Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Walk in the Park.

11-29-15 SHORT HILLS: Thanksgiving has come and gone, the turkey is finally finished, and hectic December looms ahead, but today was in the fifties and we did a dog walk with Bebe, Lynn, Bill and Ron at the Orange Reservoir.

Essex County has spent a lot of money up-grading the area around the Turtle Back Zoo in the South Mountain Reservation in West Orange. There is a promenade around the reservoir, about two miles of level walkway, dogs allowed, poop bags provided, that was busy today with walkers and runners and lots of dogs.

There was bright sun shining through the four fountains in the reservoir with a slight breeze. Gus, Maizie, Bally, Annie and Bella enjoyed the walk as much as we humans did, but not as much as the birds. We saw ducks—Mallards, Pintails, maybe Ring-Necked Ducks and many Canada Geese. Bebe saw a Blue Heron there last week. There was a turtle on a rock indifferent to it all.

Alison, Dan, Lily and Anna were here for the big meal, and we all saw J Law as Katniss in the evening. Earlier in the week, Judy and I had our own, mini film festival and saw Spotlight, Brooklyn, and Creed all of which were excellent.

Two days before the holiday, we had our first hard frost that nipped the remaining tender leaves, and yesterday a brief rain. So far we are getting a warm, dry El Niño winter.

Mallard pair.

Canada geese, two dozen in foreground and a hundred on the other side.

Mallards, two pair, and a Common Pintail, male.

Fountains, sunshine and a turtle on the rock, left foreground.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Shrubbery and Lincoln School.

11-23-15 SHORT HILLS: We’re actually in the twenties tonight headed for our first hard frost. At the risk of sounding like the old foggy I am, I remember frosts at least 4-6 weeks before this date when I was a school kid.

I have been out in the shrubbery pruning and removing deadfall from the bushes. The town was by sometime this past summer clearing the wires of over-hanging branches as well as anything they zealously thought might someday become an over-hanging branch. They left loads of cut branches on top of the shrubs and small trees under the wires. It’s hard to clear that mess when the leaves are out because you can’t see it all. If it's not removed, it acts to trap fallen leaves and then snow in the winter and creates a burden that will weigh on the shrub and that will break branches and split trunks. It’s especially important for the evergreens.

This winter, with an established El Niño, may be warm and dry for the northeast, but we’ll see.

Speaking of school, Judy did her visit to the Lincoln School second grade class of Ms. Catalano today. Judy brought spaghetti squash to the Thanksgiving Feast, and she claims it was all eaten. Kids ate squash? Maizie was there and enjoyed the kids as much as they did her. Also in attendance were Pam, Blair, Maggie and Charlie.

Red, Orange, Yellow and Green.

Maizie at Lincoln School.

Thanksgiving Feast at Ms. Catalano's Second Grade Class.

Maizie and Maggie with friends.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Carnegie, Rattle and Beethoven.

11-18-15 SHORT HILLS: We barely made our dinner rez at the Redeye Grill last night because the tunnel gods were angry about something beyond human understanding.

But we did dine and were in our seats at Carnegie Hall for the sold-out-all-week concert. The Berliner Philharmoniker, Sir Simon Rattle conducting, is doing all the Beethoven Symphonies, tonight we hear No. 1 in C Major and No. 3 in E-flat Major, Eroica, the only tickets we could get.

The NYT criticized them for not introducing new music in these programs, but the week’s worth of sold out performances must please the orchestra and hall. Obviously the ticket buyers are happy with the offering.

The seats we barely managed to get were in the balcony, the fifth and highest level of beautiful Carnegie Hall. The acoustics are the best in town. Needless to say the concert was great. The trip home was a breeze.

Carnegie Hall from the balcony, It's BYO supplemental oxygen.

The Berliner Philharmoniker awaiting Sir Simon Rattle's appearance.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Weekend in California.

11-15-15 LOS GATOS, CALIFORNIA: We flew out on Friday, the flight was delayed for two hours while they did some patch work on the plane cabin. Eventually we landed at SFO, picked up the rental car, drove south, and checked in at the Toll House Hotel in Los Gatos. Then it was up the mountain to see Jon, Siobhan, Eoin and Joe.

The next AM we brought pastries for breakfast, and, after Eoin’s viola lesson, went up the coast, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to the Point Bonita Lighthouse in Marin County. After soaking up the views of San Fran and the bridge, the bay littered with sailboats, the waves breaking on the rocks and the birds—gulls, pelicans, cormorants, we were back in the cars to go to Sausalito to prowl the waterfront, watch boats return to the marina, see the ferry chug off across the bay to SF, and ogle galleries.

In SF, we had dinner at Capannina on Union, nice Italian cuisine. Ghirardelli Square was at the end of our long after-dinner walk where much chocolate was observed. On the way to CA 101 S, we passed the San Fran city hall, which was lit up in rouge, bleu and blanc.

View of the GG Bridge from Point Bonita.

...and the Pacific breakers.

Lighthouse light.

Two pelicans, a gull, and three cormorants.

Sausalito marina at the end of the day, Angel Island in the background.

Ghirardelli Square.

Today we brought bagels with all the usual spreads and garnishes. We watched it clear up after the late night rainstorm. Rain? Yes, indeed, and welcome.

San José and the hills east of the bay from the mountain.

That's the bay behind the white offices.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fire in the Yard.

11-12-15 SHORT HILLS: I finished the clean-up in VT on Monday. I did the beds around the pond, the veggie beds, and the day lily bed. There was a huge flock of honking geese that went by in the morning, so high they looked like bugs. Dinner with Lily and Sam at Base Camp, a Nepali restaurant, rounded out the day, and I drove down on Tuesday in the rain.

We are getting ready for a short hop to Los Gatos for the weekend. Today I was in NYC for a lunch with college friends on another rainy day.

Burning bush put on a fiery show, and Judy captured the conflagration with her cell phone.

The plant purists point out that the burning bush are not native and should be pulled out or cut down and the stumps sprayed with Roundup [glyphosate] to eliminate them from our landscape.

I like the red too much to do that. The birds feast on the seeds as evidenced by all the volunteers we have in our yard.

And by the way, that small shrub in the center of the picture is a dawn redwood that will dwarf the ash tree next to it, if it grows to maturity, another non-native.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Winter Is Coming.

11-8-15 VERMONT: We have gone from the sixties to the fifties to the forties over the last three days. I’ve been outside doing the clean-up, all the beds are finished around the house, but the pond beds and other outlying beds await my attention.

Today I was distracted by the need to do an under-the-deck repair. I noticed that there were signs of water coming into the old cellar when Alison and Dan were helping me put the summer benches and chairs away. Actually they did most of the work—thanks again guys. Anyway, the water was coming in at the northeast corner where the cellar wall is the original dry stone construction, and I was afraid the water could damage the wall.

I looked under the deck and found a big hole against the wall on the outside, probably dug out by the dogs. To do the repair I had to remove a deck plank, bring over several wheelbarrow loads of dirt and some big rocks to support the fill. I also blocked the entry the dogs were using. The bad news—there’s an even bigger hole that will need filling next summer, but it won’t affect the cellar.

It’s hunting season, but there's very little activity within earshot. Twenty years ago the neighborhood sounded like Vietnam at this time of year. And it’s not my hearing either.

The warm weather has kept bugs around, but not many. The robins, downy woodpeckers, pigeons and house finches are still here, keeping the chickadees, nuthatches and blue jays company. Most of the birds are gorging on the crab apples.

On the other hand, Brady the horse has a fine, thick winter coat already.

Dan gave a talk about his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Toms River, at Dartmouth on Friday afternoon. The crowd loved it, books were signed and sold.

Dan, Alison and I had dinner with Lily and Sam on Friday and Lily and her posse on Saturday. Tonight I cooked for myself and set off the smoke alarm, but I suppose it could happen to any great chef.

Interesting sky as darkness approaches at 4 PM.

While I was working around the apple tree, the robins sit in a maple and wait me out...

until they can get back to apple eating.

Snow on Mt. Lafayette today.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Vermont Clean-Up.

11-5-15 VERMONT: I came up yesterday. It was a hellish trip with major delays on the Tappan Zee Bridge and on I-84. I was anticipating a fast trip because it’s between leaf season and snow sports—hunting is only on weekends for the most part, but no.

Today I cleared most of the beds on the east side of the house using the weed whacker to chop down the canes, and then I raked them out of the beds and loaded them into the cart to dump in the pasture. The before and after pix below show how much debris gets removed. If I don’t pull it out now, it gets packed down by the snow into a dense layer that impedes new growth. It’s hard to remove it in the spring because the sunnier parts of the beds melt out first and growth begins while the darker parts of the beds are still snow covered. When the last of the snow melts, doing the clean-up injures the new growth. I did about five hours of work, which is about my max. Fortunately it gets dark by 4 PM so I have to stop.

We saw ‘Hamilton’ the night before I came north. It is brilliant and revolutionary, pun intended. I was very pleased to see that it is historically accurate. As a one time History major, Hamilton was a favorite of mine. Speaking of Hamilton, Ron Chernow’s 2005 book, entitled, Alexander Hamilton is also excellent, and a good way to prep for the show if you're so inclined.

Apple tree has lost all its leaves, but has plenty of crimson fruit.

Closer look at the apples. They are being swarmed and gobbled by birds, mostly robins.

Garden beds before clean-up.

And another bed.

After clean up, the walls reappear and.....

The stone-work becomes visible.

And.....we saw 'Hamilton' on Tuesday.