“Listen Around the World”

As Pete mentioned in his comment to me regarding yesterday’s post about Merlin, the bird song identifying App, modules are available for each part of the world. You just have to look at the list of available packets and download the appropriate one/ones. I am using Northeastern Birds of North America. But they also include such diverse collections as four sections of India, New Zealand, South Africa, and four different European ones. Look for the menu called Bird Packs on the App to find the one you want to add to your phone

I thank Pete for finding the England pack and alerting me to all the various FREE choices.

“Listen Up”

I have enjoyed watching birds for many years, both in the wild and in front of my kitchen window. I am able to identify a majority that I see, but I have been flummoxed by their songs. No matter how hard I tried to read what a bird sounds like and compare it to one I was listening to, I failed.

Last week Cornell University released a new version of their free phone app, Merlin. In addition to being able to identify a bird from looking at it, the app has added a priceless feature. When you sit near where you hear a bird and turn on the app, it identifies the bird and/or birds that are singing. If it is uncertain, it waits for a bit. When a check mark appears, the app is certain. It then displays a photo of each bird, lighting when it is singing.

I was amazed to learn that I was regularly hearing from a Carolina wren. I could also hear the difference between the house sparrow, the house finch and the song sparrow. A noise that I thought was coming from a blue jay turns out to be coming from a grackle.The app stores the recordings on your phone if you like, so it is possible to listen again and solidify the connection between the sound and the image.

Have I mentioned that this is FREE? Have fun.

“Bowl From Cherries”

As I mentioned yesterday, we like to buy from artists as we travel. On one of those handout maps with little ads around the margins we saw a spot for Andrew Pearce and wooden bowls. If you have followed me over the years, you may remember I love bowls. I have bowls to spare and still crave more, a less fattening addiction than chocolate! The maps always caution “not drawn to scale,” so we weren’t sure how far it was on Route 4 in Vermont. But the road is lovely and we enjoyed keeping an eye out for the place.

The smell of the showroom was intoxicating: maple, cherry and black walnut objects all rubbed with oil and filling the space. The owner buys whole logs and has a sawmill in back to cut them down to workable sizes. Then working with electric machinery, he and other artists fashion all sorts of bowls and art pieces.

Having no need of an artistic piece of wood since my husband collects them on his own(for free outdoors), I settled on the bowl above. Just 10″ across, made of cherry, it now sits on a side table in the living room. When Charlie asked what I was going to use it for, I replied “I am just going to look at it.” And I do.

“Cautious Reentry”

Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

I began this blog five years ago in July of 2016, before Trump and before Covid. I did it rather as a lark to get my writing muscles toned up again in preparation for longer, much postponed, writing projects. To my surprise, it turned into an activity totally unexpected. It became a vehicle for sharing, albeit cautiously, about Trump and Covid. Most importantly, especially during the enforced 15 month quarantine, it kept me connected to a world of other writers. Before I started writing I had no idea how rich in connections my life would become through the simple vehicle of a blog.

But recently, I took several weeks off, rather like an academic sabbatical, to question what plans I had for the future for my blog. I considered signing off all together, but that felt rather like severing a limb, so that idea died. Then I thought about a regular structure, such as once a week. But that didn’t fit with the way ideas actually come to me, in small bursts rather than in one long piece. So instead, I have come back.

What do I write about? Well it has always been quite eclectic, from childhood reminiscences, to book reviews, to observations on New England, to food I find on the road, to artists we collect on the travels we take when not locked down. So I expect the blog will continue in exactly the same vein. I have ignored all sorts of advice for a “successful blog,” whatever that means. I don’t focus on one theme. I don’t try to reach a huge audience. I don’t have a predictable schedule. But I do respond to all comments, not including spam of course, and I do comment on a wide assortment of other writers’ posts.

I will be seeing you again, as often as the mood strikes. And it seems to be striking pretty regularly once again!

“You Take the High Road”

Quechee Falls Vermont

We drove west along Route 4 in Vermont looking for the state park and the visitor’s center which would take us to the trail head for Quechee Gorge. It looked like an inspiring spot with a deep gorge and a flowing waterfall. I had seen a photo of people standing on a bridge admiring the view and assumed that the path would take us to that lookout spot. After a quick visit to the center to check out the trails, we set off on a trail into the gorge. A lovely walk through deep woods, we went down into a valley then back up to the rim of the gorge. However neither the river nor the gorge nor the waterfall were visible through the dense woods.

Finally we emerged at the dam pictured above which uses the falling water to produce electricity. It was lovely, the sound refreshing, the view pleasant enough, but not quite what I had been expecting. We set out to return to our car, me not looking forward to the return 45 minute hike.

On way back we looked up to see a group of people standing on a bridge. We found some stairs to get up with them and discovered we were on Route 4 with a bridge crossing the gorge. A large parking lot sat across the road. All these people had simply driven up, gotten out of their cars, and seen the gorge from the bridge. Unbelievably enough, our car was parked about a block and a half east on Route 4. We had merely to cross the highway to be on our way. We had definitely taken “the long way around!”

And the view from the bridge?

The “Mother Ship”

King Arthur Baking (pre-COVID!)

I do a lot of baking and have since I was a girl. My first oven was a burn risk toy electric stove. Then I met Mrs. Wade, leader of my Camp Fire Girls troop, and really learned the ropes. She taught me how to make muffins without the dreaded “tunnels.” Her kitchen was well equipped, very unusually so in the 1950’s, and she even had a marble slab to use to roll out pie dough.

Even before I moved to New England, I had begun using King Arthur Flour for my bread. But once we moved within range of their main store in Norwich, Vermont, I tried to stop in whenever our travels took us anywhere near. Of course we have gone nowhere since September of 1999. But recently, seeing that Vermont had as low covid rates as we did, we planned an overnight trip to Norwich. If we were younger, it might have been a day trip, but we aren’t. So tomorrow we drive the two and a half hours to Norwich, have lunch outside the store, and buy any new products that appeal to me. (And that would be a lot of things!)

We are staying over in an inn and then exploring Quechee Gorge, a Vermont State Park, in the morning. Depending on the rain, I may get a few photos worth posting.

Have I mentioned we are going on a trip?!!!!

“Sweet Solution”

Peach/Blueberry Pie

In Connecticut the peach season and the blueberry season overlap for just enough time to make one pie each summer. However, since we had the abundance of South Carolina peaches and Charlie’s blueberries were also coming on like gangbusters, I had an opportunity to bake a pie just in time for the 4th of July. Here, in all its glory, is a red(pie plate), white(sugar dusting), and blue delight. Actually it was already half eaten by the time the holiday arrived!

If you have read me in past summers, you already know about the history of this luscious dessert. If you are new, however, the story is worth knowing. When Charlie and I were first dating I told him about an amazing peach/blueberry pie I had made in the summer of 1969 from a recipe torn from the local paper. I had, in the meantime(18 years) lost the clipping. A devoted pie eater, he got in touch with the newspaper’s food editor(back when they still had one) and set her on the hunt for the recipe. She found it, typed it out and sent it to him. It is that peach/blueberry stained paper I still use.

And since the blueberries continue to ripen and the local peaches will eventually be ready, he can look forward to an unprecedented second peach/blueberry pie this August.

“Quite Peachy”

As advertised

Some time in the early spring I received an advertisement for the “Peach Truck.” It was a very cheerful message, painting the story of a young couple in Nashville, Tennessee who traveled the country stopping at various places to sell peaches. Knowing how much Charlie loves Southern peaches, I put in an order to pick up a crate in late June. I eagerly awaited the delivery and the produce.

We drove to the appointed meeting place and looked around for the pickup truck and the friendly young people vending sweetness to the North. Failing to see anything looking like the ad, I looked around further. Then I spotted

In actuality

OK. I had fallen for the pitch. We picked up a crate of rock hard peaches from South Carolina, headed home, and spread 25 pounds of peaches out on a cloth in the basement to, as the young man who handed them over said, “get soft.” Well if I had wanted rock hard peaches, I would have bought them from the local grocery.

Since I had given the crate to Charlie for his birthday I was very disappointed. But the story has an excellent ending. The peaches did in fact ripen. And their flavor far surpassed any we had eaten in many years. Juicy, full of intense peach flavor, they finally lived up to Charlie’s standard for the “perfect peach.”

Now about having 25 pounds of ripe peaches at once….(stay tuned)

“Fresh Off the Stalk”

As we did last year, we bought a share of a local farm through a program called CSA(community supported agriculture.) Spending the money in early spring allows the farmers capital to plant new crops. Then each week we take our bag to the farm stand for our share of the produce. While theoretically we would lose our money if the crops completely failed, this farm has supplied food for years and the risk is very small.

The first week we received fresh asparagus, newly cut from the stalks that morning. I cook asparagus regularly in the late spring, often either steaming or oven roasting it. The vegetables available in the local store usually come from Mexico. I was used to the taste being fairly bland, definitely needing the addition of lemon juice for adding zest.

I was amazed to taste real local asparagus for the first time that I can remember. The taste was pronounced, delicious and needed no seasoning. Clearly whatever allows the stalks to travel from Mexico and arrive with a snap in the store takes a toll on taste. I had no idea of the difference in the flavor possible when it had just been harvested.

I think the summer will be, as was last year’s, a reintroduction to the true flavors of vegetables. Locally grown and picked, they have no need to travel or to keep for a week, depriving them of flavor. Here’s to what lies ahead from our neighbor’s gardens. Eating local is more than a fad, it is a promise of real flavor, often missing at the super market.

“Good As New”

Many years ago we bought this picnic table and benches unfinished. We painted them a lovely green and used them for a while. When the paint wore down, we sanded and repainted them. Remembering how tedious this job was, we put off doing the job from summer to summer. Yes splinters were likely if you sat down too fast, but we could deal with that. Finally this month Charlie decided to restore them.

After sanding for nearly a full day he realized that it probably would have been smarter to just get a new set. But by then in for a dime in for one hundred dollars, he kept at it. Many hours of sanding, one coat of sealing primer, three coats of outdoor paint later, we moved the restored set to the deck. Sadly now the deck looks in need of a restoration. Next year—maybe.