Here in the USA, it’s the week of Thanksgiving. Children are home from school, family and friends visit, and a lot of cooking goes on. As I do every year, I’ll be making pies for my annual Pie Party. (I’ll give an accounting of that at the end of the month. For now, suffice it to say that I’m making at least 15 pies!) This is also the week to store flower pots inside before the snow hits and do the final winterizing in the gardens. (Unless you’re in Buffalo – then it’s a lost cause.) So, I’ll be taking a blogging break until after Thanksgiving. Have a wonderful week, everyone!
It’s been a particularly beautiful fall. There are people who study the science of it – colors are more or less vibrant due to the amount of rainfall and the variation between day and evening temperatures. The colors don’t always last. A storm with high winds can cut foliage season short. This year, everything fell into place. For more than a month, the trees glowed.
By the first week of November most of the leaves had turned brown and branches were bare. But, early in the morning, when doing barn chores, the Chinese beech trees, which never put on a show, looked like this:
I thought that those beech trees were like the last flourish of a fireworks event. But I was wrong. This coda was still to come:
What unexpected beauty have you seen in your neighborhood?
Veteran’s Day has come and gone, but not the respect and appreciation that we have for the people who have been in our military. The holiday began to honor the many, many souls who fought in World War I. Here is a photo from that era: Daisey [sic] Parsons, nine years old, trick riding for troops and others in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
One reason that my small town has remained small, despite being less than thirty miles from Boston, is that much of the landscape looks like this.
There are extensive stretches of wetlands, and where it’s not wet and mucky, there are granite outcroppings and rubble leftover from the last ice age. It wasn’t good for farming, or road building, or development. By the time modern construction equipment came along, much of the land had already been put under environmental protection.
Today any remaining usable parcels are valuable, and the town struggles over questions of development. There are endless meetings between builders and the Board of Health, and Planning, and Conservation.
But, there is one builder that goes about mostly unfettered. Here is an example of her work.
See that mound in the middle of the wetlands? It’s a beaver lodge.
The dead trees nearby are due to the beavers’ flooding of this plain (which is just over the town line in the community next door.) Whereas humans are prevented from impacting these wildlands, beavers go about building their homes without ever having to get permission. It’s essential work. Sometimes, though, the damming and tree felling happens in a backyard, and a lawn disappears into an expanding pond. (Since we rely on septic systems, this can be especially problematic!) Our department of public works employees have spent hours clearing out culverts to keep roadways from being flooded.
Beaver populations are growing (beavers are rodents and breed like such) and they’re expanding their range. My house is a distance from the small rivers and wetlands that beavers prefer. So far, my property hasn’t turned into a waterfront lot.
I’ve yet to take a photo of a beaver, so here is one pulled from the internet.
The term busy as a beaver is apt. There’s a reason that Steve’s MIT class ring has a beaver on it. These animals are determined and creative engineers. But, like all wild animals that live in territory that overlaps ours, there are on-going tensions. Last spring I rode Tonka down a familiar trail at the backside of the the town’s fire station. The path took us past a newly felled tree, which had tell-tale beaver teeth marks on it. A dam there would have flooded the parking area for the fire trucks. Luckily for the town, the beaver moved on. That said, at the time, I took a moment to marvel at what a beaver could do with only a pair of big yellow teeth and determination!
Kids Cooking Green is an after-school program in the Boston area that teaches children about nutrition and fresh, healthy food. The students cook meals, like eggs in a basket, and ravioli, and bring recipes and samples home to their parents. The emphasis is on locally grown products, so one piece of the program is to introduce the kids to the people who grow food. I’m not a “real” farmer, but I do know all about chickens, so Kids Cooking Green asked me to be part of their program. It’s the perfect match!
I recently taught a group of fourth and fifth graders all about how eggs are made in the hen’s reproductive tract. Then I ask, “do you know where the egg comes out?” No one ever thinks about that part of the process. I pick up my hen, turn her around so they can see her bottom, and show the vent. You can imagine how this age group loves this!
At the end of the program, I talk about feathers and teach how to touch a hen. For many, this is the first time that they’ve seen a real chicken, let alone pet one. The other day eighteen energetic and excited children quietly and gently stroked Amber’s back. Smiles all around.
Information about my school programs is here.