Tuesday, December 31, 2013

We're Number 1-as in Minus Degrees.

12-31-13 VERMONT: We ended up with snow the other night, eight inches of wet stuff while the temperature hovered around freezing. In the morning, Judy and I shoveled us out so we would be cleared before the deep freeze turned the snow to stone. The temp dropped all day as we ran errands, ending up in the low, single digits in the evening. This afternoon it’s up to ten.

I walked the dogs out to the end of the pasture today, using the snowshoe tracks Judy made yesterday on her walk. The snow is decent, dry and powdery, and not crusted or frozen. It was a hard slog though, partly because of all the clothes—big parka, padded overalls, sweater, heavy boots and gloves. I did stay warm.

Mt. Lafayette, looking rather alpine, popped out of the haze for a short while this morning. It's more than forty miles away on our northeast horizon. Is this why they're called the White Mountains?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Short Dark Days of December.

12-29-13 VERMONT: The blue sky is gone, and we have the more typical New England winter sky—lead gray and low ceiling. It has been warm, in the thirties, and the snow is slowly evaporating.

We walk the pasture with the canine crew every day, and watch the snow melt off all the roofs. Tonight we’re supposed to get rain or wet snow, then a freeze, which will leave everything icy. More new snow may arrive a few days later.

Chickadees and nuthatches are busy at the feeders and still eating the frozen crab apples. The tracks in the snow, other than ours, are squirrel and deer.

Blue skies are gone.

Mooselauke just visible.

Out for a walk.

Friday, December 27, 2013


12-27-13 VERMONT: We came north yesterday. It was a long trip with traffic crawls in NY, CT, MA, and even VT. It wasn’t very cold, and we had been shoveled and plowed. We turned the house on, wound the clocks, built a fire, fed the dogs and had our own dinner--and unwound.

The Xmas guests left late on the 26th. The next morning we deconstructed the tree, packed the car and headed out into the traffic.

We have bright blue skies today and long shadows on our four inches of snow. The walk around the pasture was pleasant with little wind and temps in the low thirties.

Barns in the snow.

Warm new parka.

Noon sun low in the sky.

Fences and walls along the road.

Sunday, December 22, 2013


12-22-13 SHORT HILLS: The weather gods have truly gone schizophrenic. After the deep freeze with snowstorms, we have May. The predicted rain has yet to happen, but it is seventy and cloudy today. Almost all the snow is gone. Yesterday we were in the city, in shirt sleeves, most of the afternoon doing the holiday sights. Everyone else was out doing the same thing—huge crowds everywhere.

We walked from a garage by the Lincoln Tunnel through Times Sq., pausing to watch a street show, and went on to Bryant Park on Sixth Ave. it is full of tent shops selling street food, trinkets, decorations and large tent cafés around a skating rink and big Xmas tree. Even William Cullen B.’s statue was bewreathed. The crowds were all taking iPhone pix, as was I.

The park is the back yard of the NY Public Library, out front the iconic lions are also attired in garlands. A little further south on Fifth is Lord & Taylor, drawing crowds for their windows. In one window, the store lets people take a selfie and get it as an IM sent to the phone.

As we headed north on Fifth the crowds were even heavier at Rockefeller Center. Easily, ten million pix were taken. The tree towers over the skaters. We shared part of a street pretzel, a big salted, doughy thing served with mustard, and were looking for a trashcan for the uneaten piece. There were none anywhere. We finally found one, with an attendant to inspect the trash, by the entrance to Radio City.

Times Sq. was its usual lurid self with more hordes. We also saw Disney characters, robots, monsters, Elmo and a naked cowgirl. She was actually wearing a scanty bikini, hat and a guitar. She got a lot of attention.

On 43rd St. we ducked into BXL for a libation before meeting the gang for Garrison Keillor’s broadcast. The show was very Xmasy with lots of carols, some with new lyrics.

It was back through Times Sq. for our restaurant, Lattanzi, on W 46th St., the roasted artichokes were great.

Bryant Park, the NY Public Library's back yard fitted out with a rink, xmas tree, cafés and shops.

The front of the NYPL, the iconic lions are bedecked with wreaths and bows

Decorated Lion.

Rockefeller Center angels and tree.

The tree looming over the rink and Prometheus.

Dolls in the window.

Chase Bank has big balls.

Where you can find a trashcan.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Solstice Time.

12-20-13 SHORT HILLS: The birds continue to mob the feeders. Today is much warmer than the last two weeks, and it's nearing fifty. It’s overcast with very little wind. Rain is forecast for tomorrow. If it does, lot of melting may happen. With that in mind, I shoveled open the street sewers so our driveway won’t get flooded.

The Solstice is at hand, and the days will soon start to get longer, but it won’t be very noticeable until February.

Tomorrow we go to NYC for A Prairie Home Companion, an annual event for us with friends Bill, Lynn, Leeza and Roger. We may get up to Rock Center to see the tree if the weather is OK for walking.

Downy woodpecker, male.


Northern Junco. Is that a tongue of a sunflower seed?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

More Snow, More Birds.

12-17-13 SHORT HILLS: And there’s more snow today, another three or four inches. It has stayed unusually cold, but there’s no wind. We lost a couple branches this week, but nothing major.

The birds are swarming all over the feeders. I filled them yesterday and most of the sunflower seeds are gone already. I took about fifty pix this morning and kept a handful.

Blue Jay.

Blue Jay.

Male Cardinal.

Male Cardinal.

Red-bellied woodpecker, male with the reddish color on the abdomen.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

More Snow.

12-15-13 SHORT HILLS: We had yet another storm yesterday with progressively more snow, about six inches this time. After the snow it turned to freezing rain that made everything glisten including the roads.

Regardless of the storm, we went to Cousin Kenneth and Jessica’s wedding. The venue would have been a ten minute drive for us, but with the snow it took twenty. The ceremony and reception were lovely. The band was huge and made a big impact. I think I got to try each hors d’oeuvre at least once.

During the afternoon the bird feeders were mobbed and I got a few pix through the window.

Cardinal female and house finch.

Red-bellied woodpecker, male.

A pair of finches.

Three finches and a chickadee.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dvořâk in the Snow.

12-11-13 SHORT HILLS: We’re back in NJ. We’ve had a double snowstorm, nothing major. The first part, Monday, turned to rain and disappeared when the thermo was in the thirties. Then on Tuesday there was more, about two inches here, and enough for me to clear the driveway. This time it stayed cold, and we’re predicted to be below freezing for several days. Today is cold, sunny and windy enough to blow the snow off the trees.

We braved the storm to go to the Philharmonic concert last night. The roads were all fine and the traffic was light both in and out of NYC. Café Fiorello was a little less hectic than usual, perhaps because we were early for dinner. The audience loved the all Dvořâk performance.

Anne-Sophie Mutter played the Violin Concerto in A minor after the NYP led off with the Carnival Overture. Following intermission, they did a rousing rendition of Symphony No. 9 in E minor, From the New World. Manfred Honeck conducted with enthusiasm.

Tuesday snowstorm of about two inches.

Tufted titmouse and holly berries.

Lots of white.

Sun and snow today.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Pileated Woodpecker.

12-7-13 VERMONT: Today we had snow flurries, sun, colder temps and a bit of wind from the northwest. Bally is now Invisible Fence trained.

We saw the Pileated Woodpecker again this afternoon. She was in the apple tree for a few minutes. I got some pix through the window and a short video that is up on Facebook. Males have a red moustache and red forehead, but she doesn’t. These are big birds about the size of crows.

There's an apple in the beak. Red mustache is absent.

Forehead is grayish.

Female adult.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Bally discovers Vermont.

12-6-13 VERMONT: The night we arrived, Wednesday, was so clear the milky way and thousands of stars were brilliant dots of fire. Since then it’s been total overcast and fog. Today the rain seems to have moved on after melting most of the one inch of snow cover. The pond is back to full and draining and frozen enough for the dogs to walk on it and through the new puddles from the rain.

We are teaching Bally the Invisible Fence routine. He seems to be getting it. Otherwise, I put up reflectors to guide the driveway snow plowers and set up the shoveling tools for the deck clearers. I took down the pasture gate for the winter, turned off the outside water faucets. All the swollen and stuck doors are now unstuck, closable and lockable. We're ready for winter.

Gus on ice.

Maizie and Bally doing a tasting on aged horse poop.

Maizie in camo.

Goldfinches changing into winter clothes.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Turkey and Music.

12-2-13 SHORT HILLS: It is warming up after several quite cold days. We finally had a bit or rain. As usually happens, a few forsythia flowers opened with the warm up.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Christmas looms in the distance. Alison’s and Valerie’s families were all here for the holiday. Everyone over ate of course. Lucy’s birthday arrived on schedule with the festivities. That night we all saw the new “Hunger Games” movie. Lily said she is getting tired of YA, post-apoc dystopias, and I agree.

Saturday we went to Lincoln Center with Alan for the NY Phil doing Mozart’s last three symphonies, 39, 40 and 41. My favorite is whichever one I’m hearing at the moment. I thought they did their usual excellent job. Before the concert we ate at Bar Boulud across the square on Broadway, also no complaints. Tuesday we’re back in that neighborhood for “Der Rosenkavalier” at the Met. There’s a sample from the Met website on my Facebook page.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Is the NYT Stealing from my Blog?

11-25-13 SHORT HILLS: Yesterday’s NYT had an article about the possible extinction of the Monarch butterfly. Only a relative handful of them made it to their wintering grounds in Mexico. The problem may have multiple origins, but a major factor is the loss of milkweed that the caterpillars feed on. We have lots in our pasture, but mono-culture farming and herbicides have wiped out much of the wild milkweed. I mentioned in August that all the butterflies were in short supply this summer, unfortunately it’s worse than I thought.

Today’s NYT had an article about leaving the leaves alone where they fall. I have been doing and advocating this for several Falls. By April the old leaves have disappeared, each one turned into a drop of golden mulch.

Why waste time and energy gathering up and discarding a natural resource. In the forest, under the decaying leaves, is a rich, black, loamy organic upper layer of the soil, which is the product of years of accumulated leaves. The minerals and nutrients that the trees take out of the soil to grow and make new leaves are thus returned for next season.

I have a new camera, another Canon, the SX 50 HS, mostly because it has a 50 [fifty] times optical zoom. Below are a few samples.

Mourning Dove puffed up against the morning chill.

Dove profile.

Long shadows of Fall.

Holly Berries.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mystery Shrub ID.

11-20-13 SHORT HILLS: Thanks and kudos go to Alison, horticulturalist extraordinaire, for her ID of the mystery shrub. She named it as blue mist or bluebeard, both are correct as common names for, ta da, Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Longwood Blue'. The shrub is hardy to Zone 5, drought tolerant, has silver-green leaves and blue flower cluster in late summer, is aromatic and attracts pollinators, including butterflies.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Los Gatos Trip.

11-16-13 LOS GATOS: Our trip west was uneventful, and we arrived at the mountaintop in the evening. The views are striking, dramatic and beautiful. At night the whole valley is lit up from south of San José to Palo Alto and across to the east bay. In daylight the bay is visible as are the hills east of the bay. Last year, when we first saw the property, I told Jon that I would have bought it for the view alone without even looking at the house.

The house does need rehab, and J and S are working on it. They have rewired and started to redo the plumbing, a new drain was put in while we were there. There are lots of decks for outdoor living that can be used almost year round, but some need extensive repair.

We had a tour of Los Gatos. Every house is spic and span, the streets are clean, the cars are clean, everybody seemed to be walking a dog. The people look outdoorsy. Dog sizes varied from tiny to huge. Lots of the stores had water bowls outside for the dogs and hooks so the dog walkers could shop and leave the dogs hitched up outside. Many of the stores were high end, and they all looked prosperous.

There are lots of Victorian houses all looking spiffy. Nearly every intersection is an all-way stop, and all the drivers are polite and stop for crossing pedestrians. Joey had a soccer game Saturday afternoon on an artificial turf field.

The house with eucalyptus trees.

Los Gatos High School campus with future students.

San Fran Bay with Palo Alto on the left.

San José.


Night lights.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Can You Name This Shrub?

11-15-13 SHORT HILLS: Here are some pix of the mystery shrub. It's blooming in mid-November, growing on the strip between two parking lots and attracting pollinators that may be honeybees. The leaves have a spicy scent when crushed. It appears to be hardy for our Zone 6 locale. Based on the aroma and gray-green, lancet-shaped leaves with opposite leafing pattern, I'm guessing it's a Salvia, a sage-family plant.

Bees don't mind the lateness of the season.

The blue-purple flowers have a top petal that overhangs the rest of the flower.

The whole shrub seems happy in a tough spot that gets full sun and probably dries out quickly.

Close-up of the flower.