Friday, August 31, 2012

last days

Last days of summer...

Last days for Country Weekend, the store...

I should take & a little store in the Catskills off of this blog header.

I'll leave 

Home History Nature.

I can work with that.

Thanks for keeping me company on this part of the journey.

Enjoy your weekend,


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thoreau's cabin

I wrote about Thoreau's cabin in the early days of this blog. Rather than repeat, you can see that post here, and this post will focus on the site. When I visited Walden Pond last week (here) I saw the site of the original cabin. It's on a slope above the pond. Thoreau, grieving from the loss of his brother, decided he wanted to live a simple life in the woods and write a book. He was 27 when he built the cabin (in 1845) on land owned by his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson.

This is the view today from the cabin site. He wrote his first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers while living there, as well as the first draft of Walden, his most well-known book.

 Stones mark where the cabin was originally thought to be, though later study sited it a short distance away. It was solitary, but not remote. He often walked into the village of Concord (less than 2 miles away) to visit friends and family.

I love these little sculptures built by visitors. 
They make me think of Scottish cairns. 

There are some in the water too. I saw a couple of teenage girls working on this one.

Thoreau studied nature closely, and started writing his journals while living at the cabin. The journals, which he wrote for the rest of his life, are filled with detailed observations of nature, and are used by scientists today. (See here.) It is said that he built the cabin to find a home and to find himself. It seems that he did both.

The cabin has inspired many people to build reproductions. You can see Thoreau's original list of building materials here. This company will build one for you, or sell you a kit so you can do it yourself. 

By the time I completed my walk around Walden Pond, I decided I need to build a little cabin in the Catskills. I think that will remain a fantasy. If you have small cabin fantasies you will enjoy this site


Monday, August 27, 2012

the bees were plundering the jessamine

 I own beautiful vases,

but my go-to container for flowers is pitchers.

 I gathered an armload of late-summer flowers and spread them thoughout the house.
The kitchen table.


 Entry table

 Kitchen window sill over the sink. 
(Vases are nice too. My father gave me this one.)

A bit of hydrangea in the powder room.

I found a battered old copy of Les Miserables at the recycling center and decided to recycle it, which felt kind of sacrilegious, but it's unlikely someone would read it in the state it was in.

But as I deconstructed it, I found the most amazing quote:

The whole of the day seemed to be composed of dawn: all nature seemed to be having a holiday, and laughing. The pastures of St. Cloud exhaled perfume; the breeze from the Seine vaguely stirred the leaves; the branches gesticulated in the wind; the bees were plundering the jessamine; a madcap swarm of butterflies settled down on the ragwort, the clover, and the wild oats; there was in the august park of the King of France a pack of vagabonds, the birds.

I read that and wonder how I ever thought I could write about nature. And then I read it again. Plus he's a master of punctuation.

It's that Monday we all look forward to--Jane's Flowers in the House
My kitten is more low-maintenance than hers.
But hers are so clever she's got them writing her blog posts when she's busy!


Sunday, August 26, 2012

a peaceful Sunday (with recipe)

 I can't remember the last time I read the Sunday paper on Sunday.

Or made blueberry muffins on the weekend.
I did both today.

 We are readers around my house. Not at the dinner table, 
but breakfast and lunch are fair game.
Vintage Ellery Queen is a sign of one of my sons.

 Me with Orion. 
I read the paper on the deck with my first cup of coffee. 
The blueberry placemat and blueberry mug are not staged to go with the muffin. 
They are always there. Muffins come and go.

 I stayed in Massachusetts this weekend--Harriet is running the store.
Next weekend I'll be there--it's the last official weekend the store will be open. I love my store, but I'm glad to be closing. I want to have time for other things on my weekends. 
Like reading all afternoon. That's today's plan.

And maybe collages, laundry, picking flowers for Jane's Flowers in the House,
 and an evening walk. 

And more reading.
And for you a super-easy blueberry muffin recipe:

1-1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
cinnamon sugar 
1 egg
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. milk
1 c. blueberries

Preheat oven to 400
mix dry ingredients
mix wet ingredients
blend wet and dry, then add blueberries
put in muffin tin/cups
sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top
bake 12-15 minutes or until they look done

Friday, August 24, 2012

on Walden Pond

Walden Pond was larger than I expected--at 62 acres it looks like a lake. I walked the path that loops around it.

 A beach for families.

 A few kayakers.

Many semi-secluded areas where stone steps lead directly into the pond. Shirts and hats hang from branches, scattered books and shoes...a mother swims with her daughters at one, a pair of teenage girls at another, an elderly man, four guys with beer...each enjoying a secret place.

Swimming and floating and drifting...

I will write another time about Thoreau and his cabin, which is what I expected Walden Pond to be all about. What I found felt remote, serene, personal--like a lake in Maine or northern Vermont, though it is just a short distance from Boston.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Opal's garden

Thinking about the donkey Shelley wrote about here. She wants to be her fairy godmother (my words--she uses the more practical "sponsor") but is running into defensive small town bureaucrats (my words).

I have a free afternoon and am going to visit Walden Pond. Thoreau keeps coming into my life. I wrote about him here and here. I am embarrassed to say that I've tried to avoid him--too popular! too obvious! he's on coffee mugs and t-shirts! Reminds me of when I started college and thought I didn't need to take literature classes because I'd already read the books. Which reminds me of something Thoreau wrote:

The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance a palace or temple on the earth, and at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood-shed with them.

And now I have a wood-shed to work on. I'll report back soon.


Monday, August 20, 2012


A huge trumpet vine grows two stories up and over our detatched garage-- it's so heavy that it fell after a heavy rain.  We put it back up and I think it will be okay. I can see it from my favorite spot on the deck and I love to watch hummingbirds dive into the flowers and perch on top of them. (Sorry--no hummingbirds in my pictures.) Luke and I were admiring them and I was trying to remember what I'd read about hummingbirds--how fast they fly, how many babies can fit on your little fingernail,..

I've read plenty of books and essays about nature, ecology, natural history, etc. I retain impressions of things, but not the specifics. Like when I was wondering where the bats had gone (here) and a couple of you mentioned the fungus killing them, and then I remembered reading about it, but had to look it up again. It was shocking--there are 80% fewer bats in New York State than there were 2 years ago. Nationwide the fungus has killed 5.5 million. Bats eats lots of insects and so their decimation will have a long-term effect on the environment.

All these books are piled up next to my desk because I'm writing (or, more accurately, trying to write) a collection of personal essays about nature.

 My favorites have always been the narratives, the personal stories, but I am trying to read more "about" books, to learn something new every day.

The ruby throated hummingbird weighs approximately 1/10 of an ounce. When hovering, their wings beat 55 times per second. Those two facts alone, fill me with wonder. And they can fly backwards.

Now I need to find out why trumpet vines have such large seed pods.