Postcards from the Woods
Photoblog with random writings...from NY's Lower Hudson Valley
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Monday, July 18, 2005
From the pond
Took the kids fishing today with my friend, a part-time stay-at-home dad and his four boys. The deal: I'd keep his 18-month old out of trouble and he'd hook the worms for the rest of the kids. I think I got the better deal. Worm-handling's never been a strong suit of mine.
We arrived at his house after lunch to do the worm-digging in the compost pile, part of the "whole fishing experience," so said my friend. The kids loved it. "Oh, there's a big one!" And they'd grab its slimy body up and into the plastic chinese soup container filled with dirt. I picked raspberries nearby and tried to look excited when they'd flash their bucket of worms in my face. It took about half an hour to gather enough bait, and turn over the compost "while we were there anyway." Between shovelfuls, I tried to recall whether I'd been asked to go fishing or gardening. On the way to the driveway (almost there!), we took a detour into the "apple grove" where my friend proudly showcased his seven golden apples (from three sapling trees). From there, he pointed out the chicken coop, future home to the soon-to-be-chickens warming in his basement. I was informed by the four-year-old that only one had hatched and the rest were "still cooking."
The loading of seven children into two cars, avec snacks, (mostly) matching shoes, snacks, sunscreen, fishing gear, diapers and various "I have to take this toy with me" outbursts took longer than the backyard farm tour. The three miles to the pond seemed like thirty. Car doors slammed, seat belts buckled, tortuous kiddie music blaring, siblings fighting, check. Finally, finally off to the pond.
I do so like the idea of fishing. The disconnect from technology. I like the patience you need to tie the line and sinkers and hooks and also untangle the same when seven kids (dad included) get their lines crossed. I like the rowing the boat and the gentle rocking and the sound of water slap, slap, slapping against the thin metal frame. I love the casting, the sitting, the waiting, the quiet, the trickery, the excitement and anticipation when you reel in! All that is good. The unhooking, the wriggling, dying fish, the gutting thing, I could do without, but I'd do it if I had to. Happily, the dad did it and we threw all of them back anyway, so the death issue was moot. Or, at least, we weren't witness to it.
I also brought my neighbor's 11-year old daughter, a fine fisherman (fisherkid?) who was taught by her father. An independent only child, she got tired of waiting behind six other kids for her worms to be hooked by the dad, so she took matters into her own hands, literally. She even got my kids to hook their own worms. "Cut this worm in half for me, Mom, it's too long!" Um, I think not. I tried reasoning, "Look, it's the poor fish's last meal. Couldn't you spare the whole worm?" Apparently bait is scarce round these here parts. Call me a wimp, but at least I'm a resourceful one. I found a nice sharp rock for them to use caveman-style. They managed with their primitive rock knife and their worms portions and at the end of the day, caught nine fish altogether. The biggest one had by my daughter while I was entertaining the youngest, thirstiest of the four boys at the car. Didn't get a shot of it, but I heard it was "this big!!"
Friday, July 15, 2005
From the Lake
Every Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend when I was a child, our family would visit Lake Taghkanic State Park in Columbia County. We'd join up with our cousins, uncles, aunts, friends and grandparents for a day-long picnic, from breakfast until sunset. We had a great shady spot on the east side of the park with our own boat "dock" (rocks) and ball field, creek (complete with slimey salamanders and frogs) and a small, family-oriented beach (with snack-bar and very echoey maze of changing rooms) within walking distance.
The kids would take turns getting water for cooking from the only water faucet up the hill, beyond the playground, carrying large pots and pitchers back and forth, splashing most of it out before we arrived at our destination. Then we'd be sent off on a stick hunt for the bonfire. Then a worm hunt for fishing. Then a salamander hunt. We thought it was all fun, but now I know it was just our parents' way of getting some quiet time at the lake.
The days were filled with boat rides, father vs. kid ball games, mahjong for the moms and much food and drink. They'd let us fish with poles made from sticks and line and we'd use squished up hot dog rolls and bread (and Cheetos, oddly) for bait.
We'd hike up to the "Castle" (watertower) and try to spook kids walking up the hill with our ghost noises. We'd climb the circular staircase and look out the windows at the long views to the Catskills to the West and mostly tall trees to the east. We'd hike back down to the picnic area just in time for lunch or dinner when we'd feast on bbq'd pork and burgers and hot dogs. We got to eat chips and soda to our fill (a special treat at our house) and roasted marshmallows in the evening. Then we'd load our cars up again and take the long (40 minutes) ride home.
I take my kids there now, but they prefer the larger, teenager-filled and thus, noisier, west beach. I don't mind, as long as I can find a shady tree to sit under. We're going with some friends next week. I hope to have more photos of the lake and maybe the kids in the rowboats.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Around the Garden: Mid-July
Seems like a long time since I took photos of the gardens. I do believe it coincides with the kids being home for the summer! Got a few shots the other day when I wasn't playing kiddie taxi driver.
patio tomatoes, eluding the japanese beetles, for now...
the herb garden box, blew too early in the heat
gerbera daisies on their second bloom!
I have no idea what these are, but I also planted them in my perennial bed and nearly ripped them out, thinking their tender leaves were merely grass.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Monday, July 04, 2005
Saturday, July 02, 2005
About Postcards from the Woods
I started this blog on a friend's suggestion that I have a place to share my photos and writings. It's been almost a year now and I'm glad I put aside the time to focus on my thoughts and pictures and share them with you, the few, the loyal twelve fans of the Woods. ;-)
The title came from a daydream I had about a favorite writer/artist who said he was never unhappy while spending time in the woods. I pictured him walking through the wilderness, mostly self-sufficient, only popping out long enough to mail a hand-written letter or a postcard...from the woods. I loved the image: a mailbox on the edge of the forest...the postman visiting regularly to pick up the mail from the unknown author walking the forest.
The photos shared here and mostly of things, places, people near here. Here being Dutchess County, NY. Hudson Valley photos, mostly. I hope it provides a glimpse, a snapshot of what things are like, right now, around here.
My focus lately has been on photographing local farms. Many are at risk of being bought out by developers who plan enormous housing developments. I have about 15 local farms photographed, in various seasons and states of development.
Aside from the issues of over-crowding, loss of open space and environmental impact, the mass development is kind of sad. I've grown up here, my kids are growing up here and maybe their kids will, too. I just want the same or as close to the same environment for them as I had. I think about the banks of the Hudson River when I was in college. All you saw were trees on the western bank. Now, one by one, houses are popping up over there. First the trees go down, then the rock is blasted, then the well is drilled and finally the framing goes up. Not quite the scene that the Hudson River School painters would've enjoyed painting, perhaps.
Once a farm turns into a housing development, it's not turning back. I've never seen them plow under a neighborhood to grow apples.
In between the farm pictures, and OK, the boring shots of my garden, I'll share some random thoughts, peeves, joys or challenges from the Woods which, hopefully, you'll find amusing, informative or simply bordering on the insane. Then you'll know what its truly like...in the Woods. = )
Comments & criticisms are welcome anytime!
"I think it is just as important to bring to people the evidence of the beauty of the world of nature and of man as it is to give them a document of ugliness, squalor and despair." - Ansel Adams
Camera equipment: Lame! = ) Until I can afford the Digital SLR, I'm using Kodak's EasyShare DX7630 and DX4330.
Friday, July 01, 2005
A View from the Bleachers
A View from the Bleachers
Watching baseball in New York is an exciting experience, whether you take the #4 or the #7 to the stadium. I'm a new fan to the game and I had the opportunity to go to my first Yankee game this year.
The Yankees were playing the first place Mariners to a sold-out stadium. Which is why, of course, I was sitting waaaaaay out in the left field bleachers. That's right. I was a bleacher creature. A bleacher bumb. It was okay I thought, since I was at Yankee Stadium - the house that Ruth built. But as I sat in my seat, desperately trying to locate home plate with my better than 20/20 vision, I thought that even the great Ruth wouldn't have lasted very long out there. Pinstripes or no pinstripes. It is far.
The left-center field bleachers are beyond Monument Park and beyond the Yankee bullpen. Thanks to Mayor Rudy, it is alcohol-free seating and, apparently, hot dog vendor-free, as well. Which was unfortunate because I was hungry! No problem, I thought, I'll just go get one at one of the many (two) vending booths behind the seats. As I made my way over to the aisle, I overheard a man say, "Fourth inning!?!?!?! I left in the second!" I sat back down. I convinced myself I wasn't that hungry. I'll just get something later when I walk around to check out the stadium. But apparently, you can't just walk around the stadium from the bleacher seats. Nope, you're locked in. No beer. No hot dog vendors. No sneaking into the good seats. It was baseball jail.
But at least we had the bullpen. The fellow bleacher creatures and I were happy to see Mariano Rivera very up close and personal. And you can actually hear that phone ring when the call comes in from the dugout. It was like the bat-phone. Phone rings. Pitcher warms up. Pitcher runs through secret door to the field. Cool. And he was close enough to say "hi" to, which many people did and he, politely, smiled and waved back.
It was from the Yankee Stadium bleachers that I saw my first live homerun. And my second. And my third. After a while, it became kind of expected. "Oh, look, (yawn) here comes another one." Come to think of it, no one seemed overly excited about the homeruns. Maybe it's because they've seen so many from those world champion Yankees. Maybe it's because there is no chance that you could catch one out there. They would have to hit it like 450 feet and have hurricane force winds behind it to reach our seats. Homerun, shmomerun.
So we couldn't eat. Couldn't drink. Couldn't catch homerun balls. Couldn't really see the game all that well. But we could cheer and cheer we did.
They have some serious fans up there in the Bronx bleachers. They had chants and signs and "K’s" all in a row. And, most importantly, they had waves. I thought I had seen some advanced wave-making in my time, but these guys ranked right up there. Sure, they had wave-makers. But they had wave-blockers. That's right - blockers. It was like a giant physics experiment out there!
The wave starts in left field bleachers, comes around to left-center, magically crosses the seatless center-field area and then BAM, hits the "wave-blockers" in right-center bleachers. These are guys dedicated to blocking all well-intentioned waves from ever reaching the right field bleachers.
"How," you ask. They stand, facing the wave-makers with arms sturdily crossed in front of them and refuse to do the wave, thereby blocking it from the rest of the right field bleacher creatures. Wave-blockers. They got ‘em in the Bronx. They blocked and we booed. You gotta do something to keep busy out there in the bleachers.
They have dedicated fans of all ages out there. Little kids knew more about baseball than, well, me, for one. They knew the names of all the players, for one thing. Which was critical for me, the uninformed, since, as I'm sure you know, Yankees don't have their names on their uniforms like the rest of the baseball world. "You should just know," my lifetime Yankee fan friend, Brian, enlightened me. Know your phone number. Know your anniversary date. Know the Yankees uniform numbers and names. I couldn't see anyway, so it didn't matter if I didn't know who was batting. He had pinstripes, which meant that he was destined to be on base at any minute and that was all that mattered.
These kids knew that. They were professional fans. They even knew which pitchers to use in which situations. They knew, before the bat-phone ever rang, that Mariano was going to warm-up (apparently he's a "closer" and pitches at the "end" of the game). They were lined up to take pictures way before he got out of his perch overlooking the outfield.
They knew when the grounds-crew was scheduled to appear for their nightly YMCA infield raking show, practicing their human "Y’s" and "M’s" long before the crew came to the field. That grounds-crew show brought more cheers from the bleachers than all three homeruns put together.
I guess it's all in how you look at it. And from the bleacher seats, maybe it's all in how you don't.