Friday, October 21, 2016

Garlic - A New Start

For the past 20 years or so we've planted garlic at my parent's place, in the garden patch west of the 1760s saltbox that we grew up in. Each October Dad disced the field, added composted manure, staked out the rows with a metal post and baling twine, and brought several bales of straw from a local farmer. Mom helped break up the garlic bulbs and some years helped with the planting. In recent years she watched us from a chair at the end of the rows.

Last October Dad did not join us in the garlic planting. At age 93, his once strong body and mind was failing him. A month after we planted that garlic he passed away peacefully during the night. He was in his own home and bed, in the parlor that looked out onto the garlic garden.

This past year was dry, especially dry in South Amherst where the garlic grew. By the time we harvested the crop in July, Mom had passed away and the garlic patch was dusty. The crop was much reduced in number and size. Without Mom and Dad there we visited rarely and without their presence it seemed fitting somehow that the garlic would succumb too. We rent the saltbox now and visit rarely, so the garlic patch is now barren.

This October I'm starting anew with a garlic planting in our New Hampshire garden. I ordered new seed from Fedco in Maine: Russian Red and German X-Hardy. On a beautiful fall morning this week I planted 265 cloves in 5 rows. It was bittersweet doing it on my own, without Dad's straight rows and Mom's observant eye on the activities. In November I will spread some of their ashes on the garlic bed. Then I'll feel that the transition to a new garlic tradition is complete.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Stunning Fall Colors

Who said the drought would cause autumn colors to be subdued this year? Not true.

We hiked to the top of Mt. Chocorua today via the Champney Falls Trail. Maples and birches were brilliant in oranges, yellows, and reds set amongst the dark green of spruce and fir. Mountain ash was stunning as were the alpine flowers and shrubs along the trail. A few pictures highlight our hike, although wish I could make a gift box of the clear air, balsam smells, scenic vistas, and hiking experience and send to friends and family, especially those in India.
View of Chocorua from Middle Sister

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.