Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween-Garden Place.

10-31-09 GARDEN PLACE, BROOKLYN, NY: Halloween on Garden Place is almost as much fun as the big parade in the Village, maybe more. Many building on the street were decorated. Our base of operations was the stoop at Valerie’s co-op. Thousands of T or T’ers circulated on the street which was closed to traffic by the NYPD. The costumed hordes collected about 100,000 pieces of sweet. Probably 1,000,000 pictures were taken. Among the more inventive get-ups, among the many superheroes and supervillians, were a CO2 molecule, Dorothy Parker, Kate Gosselin, Lady GaGa, Fred, Chaplin, and a dachshund as a hot dog. Some of the bag toters were a bit on the oldish side. We thought one young lady might have been pregnant—a whole new implication to T or T.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Invasion of the Avian Apple Snatchers.

10-25-09 VERMONT: Yesterday we had a torrential rain, probably more than a inch. The streams are full and some overflowing. Otherwise the weather has been fine, not too cool to work outside comfortably. I completed all the bed clean-ups and hauled away many cartloads, did some pruning, and some hole filling, thanks to Gus. The dead pine came down on Tuesday, and the chips were dumped in the pasture near a mud hole between the barns. I spent most of Wednesday spreading them on the mud. Chippers, the tree company, did a very nice job on the pine tree by not letting the cuttings fall on the rhododendrons at the base of the pine.

About half of the turkeys were back this morning for more apples. They were up in the apple tree by the corner of the deck. That tree, loaded with fruit, has been home to lots of songbirds, especially robins, since the apples ripened, but turkeys? Even Sam the dog ate an apple this afternoon.

It started small, with the robins.

But before you know it.....

There's another turkey in the middle.

Here's how the tree looked in May and why there are so many apples now.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Turkey Day Is Early This Year.

10-19-09 VERMONT: Today was warmer and sunny, yesterday was densely overcast. There has been no rain here in spite of all the storms in the NY metro area. I have been dutifully cleaning out the flower beds for next spring and summer. I have done three days work, short days to be sure, and have about one more day or two. The job consists of cutting down the dead stalks, raking them out of the bed and hauling away the debris, about eight cartloads so far.

If you clean out the beds in the fall as time permits, you don’t have the urgency of rushing to get it done in the spring. The snow melts more quickly in sunny spots in the spring. The shadier parts of the beds, against the walls or behind the house or under pine trees are the last to be snow free. As soon as the snow melts, shoots sprout, so the back of the bed is snow covered and the front is busy springing forth. If you try to clear that bed in the spring, you injure the growing stuff in front and can’t clear the frozen parts. You do have to be careful, in the fall, not to harm the hollyhocks, foxglove, valerian and any other biennials, or they won't be there next year. Do it in the fall, enjoy the leaves and the wildlife.

The happy, clean beds waiting for their long winter's nap.

Oh yeah, wildlife. Yesterday afternoon I saw flock of about 18 wild turkeys in the pasture in front of the barn. I rushed for the camera to get a snap before they ran off. I got 99 pix as they marched up the pasture in front of the big barn and then the little barn, under the fence into the yard, then between the house and the pond to the apple trees above the pond, then behind the pond to the apple trees by the fence. They ate apples at every stop. The favorite tree was the Lily tree. If one bird found a tasty morsel, others would rush over to share, try it and then rush to some other piece that might just be better. One or two birds were always on the look out. After every one had enough, they walked back to the woods. I took pix through the windows and then snuck out the front door and snapped from the deck. The dogs slept straight through.

Wild Turkey, undistilled.

There are 15 or 16 birds in this shot.

This afternoon the dogs, in the house after dinner, went crazy. I didn’t see anything so I let them out and went out on the deck to see what the deal was. I got a two second look at a gorgeous, big red fox with a big white tipped brush of a tail.

Two nights ago, Sam, the night prowler dog, came in about midnight with a touch of skunk aroma, not a blast in the face, just a delicate hint of the fragrance. The next day the scent was hanging in the air by the roses by the fence.

The dead pine tree by the road comes down tomorrow.

New blooms: witch hazel.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Early Fall.

10-16-09 VERMONT: We arrived yesterday, escaping the rain in NJ, for overcast skies and cold. It was below freezing last night and tonight 22° is predicted. The leaves are past peak, but there is occasional color. The reds and oranges are gone and yellows and browns remain. There are small piles of snow under the eaves. The puddles and ponds had a little ice around the edges this morning.

We still have flowers: asters, roses, cimicfuga, chrysanthemum, fever few, monks hood, foxglove, sedum, helenium, hollyhock, phlox, hydragnea, turtle head, lobelia, lamium, spirea.

There were ducks on the pond this morning and a bit later turkeys in the pasture. Mt Lafayette and Mt Moosilauke have a lot of snow.

I had a busy day, I started closing up the gardens. I pulled all the flower supports and stakes and most of the garden barriers.

Moosilauke with snow. The colors are drab.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

AT in a Day.

10-13-09 SHORT HILLS: It’s mid October and Fall is clearly here, in NJ. Last night we had temps in the low forties, and I put the heat on. The foliage here is not at peak, but close. The maples have color, the ash are dumping. It is an early Fall as predicted, in August, on this site. There was 1.5 inches of rain in the gauge here when we returned from Croatia, but none since.

Last Saturday we, Lynn, Alison, Valerie, Lily, Maggie, Lucy G, Lucy D and I, hiked a segment of the Appalachian Trail in NW NJ along he NY-NJ border. It was a seven mile section with two easy hills and one fairly steep, rocky descent and a section of flats. The day was windy and threatening early and sunny and warmer at the end. We did it in a bit less than four hours. We met other day hikers and two through hikers on our segment. Lunch was at a Bird Refuge in a swampy area with ponds and water birds. Ticks and bugs were not a problem. It was Alison’s birthday.

The hike was part of the celebration of the Dartmouth [College] Outing Club’s 100th Anniversary. Other hikers, all with some connection to the college, did almost all the rest of the AT, all 2100 plus miles. The final tally is still pending, but we may have, in one day, covered the entire AT. The students did a great job organizing and managing the project. Here’s a link to the web site:

Vermont later this week. I put about 100 more pix from the Croatia trip on Picasa. The link to the album is listed to the left under "Links".

Everyone looking eager at the start.


Bird Refuge.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Pix are Up.

10-9-09 SHORT HILLS: The Croatian entry is complete, at least for now. I finished editing the pix and posting a few more today. I kept more than 350 and trashed 250 or so which means I took about 600 images in a week. The camera is still too hot to touch. If I get around to it, I'll put some pix on Picasa and post a link.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


10-6-09 SHORT HILLS: Here it comes--a trips worth of posts in one big gulp. There was Internet available in Croatia, at a price, but never enough time to get the text and pix in shape to post. I'll put pix in as they're edited.

For the weather fans: the first several days were warm and sunny, but with a pronounced haze that reduced visibility and made a lot of the pix bluish and blurry. Then we had the rain and wind storm in Korcula, and after that, clear, windy and partly cloudy days. All the nights were cool.

Croatia is not in the European Union and doesn't use Euros, but uses Kuna, each worth about 20 cents. They share a common language with the enemy, Serbia, but the Croatians use the Roman alphabet while the Serbs use the Cyrillic alphabet for the same words. Almost everyone seems to speak English pretty well. Croatia is Catholic, Serbia is Orthodox Christian and Bosnia is Muslim.

This is typical of much of the coast that we saw. Limestone mountains, clear water and white houses with orange tile roofs.

9-26-09 DUSSELDORF, GERMANY: The Bill, Lynn, Judy and I are sitting in a café at the airport between flights, a long time between flights. We started in Newark and are going to Split, Croatia, if they ever board the next leg. We got off the plane at 6 AM, it’s now 8:20 and only 2 hours to the next plane. For us, of course, it’s about 2:30 AM.

New blooms: none at this table.

9-26-09 SPLIT, CROATIA: We got here in the early afternoon, and breezed through customs and immigration to the taxi kiosk to the Globo Hotel. The hotel is adequate for a one day stay, we connected with Dave and Gail and walked around the old town until a pre-dinner nap became necessary, and then a meet with the rest of the tour group and the guide, Stan. Typical of Europe is the current use of a shop, originally part of a Roman wall, for, say, a cell phone center. The embodiment of, “Everything old is new again.”

New, old and very old construction.

Street art.

Limestone construction technique.

Mixed old, older and new.

Twenty four hour clock.

Narrow streets, lots of iron work also.

Cathedral bell tower, started out as Roman Emperor Diocletian's mausoleum.

We had dinner with the group and Stan at a restaurant that he picked, excellent choice. Tomorrow, a tour of the old town with a guide and then embarkation for the week. Stanislav or Stanco or Stan the Man, is a charming Croatian guide and chef.

9-27-09 TROGIR, CROATIA: Up in the morning, breakfast at the Globo and a walking tour with Jasaneka of the Split old town, Diocletian’s palace, cathedral, town basement, and Riva along the beach. A lot of the Roman structures are still standing. Then, ta da, the boat, 'Gardelin', waiting for us in the harbor. We had lunch on the boat while motoring to Trogir, a medieval town on an island with some of the walls and gates intact. We tied up next to the main waterfront street with all the coffee drinkers in the quay-side cafés watching us. Trogir is a jewel with narrow streets of marble and limestone, pretty squares, a cathedral, and lots of outdoor restaurants. Jasaneka showed up again took us around. Dave, Bill and I climbed the bell tower after the tour. Then dinner on the boat and an after dinner stroll.

Trogir from the sea.

Gardelin at the riva.

Court yard.

View from the bell tower, the masts show the harbor location.

Trogir evening, from the dinner table aboard Gardelin.

Trogir sunset.

On to Skradin. The hillside fields are often lined with walls, as property line markers. Most seem to be abandoned.

9-28-09 SKRADIN, CROATIA: Morning breakfast on the boat and then a cruise west and then north to mouth of the Krka River at Sibenik and up the river for 10 km to Skradin and the Krka National Park. After another quay-side tie-up, we hiked a few miles upriver to a series of spectacular water falls and cascades. We explored them after our picnic lunch, and caught the last National Park boat back to Skradin. The town is home to a big marina filled with chartered sail boats. Swans cruise the marina. The town is built on a hillside above the harbor, has lots of new boutiques, old churches and bullet holes in the facades of houses and the church tower from the Serbian invasion in the 1990’s. Another dinner on the boat, they have been simple, Mediterranean in style, and with plenty of wine.

Approaching Skradin.

Krka River Falls.

Church Doorway, more wrought iron.

The Swans get a Handout.

Skradin bell tower.

Sibenik and its cathedral are down river from Skradin, just before the river dumps into the Adriatic.

9-29-09 STOMORSKA, CROATIA: Today was a travel day. We left Skradin after breakfast, motored down-river and back to the Adriatic. The crew stopped at Sibenik to buy shellfish for our lunch. We continued south and dropped the hook by a small island, Meratra, and lunched. After lunch some of the our hardier crew, including your intrepid blogger, swam off the boat in the extremely clear Adriatic. It was thirty feet to the bottom of sand and grass and as clear as a glass of Evian. There were no fish. The wine dark sea was pretty warm.

After the break we went on the the Island of Solta and tied up at the quay in Stomorska. This tiny town is built around their sock-shaped harbor. Here the construction is limestone again. We saw caper vines growing on walls and buildings, bougainvillea and olive trees. After dinner there was a wild night of Texas Hold’em, and a big showdown between Bill and Lynn, won by Lynn in one hand of winner-take-all.

Stomorska Harbor.

9-30-09 HVAR, CROATIA: We arrived here after about a two hour sail this morning. This is the Croatian Riviera, their hottest resort. Hvar is the biggest city on the island of the same name. It has the usual story of invasions and domination by successive greater powers, including the Greeks, Romans, Venetians, French, Austrians and Yugoslavs. Our local guide, Loridana, took us on a walking tour of the main square, cathedral, monastery and waterfront harbor lined with yachts. After lunch, we climbed to the fortress with Stan, a nice hike with great views. Judy found the street vendors, and so I found the ATM. Because of a predicted wind change and storm, we are heading for a sheltered harbor in a town, Loviste, on the end of a peninsula, Peljesac, off the mainland.

Hvar riva, the fortress is above town on the ridge.

Plaza lined with restaurants and cafés.

More waterfront.

Did I mention that the wait staff on the boat has been very attentive. We are treated, well, like gods.

View from the fortress above Hvar.

How does that thing go about "Red Sky at Night?"

10-1-09 KORCULA, CROATIA: It’s another small, beautiful, tourist-filled, medieval walled city. Like all the others, the harbor water is crystal clear with sea urchins living on the quay walls and schools of fish looking for hand-outs from the yachts. The city is on a small peninsula and the streets are laid out in a herring bone pattern to take advantage of the prevailing winds. Like the others, the construction of the buildings, streets and walls is all limestone. Like all the others, every way you turn there’s an eyeful of gorgeous. Korcula is Marco Polo’s birth place, and they don’t keep it a secret.

First glimpse.

Entry to the old city-fortress.

Wide main streets, narrow slits of side streets.

Marco! Polo!

Korcula cathedral.

Eve, Korcula cathedral. When you need one, you can never find an Ashcroft.

Korcula from the hills behind town.

After a tour with our guide, Lucy, we had the morning for T-shirt hunting. After lunch on the boat, we were off in a van to explore the island. The first stop was in a mountain top village, Smokvica, with a winery, Torreta, where we had a tasting and Judy bought a bottle of sweet wine. Next we hit a tiny port of Brna in the process of being gentrified. From the top of the island we got pix of the town. Last we had dinner at another winery, Bire, in Lumbarda. Classic Med meal, antipasto, pasta and meat, lots of wine and olive oil. In the evening we walked from the boat to an outdoor theatre for Moreska, a traditional sword dance performance.

10-2-09 KORCULA, CROATIA: Because of high winds, we’re not going to Mijet as planned, but staying here and visiting another town, Orebic, a short ferry ride to the mainland. Tomorrow we take another ferry and van to Dubrovnik for the last two days.

Orebic must be in a rain belt of some sort. It is a garden spot with olives, pomegranates, citrus, oleander, bougainvillea, roses, cacti and more. It was also home to an extended family of many sea captains, in the past, and has a maritime museum in their honor. We hiked to a Franciscan monastery part way up the mountain for the views. Back at the ferry landing, we had kaffee mit schlag and ferried back to Gardelin for a mixed grill lunch with wine from the Torreta winery.

Orebic in the rain storm, the town is nestled on the beach, on the Keljesac peninsula about a mile from the island that Korcula is on.

The storm was a big event on our cruise.

The Franciscan monastery is part way up a limestone mountain on a limestone ridge.

Korcula from Orebic Franciscan monastery.

10-3-09 DUBROVNIK, CROATIA: We left the boat in Korcula and vanned the 100 or so km to Dubrovnik, stopping briefly to see the ancient stone wall of Ston near the end of the Peljesac peninsula. Yesterday was rainy and very windy through most of the night. It was still windy this morning, but the wind was from the north and the air which had been hazy all week was now as clear as the sea is.

After our midday arrival, we had a guided tour of Dubrovnik. The city is, as Byron said, a pearl. The construction is, again, limestone for buildings, streets, piers and walls. The limestone, polished by centuries of foot traffic and millions of feet, is pearly white. The main drag is a wide boulevard, widened by an earthquake some years ago that took out the building that had made it narrower.

Dubrovnik Saturday market in the church plaza.

The museums, churches, cathedral, government building are covered with stone carvings. The original walls girdle the town and can be walked. From the wall top, the vista is of dozens of tile roofs, some new red tile and some older yellowed tile. The many new tiles were needed after the shelling of Dubrovnik by the Serbs in the 1990’s war. Our hotel, a Hilton, is quite luxe, a few yards from the old city, and was also bombed in that war. Nothing beats a hotel shower after a week on a boat.

Dubrovnik. Hardly anybody eats inside.

Dubrovnik, limestone main street at night.

From the wall walk, the brown roof tiles are old and the orange new, replaced after the 1991 bombings and shellings.

10-4-09 DUBROVNIK, CROATIA: First a Hilton buffet breakfast, then a cab ride to the top of the hill over looking Dubrovnik to see Fort Imperial, built by Napoleon and a stronghold that could not be taken by the Serbs in 1991. The wall are pock-marked with shell holes and bullet holes. It is now a museum for that war. It has magnificent views of the old city also.

Dubrovnik, walled old city and suburban sprawl from Fort Imperial.

We went south of Dubrovnik to Cavtat, another beautiful town on the coast with a harbor, riva, new and old stone buildings and churches and distant views of Dubrovnik. We visited a hilltop cemetery there, very peaceful. We went further south, almost to the Bosnian border to a mountain restaurant that served a traditional Croatian dish, pekka, a meat and potato stew cooked in a special pot over an open fire. Delicious.

Cavtat riva, main street and water front.

Back in Dubrovnik, Lynn, Judy and I took a glass-bottom boat ride around the city. The limestone formations holding up the city and its walls shows bedding tilted to the southeast and faults. The water is very clear, but hasn't many fish. Tonight we have a final banquet and then an early, early flight home.

Dubrovnik from the boat ride. Limestone foundation, limestone walls and swimmers.

10-5-09 ZAGREB, CROATIA: We had a short flight from Dubrovnik and are waiting out a layover before going on to Frankfurt, Germany and then good, old EWR.