Off the leash

One of the things I didn’t really think about when we got Scout was that we would have to take him out for some exercise every day. Every day.  Even in the middle of February.

Luckily, we’ve been having a fairly mild winter so far here in New Hampshire, but there have been days that I would never think of going outside much less going on a hike. We found out about a park in the nearby town of Amherst that encourages owners to let their dogs off the leash.  So off we went on a hike, in February, a few days after we had received about a foot of snow.

Turns out that Scout loves to run in the snow.

While he is getting bigger, he is often confronted with new experiences, like footbridges over mountain streams. He refused to cross this bridge at first, preferring to try to wade through the stream.  It took a few minutes of persuading him that it is actually not a good idea to try swimming through icy water in February, and wouldn’t he prefer to be up here with us on the dry bridge ?

He did finally pick up on the idea that footbridges are a good idea. However, he was then confronted with this bridge that had a stairway since the far side of the stream had a higher elevation.  I had to carry him up the stairs. He did manage to go down the stairs on his own though, so he’s learning fast. Which is good since he weighs close to forty pounds now.

Here’s an old stone wall in the forest. You see these all over the New England area. Scout jumped over the wall, landing in a huge pile of snow. I had to go over the wall to pick him up and carry him back over the wall.

This dog is determined to get me to loose weight, wether he forces me to get out of the house, or carry him up scary wooden staircase, or wade through a foot of snow.  At least it was a sunny day.

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Andres Institute of Art

You’d think that after living in New Hampshire for fifteen years we would have seen all of the local sites, but no, we’re always finding something new.

Combining two of our favorite things, hiking and art, The Andres Institute of Art made for a perfect late Fall outing.  Andres is the largest outdoor sculpture park in New England. Located in Brookline, New Hampshire, it is  on the site of a former ski run. Each year, the institute invites sculptors from around the world to stay at the site and provide a sculpture which is then placed on one of the hiking trails that lead up the mountain.

Mr. C loved running around the trail, looking for the next sculpture, as if it were a scavenger hunt.  There are about 80 sculptures at the park, here are some of our favorites.

Each sculpture has a small plaque placed on a nearby tree with information on the piece, and where the sculptor is from.  The sculptors come from all over the world, not just the United States, including; Germany, Switzerland, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Armenia, Georgia, Spain, Columbia, England, and lots of others.  I wonder what the sculptors from countries like Bangladesh or Armenia thought of rural New Hampshire ?

Since the location was a former ski run, the trails were sometimes a bit steep, but not too bad.  The forest looks like it’s still recovering from being used for skiing, as most of the trees are still small and scrubby.  The ski run closed more than twenty years ago, it’ll be awhile until the trees reach their full maturity.

There is a small quarry nearby, I think some of the stone used is from there. Most of the sculptures are stone, but not all, there are some metal works as well. Andres offers demonstrations on the various techniques throughout the year.

This one below is of a hickory nut.

I think these are supposed to be the planets of the solar system, so the solar flare in the photo is appropriate!

Another solar flare.


This one below is not a sculpture, it’s the rusty remains of part of chair from one of the ski lifts.

I remember that the sculptor of this one is from Nigeria, it might be evident from the carvings on the rocks.

Here’s a giant donut.  This sculptor is from Germany.  “Ich bin ein berliner!”

This one is my favorite.  The sculptor is from the Republic of Georgia, it’s the only one that I remember the title of “Conscious”.

We only saw about twenty five of the eighty or so sculptures since we only hiked on one trail, we’ll have to go back again.

Autumn Hill Orchard

We’re all out of the apples we bought recently, so it’s off to visit another orchard. You’d think that after living in New Hampshire for fifteen years, we would have visited all of the area orchards, but every year we find at least one that is new to us.  This year it’s Autumn Hill Orchard, about fifteen miles away in the town of Harvard, Massachusetts.

Autumn Hill is located on a steep hillside, with a great view of the White Mountains of New Hampshire off to the west.  That’s Mount Monadnock on the horizon below.  I’ll go off on a tangent about my iPhone camera – I’ve found that one of the limitations of this camera is that it isn’t so great for photos with a long distance perspective.  The view is really much more dramatic than it would appear in the photo below, but the iPhone seems to somehow flatten out distances or perhaps it just can’t provide as much detail to a photo at this distance.  It’s really great for portraits and middle distance, but not for long distance.  I really should use my other digital camera more often.

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Here you can at least see the curve of the hill the orchard is on.  The soils of New England are so rocky that it’s amazing the early colonists could grow anything.  I think they found out quickly that the rocky hillsides are best used for orchards instead of vegetables.

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Years ago, Ms. J visited Ireland and Scotland and had some apples of a variety that we just can not find anywhere in New England anymore.  There’s an orchard in far northern New Hampshire that used to grow it, but a few years ago a hard frost killed all of the trees of this variety.  Autumn Hill Orchards specializes in some of these hard to find varieties so we thought we’d try to find it here.

While we were walking around the orchard, I saw an elderly man walking with a little girl. He looked a bit confused.  We had a map of the orchard listing all of the varieties in the orchard so I asked him if he needed any help finding something.  It turned out that he had emigrated from England many years ago and he was looking for the same apple variety that we were.

Up and down the hill we walked, the owner of the orchard had placed signs in each row identifying the trees.  It would seem that the signs and the map would make if easy to find, but it still took us some time.  C and the girl, who was the man’s granddaughter, ran ahead of us and shouted that they had found it.  Cox Orange Pippin, here it is below.

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Of course Ms. J was very happy to now have a source of this variety that’s fairly close to us. Our fellow Cox Orange Pippin searcher was also excited as well, we both quickly filled up our bags.

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Here’s their version of the Empire apple.  It’s so dark that I thought it was a plum at first.

 

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Once we had a bag filled with apples we went back to the barn to weigh them.

C was thrilled to use this antique scale to weight the apples.  There’s still time for more apples, I’m sure we’ll be back!

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Butterflies 

We went on a camping trip recently, but before we left, we made sure to leave some cut up orange pieces in the basket where we were keeping the caterpillars, should they complete their transformation to butterflies while we were away.   I just noticed the the orange pieces look a bit like butterflies!

When we came back, three days later, the first thing we did was to check on the caterpillars.  All of the caterpillars had turned into butterflies. We had them in a wire mesh waste basket with a piece of cardboard on top, with the orange pieces on a plate on the bottom of the basket. I thought that since we were away it would be a good idea to change out the orange pieces to make sure they had something to eat.  The moment I lifted the cardboard from the top of the basket, every one of the butterflies immediately flew out of the basket.

If you’ve ever had a fly in a room, you’ve seen it fly around aimlessly bumping into things, randomly landing on things in the room and taking off again to fly around aimlessly some more.  These Monarch butterflies did not do anything like that, instead they all immediately flew directly over to the most southerly facing window in the room and flapped against the glass furiously.  There were twenty or so butterflies gathered around the window and on the window sill.   It’s amazing that these little insects somehow know that they’re supposed to make their way south to Mexico before it gets too cold.  They can only fly when the temperature if above sixty degrees and it seemed as though they wanted to get out of that room as soon as possible while it was still warm enough to fly.  In the photo below it looks like they are trying to get to the dahlias blooming below the window outside.

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We opened the window and most of them flew out and away as fast as they could.  I’ve read that it is estimated that they can fly at around twelve miles per hour, but will go much faster if the wind is in their favor.

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We gathered up a couple of the remaining stragglers who were on a neighboring window that does not open and directed them over to the open window.  Having a butterfly crawl over your fingers really can’t be compared to anything else, a very strange feeling having their little legs move slowly over the fingers and hands with the wings flapping away.

Most flew away up into the sky, but a few landed on the dahlias below the window briefly before taking off.    One of them had some trouble taking off and landed on the grass below the dahlias.  Mr. C went outside, held out his finger for it to crawl onto, held up his hand into the sky and then it flew away.

 

Fall Apples

It’s apple season here in New Hampshire,  and since Mr. C can eat two or three apples a day we always make a few trips to area orchards every Fall.  

Here are a couple of very old apple trees, they might be some of the oldest at the farm.


There’s always a lot of apples that drop to the ground before they can be picked. 

The farm’s chickens like to look for the worms in the fallen apples, or maybe they’re just eating the apples and not the bugs.


 These were just out of reach! I tried holding C up for him to grab them, but he’s getting a little too big for that now. I could only hold him up for a few seconds before I had to give up.

Recently, a local radio show interviewed a botanist who specializes in trees. The station asked listeners to post photos of their favorite tree to the station’s website. I meant to send in a photo of the tree below, but didn’t get to it in time.  It’s a huge old Maple in the apple orchard nearby. In a week or so the leaves on this tree will turn bright golden yellow and red before falling.  The drought we’ve been having will most likely mean that this year the colors won’t be as dramatic.  I’ll have to find a photo from a previous year and post it.

Apples and Mums at the farm stand.


The pumpkin patch. 


The farm cat.  The farmer tells me he’s a very good mouser.


Some of the apples we picked.  I think we have thirty or so apples, enough to last C a week or so!

Caterpillar Update

It’s been a little over a week, and Mr. C’s Monarch caterpillars have more than doubled in size.  Here’s a photo from This past Thursday. 

As of this morning, they’re all in the process of creating cocoons, attaching themselves to either sticks that we added to rhe habitat, or directly to the bottom of the cardboard cover that we put on the habitat.  And by ‘habitat’ I mean a wire mesh tradh can with a piece of cardboard on top!  Next, they will then be transformed into Monarch butterflies. 

Here’s a photo of some of them on the cardboard, kind of creepy looking.  

I had to be careful not to disturb them so I could just lift the lid up a few inches to take the photo.  

When I first moved here, fifteen years ago, there would at least be a few Monarch’s around our stand of milk weed in the Fall, but I haven’t seen very many at all lately.  This year I haven’t seen any, except for the ones Mr C has.  Hopefully in the next few weeks, we’ll have some to let out to make their way down to Mexico.

First Pet

We have a lot of milkweed in the backyard. It can spread and take over areas quickly, so I used to pull it all out. Ms J told me that milkweed is the only thing that Monarch butterflies eat, so I stopped pulling it all out, letting most of it grow to maturity.

Here’s some milkweed mixed in with the flowers next to my neighbor’s garage. It’s the tall leafy plant in back of the purple flowers.


Mr C loves learning about plants, bugs, and animals, so for his birthday he received a milkweed plant in a box.  The plant was covered by a mesh netting in the box.


The netting was over the plant to protect the twenty or so Monarch caterpillars on the plant. The company that sends them out wants to raise awareness of the dwindling number of Monarchs, mostly due to loss of habitat caused by development and people pulling out milkweed. 

The only thing we could think of to put the plant in for a temporary habitat is this wire mesh trashcan!  We’re gathering branches from the milkweed in the backyard for them to eat.


Eventually the caterpillars will turn into Monarch butterflies, we’ll release them and hopefully they will mysteriously fly off to the one spot in Mexico where all Monarch butterflies migrate to.

We plan on getting Mr C a dog at some point, but for the next two or three weeks his first pet will be Monarch butterfly caterpillars.

Take a picture Dada!  he says.

Here is what one looks like on Day Two, already much bigger.