Sunny and Snowy

When one owns a dog who needs exercise, one must walk. In the rain. In the sun. In the snow. In the heat of summer. In the sub-zero temps of winter. Even during a polar vortex, by golly!  And here is proof it can be done:

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Nevermind you can’t see the dog in this picture. I assure you, she is there, somewhere in the woods, hopping through the snow looking for what, I do not know. Nothing dampens her spirits.

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Not a blizzard…..

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….not a polar vortex so cold even Letchworth State Parks’ Middle Falls partially freezes over……

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….and certainly not the warm (balmy!) sunny weather of this afternoon. See me waving to you there?  And here is Fergie searching for squirrels to chase…..

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And look at this rectangular hole made by a woodpecker. I have never seen one that was not rounded. Had to stop and take a picture.

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Happy February everyone! Here’s to more hikes (or snowshoeing or skiing) in whatever Mother Nature brings our way.

Small Graces

Walking in winter affords fewer opportunities for viewing wildlife like songbirds who have flown south, or rabbits and fox, who stay hidden in thickets or dens. But there are still interesting patterns and colors in nature this time of year. You just have to use your imagination at times.

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This shelf of turkey tail fungi are green, I think, from the wet conditions. If I imagine a shift in size, I can see cliffs instead of fungi.

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And this 2-foot frozen waterfall could be…..Niagara Falls?  🙂

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The power of frost to heave the ground. This ice formation reminds me of rock crystals.

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Use your imagination to see the black cat sitting quietly in the middle of the tree. Can you see it?

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Finally, one of my favorite “tunnels” on a hike in state land. With, of course, my favorite walking companion.  Happy hiking/skiing/snowshoeing, friends!  Don’t forget to use your imaginations!

 

A Walk a Day Keeps a Girl Busy!

Since acquiring a four-year-old English Spring Spaniel last month, Todd and I have walked every day at least once. Meet Fergie, our newest dog.

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She doesn’t ever really walk. She springs! She leaps! She bolts! She pounces! She races! AND she wiggles that docked tail of hers whenever she is happy, which is most of the time.  My routine since Fergie came into our lives is to race home after my last class, find her waiting excitedly at the door, change into winter hiking attire and head out to walk her. We often go to state land nearby where she can run free.

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Sometimes we go to a dead end road at the top of the hill and walk past corn fields and hunting land. I prefer this on sunny days when I need to see the blue sky and sunshine.

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All I know is, life is good with a dog as a walking companion.  I’d write more, but Fergie wants to head out the door. See ya’ later!

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snowshoes!!

I’ve been having a great time out in the far pasture, where I did a lot of trail work. It’s almost done, a few more low branches to snip away. It’s roughly a figure eight with side loops and an open meadow in the middle to wander around in. The other day–Saturday–I went out on snowshoes for the first time this winter. And more snow is coming now, so I’ll go out again soon. jan 13 back tracks

I love the wide, funny tracks my snowshoes make.

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It was a brilliant sunny day, with lots of fluffy new snow that dropped from branches onto my head every time I touched a tree! jan 13 snowy field

I wasn’t the only one out there making tracks–this is a deer track, across the meadow I traversed on my way home.jan 13 abandoned tractor

That meadow, across the road from us, is owned by our neighbor. We have permission to snowshoe, ski, hike, ramble, and pick apples and blackberries there. This abandoned old tractor in the middle of their field somehow looks picturesque.jan 13 sunny snow

This picture is taken standing in the middle of the far pasture looking south toward our house. jan 13 snowshoes

I love these modern snowshoes they make these days. So light, small, convenient. Hurray for winter!jan 13 snowshow path.JPG

 

 

 

 

a bit of snow

This morning I went out to walk the far pasture trails. I took my bow saw and nippers but didn’t plan on doing a lot of work. It’s snowing and it was a lovely morning to be out there. I saw squirrel and opossom and deer tracks. jan 9 far pasture trail entrance

This is the entrance to the trails. It runs along a lovely gurgling stream. There are lots of thorn apple trees, and lots of apple trees. jan 9 far pasture 5

Most of the trees in this picture are apple trees. The part of the trail I worked on today runs just inside a hedgerow with many cherry trees. jan 9 far pasture 4

All the branches were covered with snow–so pretty!

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

As any reader could see, my ten days of daily walking only made it to three, but that’s OK. I’ve been out in the woods lately creating trails which is a nice combination of work and meditation. We live on 100 or so acres of mixed hardwood forest, overgrown apple orchards, pastures, hayfields, beaver ponds, and brushy areas. I have been making trails in what we call “the far pasture”, in the northwestern corner of the property. trails 2.jpg

This is a picture of an invasive shrub called bush honeysuckle, or Japanese honeysuckle. I’ve cut down many, many of these in my trail work. Our land is full of rocky hedgerows and old field stone walls.  There are also many thorn apple trees, which I do have to trim sometimes, but which are extremely useful as wildlife habitat and forage, so I work around them as much as I can. The invasive honeysuckle doesn’t provide much for wildlife, and crowds out native plants, so I go after those without compunction. Anyway they don’t stay cut down–they send up exuberant shoots from the root.  Below is my trail-making equipment: small bow saw and long-handled nippers. I sometimes bring a thermos of coffee and some cookies or a sandwich.trails 5

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There are lots of grapevines, too, which I can usually work around. I’ve seen porcupine, grouse, rabbits, squirrels, a hawk, and chickadees in my recent trail work. It’s peaceful and relaxing yet good exercise. Hopefully J and T and their new English Springer Spaniel can come up again this winter and enjoy the trails!

 

day three

I drove over in the late afternoon to Plumb Brook where there are many trails, but I didn’t stay long. It was really beautiful, but I just felt uneasy being out there alone. Wish I had a couple of big dogs with me–no reason for it, but I just couldn’t relax. So I took a few pictures, and went back home. Here’s the way in: dec 17 plumb brook track

birch trees had not let go of their leaves, and the soft brown color made a nice color contrast with the dark green of the pine trees. dec 17 birch leaves

Tilting the camera up I took a picture of the treetops–very tall trees, their tops swaying in a light breeze.dec 17 plumb brook treetops

And on the ground, one snowy pine cone:dec 17 plumb brook pine cone

Next time I will  bring someone along so I feel more comfortable, and explore the trails along here.

ten day walking challenge day two report

It’s already Monday morning on day 3 so I’m reporting on yesterday’s adventure. I walked (okay, strolled, slowly) in our woods for an hour and a half. The weather and the woods were both absolutely quiet. No wind, no bird calls, one red squirrel chattering at me near the big red oak, that’s it. I am fortunate to “own” 115 acres of woods, fields, scrubby marshy wetlands, beaver ponds and pasture. In much of it I’ve carved out walking paths. At some points these paths run parallel to the road. When the leaves are on no one can see me, but when leaves are off, if I hear an Amish buggy or a vehicle approach, I simply stop moving and it goes past without anyone ever noticing. But yesterday I was walking slowly along and a voice said “don’t shoot me”, which just about made me jump out of my skin! It was my good friend and neighbor out for a walk, both of us quiet-footed. She thought I was a hunter, and was afraid I would shoot her! We laughed about it and made a date for when we get snow to get together for a snowshoe and hot chocolate.

The big thing: the huge and very “dead” maple that we called “the grandmother maple” finally came down. This was a landmark for us, a place we visited on every woods ramble. It was very “dead” even when I arrived here 20 years ago. I put the word “dead” in quotation marks because the tree itself had died and yet it was full of life, host to innumerable porcupines and myriad smaller creatures. Branch by branch it fell away in pieces, but a wind must have finally pushed the massive main trunk down. dec 16 fallen elder maple

There is another landmark tree, also very large and dead as a tree but alive with woodpeckers and smaller critters. It’s an ash tree, and enormous for that species. It took us awhile to identify it since ash trees rarely get this massive. But it had unmistakable leaves on its few remaining live branches, and it was surrounded for hundreds of yards by its “descendants”, smaller ash trees. This is the photo I took of it yesterday. dec 16 old giant ashOther BIG things I saw included the view toward the northwest from the highest point on our land, a spot I call Dragon Bones Ridge because of all the giant boulders sticking out of it in a long curving line. Here is the view:dec 16 view from dragon bone ridge

Tiny things I noticed included some ice crystals along a narrow stream, a small poplar leaf on the ground, and a beautiful pattern on a fallen branch:dec 16 ice crystal forms

dec 16 fallen leaf

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It was great to be out in the woods. It’s always amazing to me how much the woods changes through the year–the trails I cut never stay cut. New growth reaches in and up, deer use my paths and also create new ones that criss-cross mine, branches fall into the path, and sometimes whole trees fall so that I have to reroute. In the winter I can see bird nests and squirrel nests that were hidden in summer. It’s a magical place. Next week my sister and her husband and their new English Springer Spaniel Fergie is coming for a visit and we will go out to explore the woods. I can’t wait!

 

ten day walking challenge day one

Well, first of all I have to report a big reward I got for getting out there–I saw a mink! It’s not common to see them: although they are plentiful here, they are shy. This one was moving in unhurried short leaps along the ice on the edge of the Little River–here is a picture of the river I took–didn’t get the camera out fast enough to get the mink. dec 15 little river.jpg

Well that was thrilling. Then, as I was walking (50 minutes total) the sky went from mostly cloudy to mostly sunny. Beautiful! dec 15 sunny path

The walk goes along the athletic field, along the Little River through pine trees, then along the much bigger Grasse River. Here is the Grasse River:dec 15 grass river

For my BIG things, I noticed the sky, the tops of tall pine trees, as well as the broad Grasse River. dec 15 pine tree tops

dec 15 sky

For the teenytiny things, I noticed a pine tree seedling about 5 inches high, and a tiny “pond” in the woods (OK, maybe a puddle).dec 15 tiny tree

dec 15 tiny pond

A good start!

 

 

 

 

getting out of the “saddle” (SADAL)

We can agree on the big things, even if the details from nutrition and health experts keep changing: eat mostly real food (not processed food-like substances), plenty of fresh vegetables and whole fruits, and whole grains; keep sugar to an occasional treat; exercise regularly; get enough rest and sleep; avoid stress. But to do these apparently simple things, I at least and I suspect many of my peers, have to do battle with, or resist, the SADAL: Standard American Diet And Lifestyle. This means two huge challenges: 1. change lifelong habits, and 2. resist the “habits” of our whole culture. Still worth doing, but let’s not underestimate how hard it can be. The SAD and the SAL dovetails very well. We work long hours, often sitting down, in often stressful circumstances. We are encouraged by ubiquitous advertising and our own well-developed habits, to deal with busy-ness and stress by taking pills,  doing “retail therapy”, driving instead of walking or biking, eating sugar, watching TV, etc. Rarely do I say to myself, “Wow, I have a really full day tomorrow and I feel barely able to keep up, I guess I better sleep in, take a long walk, and eat a bag of raw carrots.” No, I set the alarm an hour earlier, feeling resentful at my job and frustrated at myself for poor time management, skip the walk, drink more coffee, grab the (usually less-than-carrot-rich) food that’s easily available, and put the old nose to the grindstone. *sigh*. Our culture pushes sugar at us virtually every single day, and stimulates the heck out of us so we get hyped up yet pressed down.

OK, so enough complaining!! What am I going to do? I have a plan.

I know now to keep it simple and easy when I have to get back on the healthy wagon. First thing to do is relax and forgive myself and look ahead, not behind (or under my feet at the scale). My sister and I have learned to accept that there will be fall-backs and fall-offs and even the occasional cliff-dive. So what? It doesn’t stop us. So, the plan: ten days, ten walks, no excuses, starting today. Also, to make a game out of it, each walk I will look for one thing BIG and one thing teenytiny to notice. And to make it very friendly, it has to be only 30 minutes to count. I’ll check in later with today’s report. I’m at my office, getting ready to grade some quizzes and essays. Classes just ended, the campus is very quiet. Final exams start today, even though it is Saturday. The liveliest place on campus is our bookstore, which will be crowded with Christmas shoppers and coffee-slurping students.