Monday, March 22, 2010


Looking for a beautiful nature walk that is close to home?  West Newbury's Riverbend Conservation Area extends from the water tower next to Page School down along the Indian River, across the slope and down to the Merrimack River.  Spared much of the damage and destruction that toppled trees at Maudslay and Old Town Hill, the trails are easy and inviting, tho' there are wet spots.  Thanks to West Newbury Life Scout Jeremy Baker and Troop 26, red trail markers lead down from Page School to the Main Trail, where blue markers lead right down toward the Merrimack or left to the Indian River.  Orange markers follow the Indian River down to an overlook that is my favorite spot in town.  The blue trail also continues up the old Myopia Hunt trail back to the parking lot at Mill Pond.
This beautiful town-owned parcel is a haven for beaver, otters, raptors, ducks and wading birds, and is blessed with a diversity of mature trees, ferns and wildflowers.  The Indian River has been protected since for hundreds of years, and once was dammed and used to float out the basswood and oak cut from Pipestave Hill to be made into barrels.  Old stone walls, dams and pools remain where a thriving mill once operated, at the point where the Indian River meets the incoming tide coming up the Merrimac. 
Contact me if you need a trail map, or consult the Essex County Trails Association web site for a definitive view of the area.  Then go take a hike!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Post Storm/Pre-Spring -- an early invitation

What a difference a storm makes!  Ten inches of rain and days of unrelenting wind have finally retreated to reveal a greening world and swelling buds.  Everything pops so quickly now, first the bulbs, then the woodland wild flowers, and then, the last week in April, come the magnolias.
I forget, from one year to the next, how marvelous each March feels.  How seeing metal maple syrup buckets hanging from the sugar maples renews the faith in the great swinging arc of the seasons, and how the first crocus brings a smile.  Anticipation of each day's new growth is ample reward for a winter of grey and dreary dark.
At our house, the big reward and payday comes the last week in April when the huge tree magnolias in our backyard are covered with creamy white blooms.  Since the exact dates for peak blooms varies year to year, I'll write you again when they're blooming and hope you can join me for a woodland tour.  With waterfalls and vernal pools, tiny wildflowers and awakening wildlife, our yard is one I love to share with everyone who shares our appreciation for the surprises and delights of early spring.  Stay tuned........................

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ready for the next big one?

Three days and three nights of powerless living makes you reassess how we take it for granted, doesn't it? And it points out all the foibles of depending on "the grid" for all our electrical needs. Next time, we'll pay better attention when the National Weather Service predicts wind and rain warnings. Here are some preparedness to add to my list?

Fill the bathtubs so there's water available to flush the toilets with a coffee can.

Have the flashlights next to the beds instead of in the cupboard in the kitchen.

Fill the extra animals' water buckets and keep them full in the basement as back up water sources. And remember that the local police departments have collapsible water containers they can loan or give you in emergencies in case you need to haul water.

Add to the database in your cell phone and on paper the names and numbers of motels within half an hour south and west, just in case.

Know where the car charger is for each cell phone. I have an "I-Go" with interchangeable tips that fit a couple different phones. And carry the land-line charger to recharge your phone at the library, restaurant and office, whenever you can.

Finally invest in a generator and hire John Collins to get it set up. Although I find them noisy and smelly the whole experience of being able to have heat, a working refrigerator, light, etc., would make the experience of powerlessness far more bearable. And if you're planning to sell your house, a generator is a necessity.

Both our West Newbury and Plum Island properties were without power for several days after Thursday night's big blow, and yours probably was as well.

"Another World" lost a window when a piece of shingle flew off Mad Martha's restaurant and went right through it, but nobody was in the room. Platoons of power trucks finally got things working again on Saturday on Plum Island and on Sunday afternoon for our West Newbury home. The West Newbury house was down to 45 degrees when we arrived Sunday morning. We had fled to Alex's brother's house in Newton the afternoon before, desperate for showers and shampoo and warmth.

Let's not lose momentum on the idea of getting ready for the next big one, because we now know it very well could happen again.