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Icing Over, Danby, VT

January 18, 2015

in January

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A huge storm blew through New England over the past couple of days, and when I first came upon it, driving back home from west central VT, it was a freezing rain “weather event”. This road seemed OK – it was 36 degrees after all – but when I stopped and got out to take this photo, I nearly took a header. Route 30 over the mountain from Manchester to Bratttleboro was worse, but nothing compared to coming back down Newfane Hill Road, a dirt road that had become a glare sheet of ice in the time I was visiting a friend there. My 2006 Honda Accord was a champ though, the anti-lock brakes and the lowest gear kept me in a safe 1-3 MPH range for most of the 3 mile trip, and there was some traction over on the far right side of the road. The whole VT portion of the trip was stunningly beautiful, if a touch unsuitable for roadside photography.

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See post below. This is where the cattle spend the night. They come in one at a time to the immediate left of where I was standing, and go directly to their respective stanchions, actually inserting their heads into the device, at which time John or Bonnie or a hired hand move the lever on the left clockwise to lock them in place. Notice the bedding (lighter) and the feed (darker), and the automated manure removal system. The temperature is probably in the mid 50’s when they come in, and warmer in the morning from all the body heat.

John and I talked about the cattle; he has literally spent all his life with this breed. The one story that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around was in answer to my question about coyotes – whether they ever bother the smaller ones. He said one morning a few years ago, he came into a pasture where about twenty cattle had spent the night, and saw them in a wide circle, heads facing out. It turns out a calf was born in their midst earlier that night, and with hungry coyotes on the scene, the herd had surrounded both mother and calf to protect them.

We are slowly moving towards a deeper understanding of plant and animal intelligence; the recent book “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer, will nudge us even further along. She is a Native American botanist who considers plants and animals to be our oldest teachers. It’s a remarkable read, bridging as it does the worlds of myth and science, and as my friend Mike Hamer (who recommended it) said, ” it will bring a few tears to your eyes..”

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At the Gate, Westbrook, CT

January 8, 2015

in January

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This was the scene late one afternoon in early January at Maple Breeze Farm, about two hours before dark. The temperature that night was headed toward minus five degrees, before the wind chill. It was about twenty at the time of the photo. The cattle (American Milking Devons) were clearly ready for the shelter of the barn, just out of view on the left.

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Snow Squall, Westbrook, CT

January 7, 2015

in January

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Though it was only a brief (and unexpected) squall that lasted ten minutes, it was the first time in a few years I have been out walking in a “snow storm”. The light dropped off considerably right before it came through, which should have been a clue to what was coming. Taken with my Samsung Galaxy S4.

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The Watcher, Westbrook, CT

December 28, 2014

in December

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A few years ago, I was driving on a lonesome back road deep in northern VT, shortly before sunrise. I came upon a magnificent workhorse standing alone in a hilly pasture, breath streaming from his nostrils in the frosty air. I quickly pulled over and got out of my car. Alas it was too abrupt a change – the car stopping, the door opening, a human – and it seemed to bring him out of an early morning reverie. He turned slowly to look at me, and the moment for the photograph in my mind’s eye had passed. I could only apologize for intruding, and interrupting his communion with the beauty and stillness of that early morning.

This photo above of the English Longhorn came much easier, and though the animal is watchful, I was perhaps less an intrusion. It is the equal to the one that formed in my mind’s eye when I first came upon the scene (which I cannot often say).

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Jim Reczek, Warren, VT

December 21, 2014

in December

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Jim, my younger brother, passed away on 12/13/14, following complications in the treatment of a recently discovered CNS lymphoma. He was (is) an amazing soul, and leaves a HUGE legacy of caring for others.

He came back home after college to live with our parents, and stayed on to care for them following their retirements. He always said that it was an easy decision, and man of few words that he was, would basically just say ” ..well they took care of me..”.

Likewise, I may never forget the care he took, right before his final operation, to arrange continued snow plowing services for his elderly customers, AT THE NOMINAL RATES HE CHARGED.

Family and friends were important to him, and it seems that if you became his friend, you had him, like family, for life.

And he loved the outdoors with a passion, to the extent that he never seriously considered a career track which would have kept him indoors.

The photo above is from a road trip he and I took six years ago – it was the first one I thought of for this post, showing as it does a man comfortable and perhaps at peace with himself.

R.I.P., bro – you were and are loved deeply, by the many whose lives you touched.

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winter closing in-2031

“I’ll ply the fire with kindling
and pull the blanket to my chin.
I’ll lock the vagrant winter out,
and bolt my wandering in….”

from “Urge For Going” by Joni Mitchell, covered by Tom Rush here.

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