Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions - How Silly!

I find it somewhat strange . . .

We go through our lives, doing what we do, forgetting to do what we should, doing things we shouldn't, and then . . .

It's New Year's Eve.  We Celebrate.  We Reflect.  We Resolve. 

For 24 hours (or 1440 minutes or 86400 seconds) we stop and think about where we are, where we are going, why, how, who . . .

You read the articles essays from the experts about how most resolutions fail.  We suddenly expect to much of ourselves, and then don't seem to find the time to follow through.  Our resolutions fail.

1440 minutes of reflection (or drinking, or talking, or sleeping, or . . .)

That works out to roughly 4 minutes a day.

Maybe . . .

Instead of waiting around until the end of the year to reflect, we should spend 4 minutes a day to focus.on what we need to do.

Just a thought.  What do you think?

Happy New Years . . .

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I Told You So...

We have been traveling a lot lately.  At our daughters for Thanksgiving, traveling for work, Christmas in Vermont.  We keep moving.  We found ourselves back at the farm in NY.  We had to plow the driveway, check the fridge, etc. The farmhouse got a new roof (more about that later).  The barn and outbuildings were fine.  All was good.  I went down the cellar to check on some mousetraps I had set a few weeks ago.  As soon as I started to go down the steps, I felt a crunch.

I won't keep you guessing (and no it wasn't an animal) - it was a pine cone.

Yep - they are back.  I sense the red squirrels are repeating their invasion like they did 2 years ago.

I knew this would happen.  A few weeks ago I posted about a lot of spruce boughs collecting in the yard.  I figured that the red squirrels were up to something.  Some of my readers thought I should just leave the poor rodents alone.  Now I have found cones in the cellar, and the mousetraps got roughed-up!  They were knocked around, chewed up, and even moved 20 feet.  Not the work of harmless little field mice.  The red squirrels are up to something.

For any red squirrels that follow this blog - consider yourself warned!  I am for gunning you.  The traps will be coming out.   Non capimus!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winter Wonderland

I went snowshoeing again today. It was very cold - around 10 degF.  It wasn't too windy, but there was a steady wind from the east.  The day was overcast.  We expect some snow tonight.

I decided to venture out to the Green Mountain National Forest again.  The Robert Frost parking area was open, so I started there.  I decided to go south and follow the Widow's Clearing trail.  It would be around 5 miles in total.

The woods were quiet.  Because of the grey sky it was somewhat somber.  The woods were cloaked in white, and the trees seemed to have grey bark.

That being said, it was still beautiful.  I came across a small tree that seemed to put any man-made Christmas tree to shame.

Though it was very cold outside, there were still places were the ground was exposed due to melting water.  There were little patches of snow in the clear areas.  Beautiful ice crystals had formed on the snow patches.  They looked like ice flowers.

The rivers are starting to ice up.  In places, the ice was thick and almost blue-green.

After a few hours, I returned to my car.  I pulled by windproof layer off, and found I had ice crystals between the windproof layer and my outer fleece layer.  It was good to get home and enjoy a warm drink.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

I thought I'd share a few pictures of our tree.  As you may know, my wife and I love glass ornaments.  Here's what our tree looks like.  Enjoy!

The wife and I wish all the world a Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season.  Peace.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happiness is a Pair of Tired Legs and A Pair of Wet Gloves

Some of us are 'indoor dogs', while others are 'outdoor dogs'.  I'm an outdoor dog - I need to get outside, even in the winter.  I need the sun on my face, the feel of changing terrain underfoot, the smell of the water and the woods.

As I posted yesterday, we've been real busy with work and the holidays.  Today, I took some time to go snowshoeing.  It was great!

I was planning on starting at the Robert Frost trailhead (part of the Green Mountain National Forest).  It's been a while since I've been to that trailhead.  Unfortunately, this area was closed.  As I was going to snowshoe to the Chatfield trailhead, I drove to it instead and then would hike to the Robert Frost trailhead by way of the Water Tower trails..

I got to the Chatfield trailhead, put on my snowshoes and gear, and started out. It was a beautiful morning. All the woods had a light dusting of snow, the temperatures were around 20 degF, and there was no wind.  The sky was a clear blue.  Beautiful.

I headed down Widow's Clearing Trail.  At first, the trail was bordered by conifers, but as the trail  rose, the trees turned to yellow and white birches.  There were some x-country tracks, but the conditions were marginal for skiing (2 inches of snow over 2 inches of ice).  It warmed up yesterday, and tiny streams of water crossed the trail.  I had to make sure I didn't step in any (not because it would make my feet wet, but the water causes ice chucks to form under your snowshoes - very uncomfortable).  Once as I stopped to take in the scenery, my presence must have unnerved a thrush - it bolted by after I was standing in the trail.

As I climbed up the trail, you could see the snow-covered mountains off in the distance.  I got to the junction for the North Star trail, and then headed down the trail.

I got to the trail junction for the Robert Frost trail, and then headed down to it.  As the access was closed, the trails were untouched.  My tracks were the only ones around.

Periodically, I would stop and just listen.  All was quiet.  You would hear an occasional chickadee chirping.  I circled around the Robert Frost area, then proceeded back to the Water Tower trails.

I followed the trails back, but then turned off onto the Afternoon Delight trail.  Like the North Star trail, there were a lot of areas where the snow cover was thin and there was wet, exposed ground.  As I climbed back up the Water Tower mountain, the snow cover got better.

I got to the junction of the Trepidation trail.  Trepidation is a short, but very steep trail.  It has a grade around 25%. I just step-kicked my way to the top (only about a 150 foot ascent).

Once I got to the top (and caught my breath), I then had an easy descent back down the Widow's Clearing trail back to my car.  I came across a bunch of feathers - looks like something caught a wild turkey).  

In time, I found myself back at my car.  My legs wee tired, and I was drenched with sweat.  It was great.  I can't wait for my next trek.

Maybe 'll see Santa out on the trails soon!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I have't been blogging much lately.  Work and travel have been consuming me.  With the holidays, we have decorating, shopping, mailing and cooking to do.  And . . .

I also row 200K meters every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It isn't hard because of the distance (works out to about 7K meters every day), but because time is so precious this time of year.

But I finished it today.  I typically row 10K to 15K a sitting.  Today I just worked through it and did 20K meters.

Now I can devote some exercise time doing other things.  We have snow on the ground at our places in NY and VT.  Maybe I can get some snowshoeing in tomorrow!

Remember, "You rest, you rot!"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Bucket List

Laura at Simplifying in the South asked me and others to post our Bucket Lists.  A bucket list is the list of things you want to do before you 'kick the bucket'.  Some things were obvious, but I did have to think about this a little.

Here's my list:

See the Northern Lights
Travel to the Mediterranean with my wife
Dance with my grand-daughter at her wedding
Retire early and spend some years doing what I want when I want
Publish something non-technical
See the Grand Canyon and the desert southwest
Revisit all the places I lived
See Yellowstone
See mankind set foot on another planet again
Leave this world a better place . . . 

What's your list?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Found It!

As you may know, we split our time between our home in the Finger Lakes area of NY and Vermont.  Recently, work brought me to Vermont.  I went to the local library in town and rediscovered a favorite book of mine, "The Soul of Lambs - a Fable".  It is a book by a local shepherd / writer / teacher named Don Mitchell.  Don is noted for his Upcountry books, following his life moving to Vermont and raising sheep and his family.  This book is a piece of fiction which explores a widowed shepherds life raising sheep.  It brings out themes about stewardship and the cycles of life.  It really resonated with me.  My daughter worked on the Mitchell farm one spring during lambing season.  While working there one cold night she helped bring a lamb into the world.  What a great experience for her -  and a great memory for me and Mrs. Tractor!    I will need to find a copy for my library.  If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think!


Saturday, November 27, 2010

First Snow

It was below freezing this morning - and we had our first dusting of snow.  It did not accumulate, and was melted by noon.  Still, it the start of things to come.  I love the snow.  Bring it on!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Further Adventures at Packrat Pat's

We went to Indiana to visit our daughter and her family for Thanksgiving.  We had a great time.  Our daughter set out a wonderful meal!  We also got to spend a lot of time with our granddaughter.  She looks just like our daughter did at that age.  What a treat.

We also did a quick trip to Packrat Pat's antique shop.  I dug through the racks and piles, and found a few things.  The most interesting was a mid / late 20th century hand-thrown vase signed by a someone named John Patterson.  It had the same color palette as a previous crock I bought there.  However, the form and hand was quite different.  We liked the colors and the uniqueness of the piece.

The proprietor said that it, like the other piece, was made by a local pottery guild in the South Bend, IN area.  It was known as the '100 Club'.  I'd like to find out more about it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Walking Up Spook Hill

It has been grey, wet and windy the last few days.  I took a walk up the road over Spook Hill.

It's been very mild lately, yet the grey skies and steady winds really make it feel somber.  Wood smoke and a light fog hang around the ridges.  A crew was working on the hillside cutting timber and hauling out some logs.  The whir of chainsaws seemed to drown out the wind, but as I moved up the road, the sound of the chainsaw was muted.  I had to make sure I stopped once in a while to just listen to the dried leaves rustling.  It was somewhat eerie as I heard no birds.  A storm was coming in and I sensed they were getting ready to wait it out.

I came across an old sickle bar mower right by the side of the road.  I could tell it was there a long time as trees were growing through its frame.  The thought crossed my mind briefly to look it over closely, but it is not my property.  Though it isn't posted land, one must always respect boundaries.

I continued up Spook Hill.  I was getting hot walking up the steep grade (10% or better).  I took off my sweater.  As I got to the top I turned around.  Only then did I realized that we had a strong southerly breeze.  As I looked out over the valley, I could see a storm coming in.  The air was heavy with mist.  Periodically, a stray raindrop came down.  I walked down the hill.  With the wind blowing on me, I got cold.  I put my sweater back on and walked down the road.

By the time I got back home, it was starting to drizzle.  It was a quiet, retrospective walk - a good one for gathering your thoughts.

Winter is not far away.  Once it hits, I will cease my walks up Spook Hill.  I await our first snowfall . . .

Monday, November 15, 2010

Old Water Works

On a ride yesterday, I noticed the remnants of an old water works near the road (on Route 79 east of the town of Richford, NY).

(Sorry about the picture quality - I had to splice a couple of cell phone photos together...)

A small stream follows the road, and a man-made foundation for a water wheel of related water works was evident.  The grade of the stream on this section is around 7%.  I assume it was for either an undershot or breastshot wheel.  You could also see where the channel was lined / surfaced with concrete.   I'd love to know more about this structure. I need to ask the local historical society for more info. Any thoughts?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

World Diabetes Day

Though this is not normally the type of blog entry I would post, it is a topic I care about.

World Diabetes Day Blue Circle Logo

Sunday, November 14th is World Diabetes Day.  As you may have read in the news, the rate of late onset (Type 2) diabetes is increasing in the Western World.  Both my parents suffered from Type 2 diabetes.  They both were heavy smokers.  My dad developed heart disease, and passed away over 8 years ago as a consequence of cancer.  My mom suffered a series of strokes, and ultimately lost both her lower legs due to her diabetes.  Mom also died 8 years ago.  They were both young.  Dad died at the age of 68, while Mom was 65.

Type 2 diabetes is not a death sentence.  It is very manageable, and can be avoided with proper diet, weight management, and exercise.

I hope you consider your lifestyle choices each and every day.  Today I rowed my first marathon of the year.  I usually row 1 million meters a year, love to cycle, and just keep active.  I know I need to keep active (as both my parents suffered from Type 2 diabetes, I am at a higher risk than the general public).  I want to be around a long time to give my grandchildren (and future great-grandchildren) tractor rides!

Take care.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


On this Veteran's Day, I thought I'd take a few minutes to thanks those who have helped to keep us safe.

My Son-in-Law

My Dad

My Father-in-Law

My wife and I are very proud of these guys.  Please take a moment to remember your family, friends, and neighbors.

Monday, November 8, 2010


We went back to standard time last Sunday.  The sun appears to rise 1 hour earlier, but it sets 1 hour sooner.  As the days get shorter, I'll be going to work in the dark soon.

When I left for work this morning (about 7:15 AM), the sun was up.  As I made my way to work, I could see that the world seemed to have turned brown.  The leaves were off the trees, the plants were all brown.  The stands of goldenrod stood beaten down - their golden tops withered and tan.

When I left work at 6:00 tonight, it was dark, cold and rainy.  What a depressing feeling.  A long day at work, cold, wet weather, poor visibility for my commute home.  What an unpleasant evening.  It was good to get home and see that my wife put the porch light on for me.

This is one of my least favorite times of year.  We haven't hit the holiday season.  There is no snow to enjoy (yes my southern readers - some of us actually like the snow!).  It is dark when I get home, so I can't get a ride on my bike.  The world is shutting down, getting ready for the coming winter.

Like I always say:

No Sun,
No Snow,
No Color,

What do you think?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Smell A Conspiracy...

I was about the yard doing some cleanup. I raked out the shade garden and few other flower beds, moved some old annuals to the compost bins, dropped the mower deck from the tractor and put on the snow plow blade, wheel weights and chains.

While I was working by the shade garden, I noticed a lot of spruce bough tips about the yard.  We are not talking just a few, but dozens and dozens and dozens.  I've raked them up several times already.

Yeah, I know branches and boughs fall of the trees from time to time, but I think the varmints are up to something.

A few years ago we had dozens of spruce cones piled up against 2 of the spruce trees in the front yard.  It seemed very unnatural.  A pile of cones right at the base of 2 trees (not all the trees - just 2 of them) - and only on the south side of the trees mind you!  Well, that year we ended up having a family of red squirrels in our basement.  The cones were a food stash they had created.

Now, I see tons of spruce tips about.  I sense the varmints are up to something . . . but what?

Ideas anyone?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I've Been Tagged

Mr. Simpleton from Living a Simple Life blog posted a list of things he wished he could do.  Surprisingly, we had a lot of common wishes.  He challenged a number of his readers to post their list (this included me).  So...

I accept his request!

My List:

Learn to blacksmith
Get proficient in making wood block prints
Sculpt something in stone
Make a doll house for my granddaughter
Recognize more than 8 types of ducks and waterfowl
Grow cilantro so that it doesn't bolt and go to seed
Know the constellations
Know more about mushrooms
Make beer

Mr. Simpleton had a number of items on his list that I also would like to learn, including:

Learn a foreign language (French, Italian or German are at the top of the list)
Know all plants (including weeds) in the area
Wilderness survival

If you want to learn some old-time knowledge, I recommend the Foxfire books.  They have recently been reprinted, but you can find them used.

(Though I want to learn all this stuff, you have to leave some stuff so you always have a goal for the future).

I now tag the following people to post their lists...

Regan at A Day in the Life
Mountain Woman at Red Pine Mountain
Ga Farm Woman at Life on a Southern Farm

Keep it going!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wooly Bear Forecasting

You have heard the rule that you can predict the severity of the winter by looking at the amount of black coloring on the wooly bear caterpillar.  The rule is that the more black, the colder the winter.

Judging by the caterpillar I saw today, it looks like a warm winter.  We did have a warm summer and a rather mild fall.  Last year we had an appreciable snowfall on October 16th.  This year, we have had nothing.

What do you think?  What are your wooly bear caterpillars doing?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Red Newt

I was doing some late season yard work. We had another hard frost overnight.  It was very cool and breezy outside. I did the last mowing of the year, trimmed the arbor, and put away odds-and-ends.

I moved a few paving stones, and I uncovered 2 red newts.  They were sluggish in the cold of the morning.  I ran into the house to grab my cell phone to snap a few pictures. When I got back, there was still one newt.  After snapping a few photos, it scrambled off.  These were the first newts I have seen on the property.  What a thrill!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Catching Up!

It's been a while since I posted anything. Fall has been a busy time.  We went to Gettysburg last weekend.  We enjoy visiting the battlefields and taking in the history.

We escaped the heavy rains.  There was localized flooding.  The river was up quite a bit.  The creek finally had water in it.  The heavy rains knocked a lot of the leaves from the trees.

Yesterday, I raked the yard, filled the compost bins, and mowed the yard.  Most of the leaves are off the trees in our yard.  I expect all the leaves will be down in a few more weeks.

We had our first hard frost this morning.  It has hit the knotweed pretty hard.

Frost on the Deck Chairs

The day is beautiful.  Sunny, light winds, temperatures around 70 degF.  Enjoy!

Creek in Fall

Autumn Leaves on Spook Hill