Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Just When It Seemed Safe To Bloom.

4-15-14 SHORT HILLS: We drove back in the rainstorm, but the traffic was light so we made good time. In the few days we were away the yard has exploded thanks to the warm, sunny days. It seems as if the plants were anxious about being late because of the severe winter and took the first opportunity to open.

The lawn is greening up, shrubs and trees are showing leaves, except for the usual late starters—ash, rose of sharon, cypress, walnut—to name a few.

But winter isn’t over if the forecasts are correct. Tonight will be in the thirties and the rain may turn to @#$%&# snow.

New blooms: clatonia, cherry, forsythia, daffodil, squill, spicebush, pachysandra, vinca minor, bloodroot, Korean boxwood.





Monday, April 14, 2014


4-14-14 VERMONT: First, a big Congrats to Dan Fagin for winning the Pulitzer for his book, Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation.

The weather here remains very spring-like. Today was in the seventies. The snow is melting, but the big piles don’t look much different. Every hollow in the pasture is full of water.

I cleared the last of the ice off the deck and put up the pasture gate. Later I got the chainsaw out, got it started after a struggle and cleared dead fall from the pasture fence. Yesterday was rainy, but we had a nice dinner at Jane and Ken’s. Earlier we visited Bruce and Donna who wanted to see the Morocco pix.

New blooms: a few more snowdrops.

I was trying out the zoom on the new camera and saw a bird, the one on the ridge, about 150 yards away near the other end of the pasture. I took these pictures with full zoom and the bird turned out to be a robin. Do you see something red on the left side of the image?

It's another bird, partly hidden by the ridge, with a brown back, red nape, gray face and big, black beak.

It's a flicker, probably female, and quite an unexpected find.

Melt down continues.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Mud Season.

4-12-14 VERMONT: The opera was great the other night. For Ron and Bebe, it was their first at the Met, and they loved it. For us, it had been several years since we last heard La Bohème, and we liked this production, especially the second and third act sets. This group of young singers is excellent.

We came up to Vermont yesterday with Lily hitching a ride on her way back to school. Spring is a long ways away from here. We have tons of snow around the house and still have huge piles under the eaves. The pasture is almost clear because it gets more sun and faces south. The pond has a couple open spots, but is mostly frozen. Today is sunny, breezy and in the sixties. Some of this snow will last until May.

The road and driveway are muddy bogs. All the streams are bank-full and roaring. There is a flood watch for the area.

We had a lively dinner at Anne and Roger’s last night, also there were Brooke and Jim, Laura-Beth and Denny and Arnie and Phyllis. We worked on the world’s problems.

Plenty of snow here.

The pond is still frozen, and all the gardens are under snow pack.

Gus loves mud.

The pasture gets more sun and faces south and always melts out first. That little pond is ice free.

These snowdrops shelter against the south side of the foundation.

A Night at the Opera.

4-10-14 SHORT HILLS: Sunny and warm, finally. I have been busy outside pruning more of the winter damaged bamboo and took another load to the dump this morning. Forsythia and daffodils are poised to open here, but are already open elsewhere in town. We go to VT tomorrow after La Bohème tonight at the Met with Ron and Bebe.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Last Day.

3-30-14 FES, MOROCCO: I should have mentioned in the 3-29-14 post that Ron’s last lecture was before dinner. It was a discussion of our impressions of the country after having been here.

Today was the optional trip to Meknès and Volubilis. About half of the group went, while the others were back in the Fes medina for more shopping. Meknès is an attractive city about an hour west of Fes. It is the hometown of our guide, Mohamed. It was another past-capitol of the country with another royal palace. We paused there briefly on our way to Volubilis.

Meknès city center.

The countryside here is green and fertile with olives, grains, fava beans, agave and prickly pear. There are vineyards and herds of sheep and cattle. It makes quite a contrast with the desert we left two days ago.


No sand storm here.

Volubilis was a Roman city until about 300 AD when the empire began to fall apart. It was of substantial size with fancy homes, mosaic floorings, a sewer system, temples and a forum. They've done a lot of restoration, the tour took more than an hour.

Main street.

Unusual column with spiral fluting in a private house.

Triumphal arch.

That star shape in the center is a sewer drain.

City center.

Olive oil was probably the main industry.

Mosaic floor.

X-rated mosaic.

Volubilis has storks too.

We headed back to Meknès through the vineyards and olive orchards to a local restaurant that is a favorite of Mohamed for grilled lamb, bread, frites and local beer and a local kind of ketchup, and, of course, olives.

If the name looks familiar, it's the name of a city where we went to the souk before the desert stay. The restaurant proprietor is from there.

After lunch, we saw more of Meknès. There is a military academy and an important mosque. We saw metal ware with inlaid silver, a skill that the Jews brought from Spain, embroidery originally taught by Catholic nuns, and outdoor markets. One king, in times past, had a bigness complex, and he built a reservoir, huge granary and giant stable.

Mosque with fountain.

Endless stable for 2,000 horses.

This is one of several huge rooms for grain storage. The grain was stored in sacks.

Plaza market.

Back in Fes, we primped for the big banquet at the Palais Jamaï before dispersing for our trips home.

Nice set of elevators at Palais Jamaï.

Dancer at dinner, she didn't pop out of a cake.

Morocco went on DST tonight, which made our very, very early morning departure for the airport even earlier. The trip home was the usual unpleasant schlep, but there were no missed or canceled flights.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Andromeda takes the stage.

4-6-14 SHORT HILLS: Today touched sixty and was clear and cloudless. We walked the dogs, and later I did more pruning of winterkill. Every time I think that I found all the damage and pruned it, another broken branch shows up. In a few weeks when new growth begins, some branches turn brown instead of green and the damage is more apparent.

New blooms: andromeda.

Andromeda, a broad leaf evergreen is the first shrub to bloom here.

The flowers are each tiny, inverted bells.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Labyrinthine Medina.

3-29-14 FES, MOROCCO: Fes dates back to 789 AD and the medina is closed to cars, a big plus. Like almost every city we have seen, Fes was once the capitol of Morocco. The present capitol, Rabat, isn’t on our itinerary. Also, like all the other cities, Fes had yet another royal palace. That’s where we started today at the famous bronze doors and took a group pic with the Nat/Geo banner. The nearby banks had lots of ATM’s, and we stocked up with dirhams. I don’t think I mentioned that there are about ten dirhams to the dollar.

Famous doors not open to us.


Shoppers, start your engines.

Near the palace, is the Mellah, the old Jewish quarter, and an ancient synagogue that was used by Maimonides when he lived in Fes in the 1100’s. He came to Fes from his hometown of Còrdoba and later moved on to Cairo.

Menorah-like hinge on the synagogue door.

The Torah. Note the carved wood and tiling.

Synagogue with loft for the women.

Moving on, we went to the older sections of the medina. A lot of it is dedicated to one craft or another in different areas. The streets are narrow and narrower.

Narrow street.

Narrower street.

Really narrow street.

Adjacent shops of copper workers.

Head scarves. [Val spotted this display first.]

Coca cola delivery.

The leather tanning and dying area can be seen from above. They give you a sprig of mint to ward off the aroma of the process.

Tanning and dying vats must occupy an acre. It's a Dante-esque scene.

Cats are everywhere.

The medina above the leather workers.

Leather for sale-shoes, clothes, bags-you name it.

The Kairaouine Mosque and University has another beautiful courtyard with a fountain and wonderful geometric designs.

Mosaics, carving and plaster work.

We had lunch at Palais Medina and then visited a rug dealer and later a pottery factory.

Another great meal at another gorgeous restaurant.