Looking back

It’s laughable that I’m feeling so hesitant to make a change of location for this blog. What started a year ago today as a diversion from other things has become something entirely different. The sense of this thing being mine and important is a surprise. Maybe it’s because I’d never before kept a journal, but knowing now that I have a year’s worth of stuff here makes me want to hold on to the record of my thoughts that it represents.

That anyone takes the time to read my ramblings and that some do so each day is a remarkable compliment. Thank you for indulging my whimsy!

There are many readers and bloggers for whose friendship I am grateful. You have all made this blogging thing great fun and I’ve so enjoyed the excuse to ramble on about the things I love with you. That part of yourselves that each of you share via your blogs or comments here is important to me, as I’m sure it is to you. I hope that you will continue to be so generous.

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
“For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned.” And she will.

Let me count the ways….

How convenient that Blogger has gone wonky. I didn’t have much to say anyway. I’ve spent the last hour or two kicking around ideas and probably won’t be able to get even this lame post up tonight.

I’ve been playing around with a WordPress site and so far I’ve found it to be much more manageable. Not quite ready to take the plunge, but may be soon.

Stolen glances – a Haibun for one deep breath

Quite a few of the blogs I enjoy reading – gardenpath and endment come to mind – participate in a weekly poetry prompt from one deep breath. I thought I would give it a try this week! Participants are writing in a style known as Haibun which is a combination of prose and haiku. I’m no poet, but enjoyed the excuse to share this photo I took today while out running errands.

I was delighted to come across this field and its huge round bales of hay. Most hayfields here were cut and baled and stowed away months ago and I never took the time to stop and photograph any of them. Most farmers here use square bales anyway, but I’m partial to the look of these round ones. I love the challenge of finding things to photograph that don’t look like NJ at all. A hayfield like this one is probably something that many of you drive past each day and don’t even give a second thought to because they are such a common sight. That may even be the case in other parts of NJ, but I love to see scenes like this that make me imagine I’m somewhere else or sometime in the past. The truth of the matter is that this pic was taken on the front *lawn* property of a corporate headquarters. I was trespassing on their private road when I took the pic.

On with my attempt at Haibun:

Speeding past shuttered farm stands and pastured horses, a dozen crows sort through the debris of a hayfield as I pause to watch them. The sun is warm at noon and the air tinged with the hint of a heavy frost to come. There is just enough time to step out of the car, walk a few steps, and steal this image of the beauty above, below, and around me before hurrying on to other things.

the color of change
leaf by leaf and day by day
Autumn at my feet

Back to the barrens

Aside from the creepy doll in the woods, my friend Kathy and I had a nice walk yesterday at Double Trouble State Park in the pine barrens. This is her place and I had asked her to show me around to her favorite spots so I might get to know the place better, without worrying that I would get lost there on my own. As I had mentioned in an earlier post about Double Trouble, the village in the park preserves an old saw mill and cranberry packing plant. The packing house is in the photo above. I was happy to see a few people picking cranberries in the dry bog, the way that it used to be done. The bogs here look quite different than the ones I visited at Whitesbog which had been flooded for harvesting. That telltale purple hue shouts cranberries even from afar.
A closeup view of the cranberry vines and fruit. I was struck by how much this *wetland* heath resembled its garden cousins. The leaves are leathery and evergreen and the flowers are bell-shaped with reflexed petals, reminding some of the shape of a crane’s head and neck. I sampled a few and they were tart! as expected.
The water in this irrigation ditch beside a bog that is no longer productive is not blue as the reflection of the sky makes it appear.
Instead, the water is tea-stained throughout Cedar Creek, a result of iron deposits in the water. Bog iron was mined from the streams and waterways of the piine barrens, as was the sand for glass-making and the trees for logging. The trails here are very quiet, with only a few dog walkers out at this time of year. I was hoping to see some ducks in the larger ponds, but didn’t find any. At one point along the trail we came upon a large group of robins with a few hermit thrushes feeding on the fruit of the many sour gum trees that grow beside the water. Kathy’s totem bird, the turkey vulture, was absent like the ducks. It’s an odd day that one doesn’t see a vulture over the barrens.
This exciting pic is an example of the sandy soil throughout the area. It is a wonder that anything is able to grow in it. Wildflowers are abundant here and I look forward to returning in the spring to search for them. The colors now are somewhat monotonous, greens and browns, with the occasional red huckleberry in the underbrush.
This last pic is Kathy’s secret swimming spot, during the warmer months, of course. The creek twists and turns and pools in places that invite swimming where the shore is shallow enough. I wish that I had a place that felt as remote as this closer to home. During our walk Kathy shared stories of the many hours she’s spent here, and of the friend who introduced her to this delightful place. I’m glad that she took the time to do so for me.

Creepy things in the woods

This is why I don’t like to wander in the woods alone. I might just run into the person who did this.

Maybe a Halloween prank, but for whom? Who carries a faceless handmade doll into the woods and strings it up by its neck along a sugar-sand trail in the Pine Barrens?


I don’t think I’ll be wandering down that particular trail again anytime soon.

Anyone in the mood to share ghost stories around the campfire? What creepy things have you found in the woods?

And in case you’re wondering; I was not alone and we got in the car and got the heck out of Dodge, thank you.

Birder survey

From Patrick at The Hawk Owl’s Nest:

Please copy and paste your responses in the comments or post this on your blog.

What state (or country) do you live in? NJ, USA
How long have you been birding? 10+ years
Are you a “lister”? Sort of, I keep a life list and a yard list, but I’m not obsessive about it.
ABA Life List: n/a (I don’t know the difference between the two – told you I wasn’t obsessive!)
Overall Life List: Let’s see…. I’ll have to count from the front of my Peterson’s. 275.
3 Favorite Birding Spots: Sandy Hook, NJ, Cape May, NJ, Delaware Bayshore, NJ
Favorite birding spot outside your home country: n/a
Farthest you’ve traveled to chase a rare bird: The only bird I ever *chased* was my life Snowy Owl and it was just 15 minutes or so away at Sandy Hook. I searched for that bird in the freezing cold for hours though…
Nemesis bird: Golden Eagle
“Best” bird sighting: The next one!
Most wanted trip: North Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, etc – I want to see those prairie states!
Most wanted bird: Great Gray Owl
What model and brand of bins do you use?: Zeiss 7 X 42 B/GA
What model and brand of scope do you use?: Leica Televid 77
What was the last lifer you added to your list?: Wilson’s Plover
Where did you see your last lifer?: Sandy Hook
What’s the last bird you saw today?: Crow
Best bird song you’ve heard ever: Baltimore Oriole
Favorite birding moment: A long, leisurely look at a Peregrine Falcon perched on the rail of Old Barney during a field trip with Pete Dunne.
Least favorite thing about birding: Rain and bugs. And those birders who are always stepping in front of me and blocking the view!
Favorite thing about birding: Arriving at the *place* for the day, picking up the binoculars and heading out on the trail. 😉 It’s all about the anticipation of what may come along.
Favorite field guide for the US: National Geographic
Favorite non-field guide bird book: All of them. 😉
Who is your birder icon?: Don’t have one.
Do you have a bird feeder(s)? Yes
Favorite feeder bird? Blue jay

Real rabbits

Boomer and Cricket raiding and looting

A new occasional series documenting bunny mayhem as it occurs. No *cute overload* here; these will be the poorly-lit and pooty-strewn examples of real life with a rabbit (or five) that I wouldn’t normally subject you to. Some might consider this ongoing series of pics as reason for not keeping rabbits, but to those of us who love them, these are just the minor annoyances that we look beyond because we love them so.

Tonight’s example finds Boomer and Cricket pillaging the hay supply. They’ve managed to knock the bag of timothy hay off of the filing cabinet where it is kept safely out of their reach and are helping themselves to the contents. Cricket (with her face in the bag) is resting atop the bin used to store other hay. If I’m not careful when I’m refilling their baskets with hay and leave the top ajar, I will often find one of the two of them sitting inside the bin, pillaging and pooping there as if it were a litter box. What makes this pic funny is that just outside of view is a perfectly clean, hay-filled litter box. They’d rather steal and pooty on the floor.

November is

“November is the aging year, a woman whose Springtime children have grown and gone their way but whose hair is often spangled, whose gray eyes are often alight, and whose dress of grays and browns is neither dour nor dowdy. November is berry-bright and firelight-gay, a glittering night, a crisp blue day, a whispering wind and a handful of determined fence row asters.

November is the little hemlock in a green lace party dress, and a clean-limbed gray birch laughing in the wind. November is apple cider with champagne beads of authority; it is a gray squirrel in the limber top of the hickory tree, graceful as the wind; it is a doe and her fawn munching winesap windfalls in the moonlit orchard. It is a handful of snowflakes flung over a Berkshire hilltop, and a woodchuck sniffing the wind and retreating to his den to sleep till April.

November is a rabbit hound baying the hillside; a farm boy in a canvas coat and a red cap, the 16-gauge in the crook of his arm, on the hills of the upper pasture; a grouse bursting from underfoot with a roar of wings and rocketing into the thicket. It is hog butchering and cracklings and sage and pepper and fresh sausage. It is a fox barking in the starlight and an owl in the old dead popple asking midnight questions. It is high-heaped firewood and leaf-banked walls and buckwheat cakes for breakfast.

And November is the memory of the years. It is turkey in the oven, and plum pudding and mince pie and pumpkin and creamed onions and mashed yellow turnip. It is a feast and celebration; but is is also the remembering and the Thank You, God, and the understanding. That’s the heart of it: November’s maturing and understanding.” –Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons

Party pics of my handsome relatives

My brother Count Dracula, party host, keeper of backyard chickens. The other brother, trying to be The Fonz, with his buddy the choo-choo train engineer.
The pretty nieces. Anybody care to guess which little girl goes with which big brother? 😉 The in-laws: Devil Lady, Pink Lady and a friend-in-law whose name I should know but don’t.

Halloween is such a non-event when you’re a grown-up. It’s nice to have a party to get dressed up for and be silly. Speaking of non-events (or of being silly), I have not seen a single trick-or-treater all day, except for a few at the office.

Sure, we got a lot done today….