29 March 2011

Unity Park

It has slowly turned into mud season (Spring) in western Massachusetts. This means we can walk Sully over to Unity Park.

The snow has melted just enough so that she can run like mad after a winter of not having much of a chance to do so. Watching her dart back and forth and bunny-hop every once in a while never gets old.

Taking pictures of your dog peeing also never gets old.

This was our second trip this Spring and with his new-found tree knowledge Michael has been able to identify some butternut trees...

Once the pond behind the butternuts thaws and becomes pond-scummy all of the dogs in the land will make their owners mad by jumping right in. Some dogs prefer pond scum to this nice clean water on the opposite side of the park...

13 March 2011

The Sugar House Ritual

South Face Farm
Each change of season in New England brings its own flavor of Quaint New England Tradition. Spring's is the trip to the sugar house. Around four years ago, Michael and I discovered South Face Farm in Ashfield. It's a forty-minute drive up into the hills from Turners Falls. The trip is just long enough to play our ritual For Emma, Forever Ago. As we wind our way down the side streets and approach the farm, Re: Stacks starts to play...


Things seem to slow down and we start noticing the sugaring lines bordering the road. This year, Michael was able to identify the trees we saw: a lot of yellow birch, some beech with plenty of blight, and of course sugar maples.

As we start seeing cars that we assume are leaving the sugarhouse, we fool ourselves into believing that this means that the crowd is starting to peter out and we won't have much of a wait. We lucked out last year and walked right into the restaurant when we got there. But that somehow felt wrong. We didn't really work for our maple syrup.

This year, we drove up to the sugar house to see a busload of senior citizens from Agawam unloading. Michael found a parking spot close to the entrance and stopped to let me out. I slipped past a few of the passengers, until I had just one of them between me and the sign-up sheet for a table. As he stopped to look around the crowded waiting area, I squeezed through a few families to grab the pencil hanging on the wall and scratch my name onto the list. Just in time to beat out the bus's 13-person party. I slipped back out, guiltily pretending not to hear the last passenger (in bright red Red Sox fisherman's cap) saying "you beat me!"

Since we knew it would be a bit of a wait, we walked down the street to look at some more trees, listen to the birds, and to enjoy the quiet...

...so quiet...
 We made our way back toward the sugar house to get our honor system coffee and donut in the waiting area. Having been there a few times now, I enjoy watching the newbies discover the sugaring videos and paraphernalia and the map on the wall with pins from all around the world. 

When our name was called after waiting about a half hour, we headed into the low-ceilinged restaurant to see who we might be sharing our table with. This year, we were led to an empty table. It was soon filled with a third of the bus party; one of whom had good-naturedly and prematurely blurted out "we got rid of them!" as we headed into the restaurant a few minutes earlier. 

I ordered my usual Combo Plate #1 with two strips of bacon: one pancake, one piece of french toast, and one corn fritter (which I had dreamed of the night before). I chowed down as our "we got rid of them" friend remarked that she hoped that her pancake would be bigger than mine.

We left happy and armed with our annual quart of Grade B maple syrup and a little maple cream bonus this year.

03 March 2011

Our (weird) dog

Taken with my $5 phone...
Ever since Turners Falls' eternal snowbanks of the winter of 2010-2011 took shape back in November, I don't think a walk has gone by without Sully climbing to the top of at least one of them. The three or four ice storms have made her happy, as they have been spaced apart just enough so that she's never really had the chance to sink into the snow. I think she likes to feel tall whenever she can. And that she knows that it makes us (and others) laugh a little bit.