A Taste Or Two Of Spring

You know that little thrill of licking brownie batter off the spatula just after you put the pan in the oven? (Oh, is that just me??) Anyway, we all like to sample a bit of whatever we’re whipping up in the kitchen, don’t we, — especially if we’re cooking when we’re hungry? It’s so hard to wait. And that’s how this past week felt to me with the tease of a couple of warm March days. I could taste spring!

My first taste involved one of my daughters and the mitre saw she inherited from my Dad. (Stay with me here.) We’re going to be building new garden beds for my backyard this spring. Several weeks ago, we took a road trip to the only two Home Depots in the area that carried the cedar two-by-sixes we needed. Long story, short, we spent an hour or so cutting some into four-foot lengths and trimming the rest to eight feet. We’ve got some work ahead of us still, but seeing them all cut excited me. I can’t wait for gardening season!

The second taste involved another of my daughters. She lives almost two hours away and works as a baker. For both of those reasons, we had’t seen her in person for months. I’d been waiting for decent weather on one of her days off, so we could spend some time outdoors together. Last Friday, the promise of temperatures in the high fifties, or even maybe sixty degrees, was just what we needed. And it did indeed turn out to be a beautiful day!

We hiked a trail at a local state reservation. We watched for birds and talked a bit about photography as she tried out the new camera she got for Christmas. It was midday, so bird activity was minimal. After walking for a while, we actually thought we might not see any. But then a few nuthatches and chickadees flew right across in front of us and sat chirping in the trees for several minutes. We walked on and saw a large black-ish bird fly by at a distance. When we got to the spot, we discovered a pileated woodpecker. A second one flew by a few minutes later. Even though they moved too fast and stayed partially out of view, I took one poorly focused picture — enough for proof, if not for hanging on a wall. All in all it was fun and left me pining for more warm spring days.

Gratitude Spiral: Day 292

Today, I’m grateful for the eagerness of the birds while I’m filling the feeder.

They start to chatter as I open the stepladder. I can hear their excitement (or impatience) as I pour the seeds in. And they’re at the feeder before I’ve finished dragging the ladder away — chickadees, cardinals, woodpeckers, blackbirds, tufted titmice. Sometimes, I just stand and watch before folding up the ladder and putting it away. 🙂

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 271

Today, I’m grateful for a lazy August Sunday.

Yes, I know it’s Monday morning, but if I close my eyes for a minute, I can imagine what it felt like yesterday to sit in the sunshine, listening to the birds in the trees (before the thunderstorm rolled through). If you’re feeling stressed this morning, maybe you could do the same. Feel free to borrow my memories of yesterday. 🙂

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 207

Today, I’m grateful for coneflowers.

Actually, only one has bloomed in my yard so far this year. But I see buds! The trick is to appreciate them before the goldfinches find them and start eating them, one petal at a time. 🙂

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 140

Today, I’m grateful for my bird clock.

I received it one Christmas in a Yankee swap. I’m not sure if it was meant as a joke gift, but it makes me happy as it chirps on the hour everyday. A little bit of the outdoors brought inside. 🙂

What are you grateful for today?

Gratitude Spiral: Day 16

Today, I’m grateful for my hearing.

Yesterday, I accompanied my mother to her doctor’s appointment where we talked about the need to have her hearing checked. I waited while they sloshed the wax around in her ear and left her feeling more hard of hearing than when we arrived. It made me appreciate my own ability to hear — birds singing, music playing, my novelty bird-clock ticking & tweeting, rain roaring on the roof, and so much more!

What are you grateful for today?

February Fling: Part I…

IMG_0321

My Dad winters in Florida. For several of the past years, my husband and I have trekked down from Boston, usually in March, to visit and enjoy the warmer weather. We planned no such trip for this year. Then, my neighbors, who recently bought a condo near my Dad’s, called. Were we planing a visit? We should get together in Naples, Florida. Well, you’d think we see enough of each other already, being neighbors here in New England. You’d be wrong. So, I booked a ticket for the end of February.

The day before I left, National Grid came to change the gas meter on our house. Evidently, this must be done every seven years. Why I said “yes” to scheduling anything the day before a trip is beyond me. To make a long story short, after it was done, the pilot on the furnace wouldn’t relight. I could’ve predicted it, since the thermocouple quits on us every few years, like clockwork. Anyway, that meant I had to get a heating guy here, in a hurry, to fix my furnace. All this while I’m trying to pack and leave instructions for what needed to be done in my absence. When I left for the airport the next morning, we had heat.

DSC_0394 (1)My Dad has been under the weather lately, to put it mildly, and has been pretty darned tired. Unlike the last time I visited, he wouldn’t be chauffeuring me around. Instead, he handed me his keys. I was on my own.

My favorite destination in Naples, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, was my first solo outing (after a visit with my neighbors, of course). The swamp is an amazing place to birdwatch. I spied several kinds of woodpeckers and warblers, many waders, a few hawks, plus raccoons, alligators, and snakes. Most of my photos are useful for bird identification, but not necessarily for publishing. Here are some of the better shots (click on any one of the photos to view them enlarged as a slideshow):

Some of these creatures were familiar to me, like the ibis, egret, anhinga, cardinal, raccoon and alligator. I’ve even seen pileated woodpeckers before, from a distance. But it was a thrill to catch them relatively close by and watch when one suddenly trounced on top of the other! (I should mention, that while I watched the woodpecker fight, a raccoon waddled through the swamp, climbed up next to me and proceeded down the boardwalk. A bit too close for my comfort!) Black and white warblers and yellow-rumps were new to me. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen the paler version of a red-shouldered hawk before. Beautiful! I’ve definitely never seen a painted bunting before! I actually visited the swamp two days in a row, arriving at 7:30am on the second day, to catch more bird activity. And I thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Check out my trips to the Naples Zoo and Naples Botanical Garden (and the ongoing furnace saga) in Part II…

 

Thanks for visiting. 🙂

 

Biking, Birding, and Brews: A Vermont Vacation…

IMG_0181On Sunday morning, with our bikes secured to the roof of the Subaru XV, a bit of luggage and two empty hundred-quart Coleman coolers in the back, we pulled out of our driveway and headed north. We had reservations at Smart Suites in South Burlington and a semblance of a plan: to do some biking and some bird-watching, and to investigate the local craft beer scene. Those who know me well might be confused about that last part. But keep in mind that a good marriage is built on mutual respect, which means a good vacation includes compromise. Let’s just say that my husband has a built-in designated driver! And I come in pretty handy when there’s a one-case-per-person limit. For my part, I got to choose our accommodations: amenities and a good deal beat a room with a view.

After pulling over at a covered bridge on Route 9 in Southern Vermont
DSC_0550to eat a lunch freshly prepared at the Vermont Country Deli, we arrived at our first destination: Southern Vermont Museum of Natural History in Marlboro, Vermont.
DSC_0566A small place with big name. Here, we got an up close view of a lot of dead birds. But it was fascinating…really! The museum houses the collection of a man named Luman Ranger Nelson, who was able to preserve more than two hundred bird specimens of the northeastern United States in the early 1900s ( a time when humans beings were still in denial about our ability to render a species extinct). A few live, rescued birds also reside at the museum. My favorite were a pair of tiny screech owls. 🙂

Outside, we took in the tri-state, hundred-mile view…

…then headed north to Burlington.

IMG_0197On Sunday evening, Church Street in downtown Burlington provided window-shopping, a stroll (under an umbrella), and dinner. The Farm House Tap & Grill became our new favorite! (We ended up there three nights in a row.) My husband enjoyed his first taste of Hill Farmstead’s Conduct of Life. (That’s a beer — for those who have no more of a clue than I do!).

Monday morning saw our first beer run of the week. A delivery of Heady Topper from The Alchemist brewing company was set to arrive at Route 7 Liquors in South Burlington between 10 and 11 a.m. We showed up early and got in line.

Our reward: two cases of Heady Topper!

Lots of ice needed to keep things cold for the week!

The drizzle of Monday morning let up enough for us to get in a bike ride along the shores of Lake Champlain…

At lunchtime, we checked out the Fiddlehead Brewing Company in Shelburne, bought a couple of growlers, and a wood-fired pizza at Folino’s next door….

then headed to the Switchback Tap Room in Burlington for a quick beer flight.

The rain moved back in, so we decided to hit the Roxy Cinema in Burlington for a movie before dinner.

Tuesday morning, we made our first attempt at bird watching along the Intervale trail. Unfortunately, it rained on our birding parade…
DSC_0634and we had plans to pick up two more cases of Heady Topper at the Winooski Beverage Company.

So, we waited in line outside and the truck arrived incognito. A few minutes later, they unlocked the doors and snaked us in an orderly fashion through the store and around to the back to pick up our one-case-per-person!

Afterwards, we made one more attempt at the Intervale trail, but it was already late morning. There was evidence of wildlife, but no bird sightings. 😦

A quick stop at the hotel to shower and pack a lunch, then we ran into Burlington for one more case of Heady Topper (are you counting??) at City Market…
DSC_0647…then off to the Shelburne Museum. The main attraction for me here was an exhibit called “Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic.” Remember the I Spy books? They were Wick’s creation. My kids loved them and the photos impressed me. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the exhibit. We found several other interesting exhibits there, as well: paintings, photography, historic buildings, and quilts, among others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Wednesday morning, the City Market in Burlington was expecting a delivery of Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine. No lines and hardly a wait!

DSC_0685After that, we headed back to the Shelburne Museum, since admission pays for a two-day pass and a headache on my part had cut Tuesday’s visit short. This time, we explored the inside of the Ticonderoga.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was late afternoon when we stopped at Shelburne Farms, just down the road. I had originally wanted to take a tour and see the cheese-making in progress, but it was too late in the day. So, we shopped: three-year aged cheddar (soooo good!) and a birthday gift for one of my daughters. My husband rode his bike from the farm back to the hotel…that was all the biking we ended up doing for the week.

Thursday morning brought sunshine for our second birding attempt. Back in Winooski, we started at Salmon Hole. The plan was to start there and then drive up to the Ethan Allen homestead trails. We ended up spending three hours at Salmon Hole instead! The following photos are not the best quality, but they were indispensable in helping me to identify some of the birds we saw…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We also caught glimpses of a cardinal, Canada geese, some type of plover, a slew of black birds, and a crow.

On Thursday, we had a dinner invitation from friends, Tom and Patty, who live in Stowe, VT. Our plan was to drive through Waterbury and Stowe to Greensboro, about an hour north of Stowe. There, we hoped to find Hill Farmstead Brewery. And we did… miles off the paved roads, up on a hill. The place was hopping!

Dinner at Tom and Patty’s was great! My husband brought a few non-Vermont beers to share: Trillium Vicinity, Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin, and Trillium Pot & Kettle oatmeal porter for desert. He also shared one of the growlers we bought at Fiddlehead Brewing Company.

The view of the mountains from their front deck was amazing! I even got to do a bit of bird-watching while my husband shared his beer finds with them. A large bird hid in the tall grass of their sloping side yard. They thought it was a wild turkey and I couldn’t tell, even with binoculars. So, I took a few photos. The bird was well-hidden and I couldn’t  see it when I came down the slope onto even ground with it. Here’s the very fuzzy glimpse I got…I’m thinking ruffed grouse?? Any other guesses?
DSC_0871Friday morning we packed up and checked out of our hotel. We planned to drive south, down Route 7, all the way to the top western corner of Massachusetts, where our youngest would be graduating from college on Saturday. Along the way, we had to stop at Robert Frost’s former house in Shaftsbury, VT.

No photos were allowed to be taken inside. But the highlight for me was seeing the original scratching of “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” framed in the room where he wrote it. 🙂

Friday night, we landed in North Adams, MA, at the Porches Inn at MASS MoCA. All in all, it was a full week and fun Vermont vacation!