“Tornado!!??”

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Sitting down to dinner last night after an afternoon of intense thunderstorms, lightning and pouring rain, we noticed that things seemed to be getting even worse. My husband thought we should turn on the weather news, and at that moment his phone alerted him that the weather was about to be more severe. As we left our food on the table, went into the living room, and turned on the television, we were startled to see that the prediction was for a tornado basically just a few hundred yards away from our home and coming our way. We hurried to the basement and sat there listening to the news give way to the dreaded blaring warning system without the accompanying “this is only a test.”

Although we heard two loud groaning noises, unlike any we had ever encountered before, the storm passed overhead and went on to threaten the neighboring towns to the east. We emerged from the basement, surveyed the yard, and went back to our meal. Save for many cardinal flowers now lying prone, we escaped any real damage. Fortunately, though they appeared on radar, no tornadoes actually touched ground in any Connecticut towns last night.

I had always thought tornadoes were storms of the American Midwest, such as the one in the Wizard of Oz in Kansas. But it turns out that very localized tornadoes do hit New England from time to time, doing intense damage but in very limited areas. I am grateful that the alert system now sends messages to cell phones as well as televisions. We were informed, safe and dry for a tense few minutes. Fortunately only our heart rate and blood pressure showed any effects!

 

“Return of the Woodchuck”

 

The photo on the left is our Hav-a-Heart trapped baited with broccoli, the image on the left a fat woodchuck in Massachusetts. I am hopeful that the fat brown rear end of a woodchuck we saw scurrying across our driveway on Sunday night didn’t move down here from Massachusetts. I also hope that the creature didn’t successfully swim over from the meadows across the Connecticut River where we relocated one a while back. I suspect, rather, that this is a literate woodchuck who, reading my most recent posts, realized the eatings were good in our yard and has moved in.

Because the previous animal ate all of my sunflowers, my husband bought two potted sunflowers and transplanted them in the empty spot in the garden. Figuring that the word had gotten out to the local woodchucks that there were new sunflowers to eat, the trap is sitting next to the new sunflowers. We should soon learn if sunflowers or broccoli appeal more to this new invader.

I have been surprised by the variety of wild animals in our neighborhood, including skunks, possums, deer, foxes, rabbits and, or course, woodchucks. Almost no new development has occurred here, so the neighboring woods and wetlands have stayed pretty intact for many years, allowing the animals to successfully survive.  Birds abound here too, with eagles nesting along the river and many smaller birds nesting in the trees. This year woodpeckers have been particularly abundant with more young ones  surviving than I have seen in the past. On balance the joys of living among all these creatures almost compensates for the ravenous woodchuck. Almost!

 

“The Street Where We Live”

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One of my favorite songs from My Fair Lady extols the virtue of the “street where you live.” While I don’t have Freddie outside serenading Eliza, I do live on a street that I love. I thought I would post a picture of the three houses to our east with our white house in the foreground. Here you can see the sidewalks I insisted on having when we bought our house. You can see many more salvaged bricks between our lawn(carefully hand weeded by my husband to protect the birds) and the sidewalk. On the left is the street that connects us to the main road at the far end of the picture. Because of its location, our street is plowed every 30 minutes or so during winter. Our wires are all overhead, including electric, cable and phone. The lopsided tree in the distance was pruned to avoid the power lines in case of a limb toppling storm.

We know all the people in these houses, despite dire warnings that Americans don’t know their neighbors. One is an electrician, another a motor vehicle department worker, another a widow of a projectionist. We look out for one another, especially making sure that the widow is safe, taking turns plowing her walk and driveway in the winter. My husband knows many more of our more distant neighbors  from the time he spends hand weeding the front yard.(“Why don’t you just use weed killer?” a frequent question.)

At the end of the street to the top of photo there is an intersection with a small group of shops: a convenience store, a barber shop, a liquor store and a Chinese take out. Just a few more minutes away one can walk to a dollar store, a bakery, a nail salon, and a pizza parlor. And with a few more minutes walk(maybe 10 minutes in all) you arrive at a large grocery store, a drug store, a Home Depot, a pet store, a craft store, a party store, a clothing store and several fast food restaurants. I wanted to live in a house that was walking distance to whatever we might need, and ours suits my demand. The location also works for many of our neighbors without cars who frequently walk by our home on the way to the shops.

Upscale? Not at all. Exciting? Rarely. A perfect place to live.

 

“A Wider View”

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I always thought that I was pretty informed about the world. I knew more geography than the average American, I had a basic grasp on U.S. and world history. I knew that the United States was just one out of many countries that housed good, thoughtful, responsible citizens. Still I have learned so much more since I began following blogs from around the world. It turns out that I still held fairly one dimensional views about a lot of places.

Take New Zealand, for example. I have never been there, but friends have told me it is the most beautiful country they have ever visited. I knew that it had a rapid response after a mass shooting. So in my limited view, it was a great place free of problems. Then I read a New Zealand blog where the writer mentioned the homeless situation in New Zealand. What? Homeless in New Zealand? I promptly went on line and read about the very real problem of homeless people in New Zealand. My view had to widen.

Then there’s Kashmir. I had never even thought about Kashmir until I started following a blog of a college student who wrote there. He had only intermittent access to the internet since it kept being shut down. That got my attention of course. How could the internet get shut down in what I thought of as the free country of India? And of course now Kashmir is the focus of much news reporting, only recently coming from the local people who once again had their internet access cut off. I have no position on the India/Kashmir tangle, but I never even knew it existed before I kept a blog.

I have acquired book lists, song titles, movie recommendations, and recipe ideas from following others. But I am most grateful for the international community which took me out of my–as it turns out–very parochial view. Thanks everyone.

“Backyard Oasis”

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I have always loved having a back yard. Perhaps this began in my childhood with the first house I lived in as a child. Outdoors always gave me a sense of freedom to play, to dream and to read. Even though I now find comfort indoors, I still love having a back yard, if only to gaze out upon as I go through my day. Fortunately, my husband loves working outdoors and has turned our back yard into a true oasis. Here is a third view of the yard, this time highlighting the brick walkway he made from salvaged bricks, the picket fence he made from boards, the blueberry fortress and in the far back corner the grape arbor, reinforced by salvaged boards. The scruffy patch of lawn shows the work of our dog!

We live in a single family neighborhood, with one house for each lot, usually at least 50′ by 100′.  In Oregon, where I spent the first fifty years of my life, this was the most common type of housing. Recently, however, Oregon has changed their laws. In any town over 25,000 people, single family zoning will no longer be allowed. Talking recently to an old friend in Portland, I learned that the idea of single family neighborhoods is now considered “out of date” and a “new paradigm” of multi-family housing is now preferred. I guess this resulted from the great numbers of people moving to Oregon and expecting to find a place to live. But the character of the state will be vastly different from when I grew up there.

I am glad that here we are still surrounded by individual houses with yards. I enjoy the pride each homeowner takes with their little “estate.” No one near has much money, but all are happy to have a place of their own to call home.

 

“St. Francis Amidst the Flowers”

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St. Francis stood alone on his granite rock for the early summer. Happily, he is now surrounded by zinnias and four-o-clocks. Fortunately the woodchuck didn’t work his way down this far on his destructive journey through my flower bed.

We go to a Catholic church which is run by Franciscan Friars, in our case three Fathers and two Brothers who live together next to the sanctuary. As I have written before, we are located in downtown, an area with few residents in houses and a number on the street. We feed sandwiches every day to whoever comes to the window, and hand out socks in the summer, hats and gloves in the winter, and food gift cards, bus passes and medical co-pays year round. Some believe we are enabling drug addicts, but now and then one of these street people gets clean after several years of contact with the Friars. Many of these men and women also attend Mass. No questions are asked of anyone who wishes to come to our table.

St. Francis, founder of the Order, gave up all riches to tend to the poor and rebuild the church. His message was always of love, peace and compassion. Our Friars stress the same, with no threatening God, no excluding Jesus, no condemnation of those who are “different”(whatever that means–different from whom?) I am pleased that my St. Francis gets to be framed in beauty each late summer. He deserves to “walk in beauty.”

“Blazing Color”

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After writing about fire engines yesterday, I looked out at the yard and was in awe of the display of fire engine red cardinal flowers. My husband loves this variety and loves that it spreads covering all sorts of areas he would otherwise have to weed. Here they are flourishing under our dogwood tree. To the left of the photo is a gigantic honeysuckle vine which nearly obliterates the picket fence supporting it. In the far left corner you can spy part of the blueberry fortress that protects 18 blueberry plants.

It’s high summer here at last. The first tomatoes are ready. We just returned from the farmer’s stand down the road with a sack of ripe peaches. My husband picked another quart of blueberries–nearly the last of them. Mid-August supplies the two ingredients needed for his favorite Peach Blueberry Pie. I will make that tomorrow.

I have always enjoyed August. July seemed endless this year with record temperatures and high humidity. No matter how hot August gets, September is around the corner. And the weather seems to always cool off just after Labor Day. So here’s to perfect weather, perfect peaches, perfect blueberries and a raucous display of cardinal flowers. Life at its simplest and best here in Connecticut.