Wednesday, April 21, 2021

One More Time!

Here we go again - another big winter storm is dropping half a foot or so of snow on us today and into tomorrow. To add to the difficulties of the situation, we are told there will be lots of wind tomorrow! That will be bad news again with tree branches already stressed under the weight of this heavy, wet snow.

I measured two inches on my deck this morning. The snow that collected in my measuring tube amounted to .42 in. of precipitation. We are certainly gaining on the drought conditions. When I was taking measurements this morning, the snow was coming down not in mere flakes, but in big gobs. (See photos.) At a temperature of 36F, it is not melting rapidly, and that will be a problem as it builds up on trees and utility lines, especially. Many of us could lose power later today or when the wind picks up tomorrow. My hope is that this is the last hurrah from Old Man Winter.

I know people are hoping to arrive at Joe's Pond soon now from their winter sanctuaries in southern climes, but now probably isn't the ideal time. I remember the days when our family "opened camp" each spring. We came only from St. Johnsbury, but often arrived in shorts and light tee-shirts, appropriate for the temperatures in St. Jay, but way too summery for Joe's Pond that early in the spring. Even so, we loved the sounds and the smells of the place. Often the pond still had ice and the kids were busy pushing it away from the dock and we had to caution them not to "test" the ice by trying to walk on it. It sometimes took a great deal of patience and a watchful eye to keep three rambunctious boys safe and still get work done.

Opening camp involved hitching up the water supply and then washing and cleaning literally everything. Our camp was more finished inside than some others, but far less so than the new homes that today have replaced so many of the original cottages. As soon as families left in the fall, small critters took up residence in the easily accessed cottages, so by spring there were flies, mice nests and droppings - and some totally unidentifiable messes to clean out. Drawers were emptied and the contents washed. Dishes were removed and washed and the cupboards and drawers thoroughly cleaned and lined with fresh shelf paper. Windows were washed and floors scrubbed. Cobwebs were swept down and spiders removed - for whatever reason, I felt compelled to capture and release them outside. They no doubt simply took up residence again, but I didn't like to kill them.

Everything smelled like "camp." The musty smell as we first opened the door, sometimes having to force it if the frost was still not quite out and the foundation was a bit askew. The inside of camp was always colder than the warm spring air outside, and we rushed to open windows to "dry things out." Outside there was the familiar smell of of warm earth, the sound of the ice crinkling and creaking as the wind shifted it in big, porous slabs, and ducks and geese calling loudly to announce open water over there! or no place to land here! We sometimes watched beavers swim down the brook as if they knew we had arrived and wanted to greet us. Or sometimes they would dive and slap their tails hard on the water as if to let us know we were intruding in their territory. In later years, we had one beaver that would playfully tease our black lab, "Clint" by swimming close to shore and then when Clint would jump into the water after the beaver, it dove and swan in circles just out of the dog's reach. We had to call Clint in because he would get so tired chasing the beaver we were concerned for him - and the water was so cold, it must have been uncomfortable for the dog. But he never gave up for long and would run along the shore barking as the beaver swam back and forth, just out of reach, teasing him. 

The first night we stayed at camp was always an adventure. The kids had no trouble falling asleep - they were exhausted from a busy day getting boats int the water and being "gofers" for Dad and Grandpa as they hooked up the water and did various repairs. Tools were always just out of reach or they needed an extra hand to hold a board in place or to run an errand, and the boys were usually willing helpers, getting plenty of exercise running back and forth. But, for the adults, falling asleep wasn't always as easy. The din of "peepers" in the marsh was for some an irritation compared to the accustomed hum of traffic and neighborhood noises in town. There was the pattern to the peepers' song. As the dusk of evening settled, there was first a loud, clear solo followed by a steadily rising frog chorus in high-pitched unison for several minutes before calming to almost complete silence. Humans might begin to drift off and then the whole cycle started again with the leader calling out for everyone to chime in - over and over, again and again, throughout the night. For me, the sound of that frog concert was better than any mood music or "soundscape" I ever heard. It was a natural lullaby.

Opening camp, whether it's a rustic and frosty cold, dark cavern when you open the door, or a minimally-heated, tightly sealed capsule that is much as you left it in the autumn, everyone has nostalgic sensations in that first exciting moment. The smells, sights and sounds of Joe's Pond in spring are welcome reminders of all the good times, friendly gatherings and intimate moments experienced in the past, and anticipated for the coming months.  Even for those who will return without a beloved family member, or must face the summer knowing a long-time friend will no longer be at the meetings or will be seen at the local store, just being here is soothing and calming. It's what summer at the pond is all about. 

Whenever you are ready, welcome back, Joe's Ponder!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Signs of Spring

 The changeable weather is certainly an unmistakable sign of spring in Vermont. We had rain showers yesterday, but not enough to do more than wet the pavement of my driveway for a few minutes before the sun would break through the clouds and dry it off, only to laps back to become cloudy, cold and dreary once again. Today is going to be much the same - and there is a little shower passing through. Like yesterday, the temperature today is at 48 degrees is actually very comfortable for working outside. Sometime after lunch yesterday I decided to go outside to putter around, but every time I made a start, showers began again. I kept thinking, "April showers bring May flowers," and was content to retreat to the warmth of my living room. Finally, close to supper time, I got outside to do a little work.

When I came in a little later, and was checking my email,  I noticed movement on the back lawn. At first I couldn't be sure what it was, but then a big turkey strolled from behind a cedar tree, picking up seeds or bugs as he went. I didn't pay much attention - turkeys in the yard are pretty common, but I did wonder where the rest of the flock was. Suddenly, I saw him drop his wings, fan his tail and with head lowered, run down the lawn towards the garage. I grabbed my camera and dashed to another window, but he remained out of sight. By the time I located him again, he had apparently found the object of his mating display behind the garage,  so my next view was after he had settled his feathers, contentedly concentrating on gaining a full craw in preparation for a long night of roosting with his mate, while she was fully composed and obviously unflustered. I'm sorry I didn't get a photo of him in full regalia - it was quite a sight! I expect they may find a nesting place nearby, or perhaps they already have!

We are expecting changeable weather for the next several days. We are also going to be blessed with another onslaught of heavy, wet snow later in the week; but then I hope we will see a real upturn and everything will begin to bloom. I've found a few bulbs have poked through and I have a crocus or two showing up, plus a solitary tulip that came out of nowhere - I haven't had tulips in my garden for years, but this one came up close to the foundation - obviously a leftover from some more energized time in my gardening life. I found some lilies poking through - I think they are tiger lilies. I have lots of lemon lilies or day lilies, but I thought I'd lost all the tiger lilies. It will be interesting to watch these sprouts develop. These "new" old plants are a result, I believe, of having my neighbor Anita Kelman prep my flower beds last fall. They were in sad need of attention, needing weeding and mulching. After Anita got them weeded, I mulched with some well aged wood chips. That seems to have been a good move, as things are showing up - somewhat out of place, but at least alive and apparently well!

Now the latest shower has passed so I'm going outside to see if I can find any daffodils that survived the foot of snow, more or less, that covered them recently. I will be dodging showers again today, for sure. I'm just hoping it won't be snow showers.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Seasonal Weather is Back! We know the Ice-Out Winner!!!!

 We now know that the winning ticket (4:59 p.m. on April 10) was one of 60 tickets purchased on line by Galina Mesko of Newport! She told Diane Rossi that she has been purchasing tickets since she was at UVM (she graduated in 2013!) when she became interested in the contest after a classmate did some kind of project about our contest. I don't recall that, but we've had lots of people engaged in stories or research projects involving our Ice-Out over the years. Galina said she will use the money to pay down her student debt. This year's split is well over $5,000, so I 'm sure she will be delighted when she gets that check!

 Most of the snow has melted and we are almost back to "normal," or at least back to more seasonal weather. It has remained chilly today, in the low 50s, but there has been continuous, slow melting of all that snow (probably 10 to 12 inches) we got this past week. Because of the slow melting and because we didn't have any downpours or rain, the precipitation has slowly seeped into the ground and should help a great deal to bring the water table back. I'm sure it has given the grass and other vegetation a big boost. We are still very brown, while even in Danville the laws are showing a lot of green.

I haven't been out on our road over the weekend, but the town put several loads of gravel in the mud holes and the grader worked to smooth some of the worst spots out. There are still a number of spots that still have frost and will probably break down into mud bogs before the road is completely ready for a deep honing and smoothing. We'll get there!

 It's getting close to the time that a lot of summer Joe's Ponders will be coming back - some briefly to "open camp" and others moving back for the duration of the summer. It's pretty quiet here now, and we look forward to a fun summer since everyone will (hopefully) be vaccinated. I suspect lots of us will be reluctant to put away our masks, and the usual hand shakes and hugs will not be forthcoming as we greet each other after the many months of seclusion, but that's okay. We'll all do whatever is personally comfortable. Our pavilion is normally very open, so there's good circulation - except sometimes for social gatherings if it happens to be cold or raining - then the side curtains are up, but there's still plenty of "fresh air" circulating, I expect. However, it does get crowded at those, and I haven't heard whether the JPA Board has discussed if seating should be limited at dinners and other social events. I'm sure they will weigh the facts and make an informed decision when the time comes. All this is new territory for us. Some of us may never be as comfortable in crowds as we once were. Still, Joe's Pond is a great place to be - to sit out a pandemic or whatever the rest of the world is up to. It's like a retreat for many of us - we can turn off all our radios and televisions, turn off our cell phones and just listen to the water splashing on the beach, the loons calling, and the reassuring hum of an occasional motorboat. Happy Days Ahead!


Friday, April 16, 2021

Winter Wonderland or Spring Shock?

 Just as many of us thought, we awoke to a white world this morning - Mother Nature's gift of drought relief that keeps on giving as the heavy, wet snow continues to fall. (Pictures of my lawn taken a few minutes ago.) 

We desperately need the moisture, and it looks like we will end up with a fair amount of it. Rain began here around noon yesterday, Thursday, and continued gently into the night. As the temperature dropped, the rain turned to snow and this morning I measured four inches. It is continuing to snow and we will possibly gain another two or more inches today, even though the temperature I recorded at 9 a.m. was 35 degrees. Needless to say, this is a wet, heavy snow that will likely take down some trees - and there is a bit of wind that will add to our misery as it works on weak branches and vulnerable laden trees to take them down.

Yesterday as I was coming home from a dentist appointment, I was noticing all the limbs and trees along West Shore Road that have come down in the past few weeks (and some during the winter). Nature will prune and cull out trees for us, but sometimes not in a good way. The old, rotten or damaged branches or weakened trees will be taken down and left to decay on the ground - or in the roadways. There are always evidence of wind or snow damage as spring arrives. I'm sure many Joe's Ponders will find their work cut out for them clearing their driveways and lawns when they arrive back at their summer homes here. No surprise - it happens every winter.

I have been following the discussion going on in Danville about changing the mascot of the Danville school's sports teams from "Indians" so some other, politically acceptable, name. The decision was made after several meetings of the school board with residents back in March, but recently another group of Danville residents got together a petition asking that the decision be reversed. Yesterday I read in the Caledonian Record that the school board will not rescind their decision.

The mascot, a symbolic image of an American Indian in full headdress, is symbolic of Indian Joe who was a member of the Abenaki Tribe. He and his wife, Molly, lived and hunted in our area in the 1700s. Joe was a scout for George Washington's soldiers during the American Revolution, and was well known for his help to not only the military, but also to early settlers in our region. Joe's Pond and Molly's Pond were named for him and his wife. This was done out of the utmost respect for the couple as a way to honor them.

However, in the modern-day climate, using a symbolic image of an "Indigenous American" is unacceptable. Consequently, most of those images were apparent removed from use at Danville School some years ago when this issue first came up.

When Dave Shilling, now principle at Danville, began his tenure at the school in 2018, he found a file with some sample logos that were apparently under consideration at the time the issue was first addressed but that had not been used. He adapted one of those images and began using it on leterheads and other school-related communications. (See image on the right.)

No definitive decision was made at that time by the school's board and the issue faded into the background; but it never went away. It was raised again this spring and Zoom meetings were  held and opinions noted.  At one of the recent discussions, two representatives of the Abenaki Nation, Dr. Ruth Moore, a tribal therapist and representative for the Koasek Traditional Board of the Sovereign Abenaki Nation, and Chief Richard Menard of the Missisquoi Abenaki, clearly had no objections to the use of the original mascot. However, in the present climate of "pliitical correctness," the school board decided to proceed with making the change. Some Danville residents, including former students at Danville, recently raised objections and a petition was  circulated to  gain support for keeping the original mascot. However, the school board intends to stand by the previous decision and a committee will be formed to explore  acceptable mascots that will be officially adopted by the school. 

Does this make you wonder how long before someone protests Joe's and Molly's name on our beloved ponds? Perhaps since "Indian" is not part of the names of either of the ponds, those will be exempt from scrutiny. At least twice in years past there has been a suggestion that "Joe's Pond" be changed to the more sophisticated "Joe's Lake;" and one other time a camper  suggested the name should be changed to "Lake St. Joseph" to give it more class. Both were used briefly; "Joe's Lake" appeared on Joe's Pond Association meeting minutes all of one summer season, and "Lake St. Joseph" was used for a short time by a Barre newspaper when reporting on events here. That said, it would not be surprising if items such as books or tee-shirts with a stylized image, no matter how long-standing, are likely to be banned or at very least shunned.  Those of us who have those items may want to hold onto such items, or even acquire more as they will become rare and valuable one day as a part of history.

On a snowy morning at Joe's Pond, I will now attend to more pressing business - like shoveling away the now six inches of snow from my doorways.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Dreary Day

 Not every day can be sunny and warm, and today was proof of that. We do need rain, and by noon we were getting the first sprinkles. Later in the afternoon the sprinkles turned to a very light but steady rain. It's cold (38.7F) and we will no doubt look out at daybreak on a white world again. The prediction is three to five inches of snowfall for our area. Pretty typical April weather, but that doesn't make it any more welcome.

Yesterday I picked did some pruning on the old lilac bush, hoping a good clipping will help to rejuvenate it, and I noticed that the daffodils on the bank below it were budded. Only a few were fully open, but  knowing snow is expected, I gathered some and then added some rhododendron leaves. This morning the daffies were in full bloom and beautiful. I suspect those left outside will be crushed by heavy, wet snow by tomorrow. Some will recover nicely, but a few will break  under the weight of the snow.

Today was a full day for me, and I'm really tired tonight. I had an early morning dental appointment to have a troublesome wisdom tooth extracted. I feel very fortunate that I found Dr. Scott Bedell in Lyndonville. For the past year, because of the Covid pandemic, I avoided going to a dentist, and wanted to start fresh because I knew I would need quite a bit of "catch up" work. I've been very pleased with everyone at Dr. Bedell's office. They are friendly, exceedingly thorough and very conscientious about protecting patients and staff from the virus. I felt perfectly comfortable there right from the first visit.

I had a few other errands to do when I finished at the dentist's and arrived home at about noon. When I went to my computer to check emails and get a little work done, the mouse wouldn't work - at all. I have little or no knowledge about the mechanics of such gadgets. Fred took care of all of that. But I figured the batteries were dead, like happens with my phone and just about every other gadget in the house these days. However, I pushed and pried, but I couldn't figure out how to get it open. I still had my laptop so I was able to send an email to Jamie to please stop in and help me. Turned out the darned mouse doesn't need batteries. All I needed to do was to reboot the computer. Why didn't I think of that? Restarting fixes almost everything! After all, isn't that what spring is all about?

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Mud Season

 I found out this morning that mud season on West Shore Road is definitely a reality. Just when I thought we might be getting off easy this year, the frost began to come out in all the usual places along West Shore Road. 

I had an early appointment for physical therapy (neck and shoulders for vertigo) this morning and left at about the usual time in order to be on time. I hadn't been on the road since last Thursday or Friday, and aside from being slimy and pretty rough in spots, there were no big muddy spots. That had changed drastically over the weekend. From Meadow Lane on, there were patches of deep mud - on the hill from Keenan's driveway to Dudley's, a stretch near Joan Davis's and along the flat by LaPrade's all the way to Walker's. The flat from Shelly Walker's to Barre Avenue was pretty good, but the Danville end was bad, too. It took me considerably longer than usual to carefully navigate the mud. I was a few minutes late for my appointment, but no harm done.  About two hours later when I came back through, Cabot had dumped loads of what looked like small size crushed rock in the bad spots, but it had not been leveled and honed into shape. That was a little dicey to navigate, too, but not as bad as the mud. A little later I saw the grader go down through, so I know it has been smoothed out again. I think most of the usual mud holes were active today, so perhaps we won't have to worry about them any more this year. Some years it's a matter of getting one hole fixed and another previously dry spot will suddenly turn into a mud bog. There are usually islands in between the muddy spots, depending on where the frost hasn't gone out. We are expecting a little rain, or perhaps some snow, Thursday and into Friday. The bad roads may be with us for a little longer.

Today was pretty nice even though we didn't have much sunshine. It's nice to see the pond fully open and I noticed the grass is beginning to green up even in Danville. Not so much at Joe's Pond, but we'll see it by the end of this week, I expect - unless it's covered with snow.

It's nice to hear that almost 50% of Vermonters have had at least one shot of vaccine, and many have completed two shots and are considered fully vaccinated. The numbers are looking better, too, and hopefully things will continue to be opened up without another surge in positive tests showing up.  So if you are heading this way, know that there is still some danger of bumping into the virus, so the advice from our governor is to keep your masks handy and avoid crowds and unnecessary travel to areas that may have a higher incidence of Covid 19. We want everyone to be safe.

Monday, April 12, 2021

A Word to the Wise

 I should practice what I preach! Almost every year, usually in early April, I mention on this page that people should remove their bird feeders so bears won't be tempted. This is the first winter I've fed the birds in a number of years. I got a small seed holder that I could stick on my big picture window in the living room and have enjoyed watching nuthatches and chickadees feeding there this winter. In the back of my mind, I had April 1st as the date to take down the feeder, but because I had a small amount of seeds left, and the feeder is well off the ground (at least 6 ft. up, attached to the picture window), I wasn't too concerned.

Last night I saw the light on the garage come on - it is triggered by motion. I looked out, but didn't see anything. I was expecting to catch a glimpse of a skunk or perhaps a stray cat or dog. The light went off and I settled down to watch television. Suddenly I heard a little noise by the window on my right and glanced over there just in time to see the bird feeder disappearing! I jumped up and cranked open the window and shouted "Get out of here!" a couple of times, and then ran to the kitchen where I happened to have a big heavy iron skillet on the stove (I was going to cook a beef roast for my supper last night but had put that off in favor of something quicker), and grabbed a metal spatula. I turned on the deck light and went out, banged on the skillet and shouted "Get out of here!" again several times. I couldn't see anything in the darkness, but I could hear geese on the pond chattering away. All else was quiet. I was pretty sure it had to be a bear.

This morning I was out early to see if I could find the little tray that had been knocked off of the plastic attachment on the window. It was empty, on the ground, unharmed. There were obvious muddy marks on the side of the house - big smudges from the bear's paws. That was one hungry big bear to reach that high for a few bird seeds. Believe me, the feeder is inside tonight - I will continue putting it out for the next couple of mornings just to use up the remaining bird food. Lesson learned!

Keep garbage, composters, and anything else that bears will smell - and their sense of smell is keener than most other animals - inside your garage or some other place that can be securely closed. Remember that bears are powerful animals and very clever. They will also remember where they got an easy meal and return. If they become bothersome, a game warden will come and probably shoot the animal, and that is really not something any of us want to have happen. So protect yourself and the wildlife and if you do encounter a bear on your property, make loud noises to let him/her know this is not a good place to be. If there is no available food and they have a noisy reception when they show up, they will not return.

By the way, the ice was completely gone from the pond by late Sunday afternoon - except Jamie said he saw a "berg" still floating around out there perhaps early Monday morning when he was trying to locate buoy markers in preparation for putting out markers for Sunken Island, etc. He said he couldn't locate the marker for Smith's Point, but later spotted it well north of the actual location it's supposed to be. He will get markers and buoys out soon, weather permitting. In the meantime, any boaters should be aware there can be a variety of junk floating around after the ice goes out - so be careful. Summer is almost here!

One More Time!

Here we go again - another big winter storm is dropping half a foot or so of snow on us today and into tomorrow. To add to the difficulties ...