the summer that I take stock of my vegetable garden. Every year is different: what and where I plant, the weather (no rain!) and temperature (hot!), insects and animals, weeds, time spent in the garden. Often by now the weeds have gotten the best of me and the tomatoes wilted from blight, but this year I feel particularly pleased with the garden, and oddly enough I think it is due to the lack of rain.

Rain is good of course, easier and more deep soaking than watering by hand. However, rain carries disease and causes back splash on the plants. Usually wet summers bring more insect pests and plant diseases. Not this year. The tomatoes are the best ever.

I'm seeing fewer bugs and and caterpillars--those that are pesky. The zucchini and summer squash plants are lush and overflowing (does anyone need zucchini?). Kale and Swiss chard and okra are exceptional.
This week I did find my first tobacco hornworm of the season -- a huge 3-incher munching away on the cherry tomatoes. But on nearby plants smaller hornworms were embedded with the larvae of parasitic braconid wasps. This is nature's way of controlling the hornworms - thank you wasps.
Some things haven't worked well this year. The sugar snap peas lasted all of one week due to the heat in June. And my eggplant is looking sad. I do have a drip irrigation system, which is very effective especially during dry years, but maybe the eggplant still weren't getting enough moisture. One issue is chipmunks. They aren't so much eating things in the garden, but their tunneling creates holes around the plant roots, which dries them out before I notice. And something ate the broccoli stems. Lettuce bolted too soon. But I can plant more.

I saw our first monarch butterfly on the gorgeous purple zinnias yesterday.
In the perennial garden the tall anise hyssop and bee balm are loaded with bees and clearwings and other pollinators. Hummingbirds and dragonflies zoom about the yard, and sometimes land nearby.
Oh, and for the first time since my sister and I started growing garlic (400+ bulbs per year) at our parent's place, the crop was a bust. Garlic need water and we were not there to take care of them. It would have required too much water anyway. We did harvest some nice garlic, but much less and much smaller than usual.
So, I am buying new seed garlic from Fedco in Maine and will be planting my crop here this fall, since my parents are now gone and we are visiting the homestead (now rented) less. The garlic is a symbol of this transition as our parents helped us every year with the garlic planting and harvest.

I am already planning my garden for next year, especially since I now need to make room for 200 garlic bulbs. I'm going to skip the broccoli and plant fewer zukes and summer squash -- way too many this year. I need to move the rhubarb to a shadier spot (too hot in current location), which will make room for the cucumbers. And the catnip is in the wrong place. I need to get cow manure. So much to do in the garden and I love it. Now to find one more zucchini recipe.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

My Mom

I started Spicebush Log on February 8, 2009, inspired by Tom Ryan's blog, The Adventures of Tom & Atticus. My mother was one of my biggest fans and my most regular reader. In recent years, macular degeneration had robbed her of the ability to read well, but just recently she asked about Tom and Atticus, wondering how they were doing. As it happened Tom lost Atticus this year and I lost my mother.

I haven't blogged much this past year, instead I was caring for my parents as they lived their final months in their home of nearly 60 years. And then after my Dad passed in November, my mother came to live with us until her death in June. Although I miss her (and Dad), they lived full lives into their 90s. And this recent post by Tom, captures some of my thoughts too:

"When I think of my late friend, sometimes I sigh. But mostly I smile and wonder where the years went. When people tell me absolutes about where Atticus is or what he’s thinking or if he appeared in the form of a rainbow or a butterfly or a cardinal, I pretty much ignore them. All I need to know is that he’s alive within me. That is nourishment enough."

My mother was born in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania on August 31, 1921, the daughter of Agnes Stark Sumner and Sherman Sumner. She was born at home and the doctor who delivered her told her mother Agnes that he didn’t expect her to live long and certainly not to age 94!

She loved gardening, reading, music, ice cream and chocolate, puffy clouds and sunny days. For nearly 60 years she cared for the 1760s-era old saltbox house that Dad restored and where she raised four of us and welcomed in many neighborhood kids. Even into their 90s, they visited the local dance halls enjoying swing, country and especially contra dancing. Their 60-acre Amherst farm was among the first to be part of the Massachusetts Agricultural Preservation Program. They leased their farmland to a local CSA, Brookfield Farm, and were dear friends and mentors to Brookfield’s farmers and apprentices.  

My mother, I think, would want me to be blogging again. Although I am not sure how many people read blogs anymore, I never did it for readership, but rather to journal about experiences, places, people, nature, and other musings. The blog connections that I have made over the years are precious and I still check in with those writers now and then--they've been more persistent in their writings. So, I begin again, my blogging career (!), for you Mom.