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Certified organic poultry farmer in SE Mass

Teaching 101, Huntington Nature Center
Rather than do what I should be doing, one of my readers reminded me that I am supposed to be writing stories rather than doing something else. So, here is an experience I had while teaching at the Huntington Nature Center in Huntington, Vermont. I was a volunteer teaching guide there for six or so years. Our job was to take city kids (mostly from Burlington, VT) into the woods and show them how life is connected.

Our areas of teaching were the deep woods, the sugarbush, the pond, the edge & fields. The property was owned and managed by a non-profit group. There were many volunteers and a center director. The center operated year round. Much of the activity was generated from school field days. The children were most often inner city kids, most had never been into the country before. I always referred this activity as "taking the kids into the woods and scaring them to death", frowned upon by the director. But I was very good at my job.

This particular day, the sun rose on a new, fluffy snowfall of about 6 inches. Our entire world was covered with a dusty, light snow, a blanket that removed all traces of life. This was the best time to go out into the woods to search for "stories in the snow". The sky was clear blue, not a cloud marked the sky. No wind to ruffle any new tracks. It was cold, maybe in the 20's. Or teens...I was well dressed for the weather.

The buses arrived, the kids spilled out onto the plowed parking area. I think they were fourth graders. The volunteers watched to see how many had boots on. Not many today. All the kids piled into the nature center and we spent some time taping plastic shopping bags over their shoes and up their pants to keep their feet dry. 40 - 50 kids, no boots. Where were the mothers? Out to lunch, I guessed.

After the taping was secured and we (hoped) feet would stay dry, we divided the kids into groups, split up between the volunteers. There was supposed to be adults as chaperones, but never enough to support every group. I took a group of kids by myself.

There had been no time to shovel out the paths, so we hiked up a gentle slope, through the new snow, leaving only our footprints as a trail behind.We hiked from the field into the woods. As we walked, I instructed the kids to use all their senses. I reminded them of what these five senses were and asked them to be silent so we could hear the wild things talking. We saw many birds in the trees, woodpeckers banging on trees, looking for food. What were they doing? I said they were using Morse code to find the insects under the bark. Nuthatches, coming down trunks, asking us where was the bird seed??? Blue Jays, the policeman of the woods, in their blue suits, warning all that people were on their way and "BEWARE".

We had reached a place where the stream was running under the snow and we were listening to the stream gurgle under the blanket of ice and snow. As I looked around, I saw my first story in the snow...a mouse's tracks on top of the snow ending in a drop of blood with the wing print of a large bird. I suspected an owl. I brought the kids attention to the trail, cautioning them not to spoil the story in the snow. We circled the story and I asked the kids to come up with what they thought had happened. None of them could guess. I walked them through what had happened...from where the mouse emerged out of the small hole in the snow, ran across the snow and BAM! the predator took him. There was the drop of blood and the wing print around it, showing the dramatic end of the mouse's life. Some of the kids protested, feeling badly for the mouse. Maybe some of these kids had a pet at home similar to the mouse? I explained how hungry the owl was, now many days had it been since the owl had eaten? Several, I explained. Wasn't it better for the owl to eat than the mouse to starve? Which was worse? And aren't we better off with owls in our world than too many mice?

The kids were thinking about this, all of us quiet. I watched them process this information. The sun was sparkling on the snow, the stream gurgled and the kids were thinking. This is always what I am aiming for...to get them thinking.

Suddenly, like shot, a ruffed grouse exploded out of a nearby snowbank. All of us jumped, some screamed. Our thinking had been so deep, this was such an unexpected event, we were stunned. Some scared. I saw the grouse fly off, leaving a void in the snow. Flying to freedom.

Once everyone had calmed down, I explained how, during a heavy snow, sometimes ground birds, such as grouse, would just stay still and let the snow cover them. The snow acted like a blanket and kept them warm and safe. The bird would fly out when it was ready or when it was startled. Seems as if we startled it and it flew.

The conversation about this bird and the poor mouse filled the air as we searched...now with avid interest on the part of the kids, through the rest of the hike. We didn't see any more "stories in the snow" that day.

When we reached the center at the end of the trip, all the kids wanted to do was look up the ruffed grouse, what it looked like, what it did, where it lived...and so on. The mouse's sacrifice was discussed. Eyes were bright, faces filled with smiles. At the bus, many of the kids, now more educated gave me a big hug.

These were the days I lived for. To show a kid what real life is in the woods. To make them think about life.
January 2016 snow melt
All the snow that fell has melted. Last evening, the winds came up and the rain came down. This morning, I noticed my camper fridge was defrosting. It is quite possible my fridge has given out. Sigh...more camper problems.

Recently, I suffered a fall while walking BB the dog on the top of the storm surge wall. This is a barrier composed of dirt covered with enormous rocks, some the size of cars. The top is remarkably flat and level and I like to walk the top (it is probably 25 feet tall) one way and take the bike path (blacktop) back to the parked car. For the first time, I let BB off the leash while we walked the top of the barrier. On occasion, there is some poop from other animals. On that day, there was coyote droppings. BB was very interested in sniffing...and this is how he might contract worms (in the form of eggs). I turned to reprimand him, turned my ankle on an uneven rock, lost my footing. My left leg went between the large stones, I lurched and went down. Left shin was badly bruised, kneecap was bumped pretty hard. I actually was concerned I might not be able to get up...and checked to see I had my phone with me. I was able to extract my leg from between the rocks and finish the walk without too much problem.

When I got back from the walk, I checked my bruised leg. The bump on my shin was sizeable with a small area of broken skin. I am certain wearing my gaitors over my pants protected my shin from a more severe injury. I iced & applied arnica to both my shin & kneecap, which wasn't sore at that time. Of course, the next morning, there was some swelling to my kneecap but no bruising. The shin was very swollen and bruised. I continued to apply arnica for the next several days. Today, there is little swelling on the shin, the kneecap is just fine.

I have been unable to motivate myself to addressing my storage areas. The temps have been in the 20's some days, other days warmer but very damp and rainy. Since Saturday, the weather has been cloudy & damp, the past 15 hours or so, it has been rainy with very high winds, gusts up to 50 mph. By Wednesday, it should clear & be in the 50's. Some winter...but I am not complaining after the winter of 2015 when we had snow almost every day after late January into February with very cold temps. A second mild winter may affect the fruit trees, but since I am no longer a farmer and never grew any fruit trees, I am not complaining.

Still, living here at Dean's is so much better than the past two years! Having a washing machine here, not having to carry water some 100+ feet, having access to a real kitchen, a bathroom and not having to stay inside the camper all the time is so great! I am eating much better now and actually showered twice in one week vs. showering every month (or three). Cooking real meals rather than eating PBJ sandwiches three times a day is superb. Yesterday, I made a soup from chicken stock (I boiled a bunch of chicken & turkey bones I had frozen from meals), carrots, onions & Black Beluga Lentils. It was so good I actually made some biscuits! I took the pot of soup out to the shop where there was a crowd of people hanging/working in Dean's shop. Poor Dean, he had so many people out there, he couldn't move to work. Several folks came by with their projects and Dean has to stay on top of that as well as package up items he has sold on Ebay and get to the post office to mail them. By the end of yesterday, he was exasperated, saying he ran a Day Care for adults. I stayed indoors, keeping the wood stove going, not easy with high winds and temps in the 40's.

I have not taken BB for a walk since my fall on the rocks and he is bored out of his gourd. But I did get his haircut done last week and he is happier for it. He still needs a bath and I can take him to Hollis' for that as soon as she recovers from her surgery.

Recently, I rec'd a check for over $300.00 from the commissioner for the sale of the property, bringing my total to over $6,500.00. Still, a paltry amount considering 20 years of my life and a substantial amount of $$ was invested in that fiasco. Again, my real revenge is the fat man has to live in a trailer he refused to fix (for over 10 years) and had a leaky roof. I can only imagine his discomfort and rage at that. Revenge is sweet, if only served cold.

I guess I need to get my laundry put away, remove my food from the fridge and start my day. Windy outside, I am sure my camper door will blow out of my hand when I open it to exit. BB will be unhappy it is raining, but he needs to do his business.

If anyone is reading, please let me know. Thanks.
2016 more snow!
Saturday brought about 11" of snow on top of the 5" from Friday. The storm started delivering snow about 10 AM and continued with heavy accumulations till about 8 PM. Winds were drifting the light snow, some of the drifts were above my knees. Earlier Saturday, I went to storage to get my snow shoes in case I needed them. But they are unused this season...so far. By Wednesday, temps will be in the 50's and it will begin to rain Tuesday afternoon. The town highway departments are busy clearing out the storm drains on streets of all the plowed snow so the coming rain and melting will have somewhere to go. Should be a real mess!

Sunday was clear skies and very cold temps. 9 degrees at dawn. Mid-day, I went out to shovel off the camper roof & clear by my entryway. I swept off the Volvo. Brought in wood since there was only one or two sticks left in the entryway. After that, I took a nap! Dean worked with the snowblower to make some dog & kitty paths back and forth between the buildings. The snowblower started to choke out, so he quit. He plans to investigate the carburetor, he thinks the problem lies there.

One of the cable networks ran a "Rocky" marathon, running the original "Rocky" right through "Rocky V". I watched the first III and part of IV before I gave out. When I headed back to the camper, the moon was bright, the stars were twinkling and the temp was very cold.

Today, sun is out but by noon, there was (what I call) a milky sky...overcast. I dug the Volvo out of the drifts, started it up and moved it. I am letting it run for a bit. There is a coolant leak somewhere in the system. I hope the leak may present itself when (if?) it drips onto the snow. Since there is a new water pump and all new hoses, my feeling is the leak is either from a loose hose clamp or the radiator. We shall see.

BB is in the car waiting for me to take him for a walk today. So I shall close for now.

January 2016 snow
Yesterday brought some snow in the AM. I measured 5" on my car roof, that would be pretty accurate since there was no wind to blow the snow. Around here, everyone was in "high anxiety" mode since this is the southern coastal area of MA and most don't know how to cope with snow. On Thursday, the part was installed in my Volvo and as predicted, the starting problem went away and the car runs much smoother. The 4 studded snow tires were put on the Volvo, ending my anxiety about the balding summer tires on the car. I will have to buy new summer tires before the warm weather comes since the tread is gone on them. But that is just fine, I was prepared to look at this situation. However, it was discovered that I have a bad outer ball joint or tie rod gone bad and will need another.

By yesterday noon, the snow had stopped coming down. Dean ran the snowblower around to create some paths and Lucas did some plowing in the yard. The sun came out late in the day and it was clear and chilly last night. This AM it was 21 degrees and cloudy. By 10 AM, snow began to lightly fall. It is predicted that this area may lay claim to 10 - 12" of new snow. The cold will come for a few days with temps in the single numbers on Sunday and Monday. By Wednesday, the temps will reach well into the high 40's and it will rain. Hopefully, the snow will melt before the temps drop and create an ice skating rink in our area. I have a stash of clean wood ashes for icy conditions.

Yesterday, I laid low most of the day, took a shower & laid a new piece of rug by Dean's front door to collect the snow that migrates inside on boots & shoes.

Dean's plumber friend's mother died earlier this week. Dean went to the wake yesterday afternoon. While he was gone, I went shopping for some supper veggies and bread. Sad to say, I couldn't find the bread that Stop & Shop normally carries, maybe they aren't carrying it anymore, I am not sure. I bought a poor substitute but at least there is bread for the snowy days ahead.

On Thursday, I took a trip to Wareham, about 10 miles down route 6, then stopped to visit my friend Pat. I hadn't seen her since summer, had some time and decided it would be a good thing to see her. She is good as can be expected with her health issues. On the way to see her, my car stopped giving heat. The temp gage went towards the red zone...second time this has happened. Within a few minutes, the gage went back to normal. But this is a sign something isn't right...and when I checked the fluid level, the coolant reservoir was empty. On my trip to the market (yesterday evening), I picked up two gallons of coolant, filled the reservoir and heat presented itself. I have a coolant leak somewhere. I suspect the water pump...but will wait for a more definite diagnosis. Since I have all new coolant hoses, there are few things that could be leaking. Maybe the radiator? Car doctors are needed for this one. 

No washing of clothes yesterday, I am trying to regulate the heat in the small room where the washer is set up. There is no heat source in that room, I fear the washer & water pipes may freeze. I brought my electric heater in for some warming. It was my mother's heater, a ceramic type similar to the EdenPure sold. It has a thermostat and can be set to come on for low heating temps. I set it at 40 degrees right close to the water pipes and back of the washing machine. So far, so good.

I am  not having much success with the new remote thermometer I bought for that room. It is not registering the heater adding heat to that area. Today, I hope to resolve this situation.

Snow is now falling at an alarming rate, so I have to go now.

If there is anyone reading, please let me know...

January 5, 2017
I did update this blog the other day, but forgot to click on all the buttons/spaces before "Adding Post" and it was wiped out.

So, I will fill in the blanks. New Year's Eve was quiet. I spent the evening at Dean's. I thought he might go off to his aunt & uncles, but his uncle had been sick, didn't need any company. I went off to bed right after midnight and slept well. New Year's day, Dean worked on washer leveling the washer. Seems the wrong breaker was purchased, so no electric outlet just yet. I did little, back was acting up. Temps were moderate. Monday, the right breaker was brought, installed. Washer was leveled & ready for action. I waited for the dryer since it was to be on top of the washer (stacked). That afternoon, the dryer vent was hooked up & vented through a window. Tuesday I washed the first load of clothes without incident. I was worried the washer had frozen during the nights when temps went down to 8 degrees, but seems all is OK. I had made some "home made" laundry detergent out of Fels Naptha bar soap, washing soda and Borax. It turned into a gel, but seems to work very well to clean clothes (I don't like using bleach since it is very bad for the environment). I am so happy to be able to wear clean sox every day after rotating them for two years!!!

I hope Dean will work on my car today, we are expecting snow and my snow tires have been ready to put on for over 2 weeks now. Also, the starting problem has not been fixed, I have the parts, over $400.00 worth. I will take the car to my guy in Rochester if the parts aren't installed by end of next week. I am happy to pay to have the work done but I need it done!

My back hasn't been great lately, so I am not walking as much as I need to. BB is bored and he lets me know he wants a walk. I try to get it done earlier in the day so I am not "walked out" and in pain. I am still resisting taking many Perks (have had one half in the past two weeks) since I have some unhappy side effects.

I realize I have to complete the narrative I started a few months ago and will get to it soon. Meanwhile, I am hoping I might find some part-time work with Baystate Organic Certifiers if they are hiring. It will all be paperwork, but that will suit me just fine.

Going to get out & washing some clothes since the sun is out & the wind is up. Good drying day.