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.

jan 13 far pasture woods

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

trails 4

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

dec 16 branch pattern

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.

not virtually but actually side by side

“It’s cold out there, and breezy–where can we go that is woodsy but not windy?” I asked. We piled in the van and headed over to Letchworth State Park for an hour or so walk, accompanied joyfully by Bree, the puppy my sister is dog-sitting for a friend. at Letchworth

There was a bit of snow, not a lot. Oak trees were losing their leaves, they fell twirling around us. For some reason they really caught my eye–such a beautiful rich brown color. letchworth oak leaf

We stopped to admire the dramatic middle falls, with the frost-rimed vegetation and icicles all around. letchworth falls

The wooded ravines were steep, and quiet. Only the little streams made a bit of noise, and now and then a crow would call. letchworth streamWe didn’t see anyone else until we got to the road along the edge of the Letchworth canyon. letchworth canyon

A perfect way to spend the middle of an afternoon on the day after Thanksgiving!letchworth walking



autumn walk at sunset

There is a week in the fall when most of the trees have lost their leaves except for the poplars, and their leaves have turned bright yellow. The woods become black and grey with lace of gold mixed in. So beautiful! I took a walk yesterday afternoon and enjoyed this gold filigree, along with the quiet shades of tan, green, grey and brown this time of year. The sun was low as I set off, shining on this old fence post and frozen asters.

nov 4 corner 2

It is a two-mile walk, one mile up some easy hills to the corner, another even easier downhill back home. Across from my house is a swampy brushy area beloved of birds. nov 4 cornerAt the top of the first and only strenuous hill I stopped to admire and photograph the poplars waving their gold leaves in the last of the sunshine. nov 4 gold leaves

nov 4 gold and blueBy the time I reached the turnaround point and looked back west, dusk was creeping up, the sky settling down into dark. nov 4 duskIt was a quiet, peaceful walk.

three days, three walks, YES!

On Thursday I had office hours until 3:30 and a meeting at 4:15. I grabbed my phone, turned it to “Two Steps from Hell” music, plugged in earbuds and left the office at 3:35. I had to be fast because the path usually takes me 45 minutes. No dawdling–the music pushed me, too, and I made it around the loop just in time to get to my meeting. No time for pictures!

Then on Friday I was done at 1:00, and I called home: “I’m going out to Indian Creek, can you come along?”  So, we got to the trailhead at 1:20 and were done at 3:20, a nice long walk.

icnc sign

The start of the walk is through an open woods with big trees and very little undergrowth. Something magical about that. And shushing through a carpet of golden leaves is pretty nice, too.

icnc golden woods

icnc leaves

We walked from one end of the trail to the other, where there is a tall platform you can climb up for views of the lake/wetlands.

icnc lake

We saw a great blue heron, lots of Canada Geese, and ducks. On the way back we noticed a lot of bittersweet vines, but we couldn’t tell whether it was the native kind or the invasive oriental bittersweet. They are not easy to tell apart. I hope it’s the native kind, because there was a lot of it!

On Saturday in spite of cool and drizzly weather we went for another walk. This one was in the Downerville State Forest and Grass River Wild Forest. The DEC maintains a short (less than a mile we think) trail to Harper’s Falls. So beautiful! To get to the trailhead you have to drive a long way on a winding dirt road, lined by a dozen or so hunting camps. Hunting season is clearly happening since the camps were all bustling with activity. Here I am at the trailhead:

harpers falls sign.jpg

We made a point of chatting a bit more than usual so hunters would know we are not deer. But we didn’t see or hear any hunters.

harpers falls trailhead

The trail is easy, with a few ups and downs, a few short bridges over small streams, and a wonderful reward at the end. Most of the fall color is gone. The trees are brown and grey, the sky was grey, the leaves beige and brown. The main color came from green ferns and moss.

harpers falls rock fern tree

The woods smelled wonderful. We heard and saw some ravens but otherwise the woods was quiet. When we stood still we could hear a few raindrops and the tap tap tap of leaves falling. As we got closer to the falls we could hear that, too.

harpers falls

harpers falls downstream

I’m in my office right now getting ready to dig into a pile of essays that need to be graded. Would rather be out in the woods, but there’s a time for everything, and it’s nice to think of these places waiting for us to visit them again.