Owl Walk

Beautiful feathered owls. How many folks have had the opportunity to see owls in the wild? Or for that matter…how many folks have seen an owl at all? Several weeks ago, we joined our neighbors for an owl walk presentation by Scott Heth, Director of the Sharon Audubon Center, for the New Hartford Land Trust (NHLT). The Sharon Audubon Center is a Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon, CT that features a Wildlife Rehabilitation Programs for birds, specializing in birds of prey. This particular owl walk event was arranged by Madeline McClave of the NHLT. We were persuaded by our neighbors to attend with the dinner carrot dangled in front of us……if you go, we can all go for dinner afterward. It worked as we are not ones to pass on the promise of dinner with friends. I picked up my camera on my way out the door deciding to leave my flash units behind. After all, if we did see an owl in the wild, I didn’t wish to spook it.

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  Scott Heth being introduced by Madeline McClave of NHLT.

Scott’s presentation was good, as was his style and personality. From his vehicle, Scott had brought out a tiny owl and queried us as to what it was called. My reply was “little”. Scott was amused.  He shared many little known owl facts….some of which I wish I still didn’t know so I won’t share them here!

 

Scott and his wife had brought along three owls with him in the event none were seen on the actual walk which would take place after the sun set. This first tiny owl is a miniature version if the classic owl one tends to think of when owls are mentioned, a mini version of the Wise potato chip owl. It’s actually a Northern Saw-whet owl. This particular one had been hit by a car and rescued. It was fascinating to note that the owls will constantly look at the person holding them. That, it was explained, is because they get used to being handled in a particular way.

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The tiny little Northern Saw-whet Owl perches on Scott’s finger.

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The second owl Scott retrieved from his vehicle had to be about six times the size of the first owl. This one was a barred owl, named so for the striped bars on its body. This owl also has large horizontal bars or bands on the tail which you may see in flight against its gray feathered background. This is how the owl got its name, “bar–ed” owl.  We have one of these living out behind our auction barn in Canton. It is amazing how well it camouflage’s itself against the tree bark.

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The third and final show & tell owl Scott revealed to us was a Screech owl. I never knew what they looked like but years ago one scared the daylights out of me. I was returning from NYC late at night with a friend who was dropping me off. I opened the door of the car and heard these blood curdling screams. I thought someone was being murdered and quickly shut the car door. It was summertime. My ex-husband was in the bedroom above where the car was sitting. I cranked open the car window and asked my girlfriend what she thought was going on. We were trying to figure out what it was when from above us came my ex-husband’s voice…..”it’s just a screech owl!” My girlfriend and I had a good laugh. Now here I was, practically face to face with one. It didn’t look at all how I had imagined it would except for its size. It was rather large. It was brown and had “fluffy” ears.

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All three of these owls were rescues and Scott enlightened us to the way of owls in a most interesting way. The NHLT had an impressive turnout for the event. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit, but we all left for dinner before the sun actually set. Scott had wrapped up his talk and was preparing his owl hoot recordings and flashlight with the hope of locating owls in the wild. We hope he had luck finding some for the folks who followed him into the woods.

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Time Flies…..the Wedding Reception & Behind the Scenes

It has been over 6 months since my last blog post. My apologies.  Somehow, life seems to get in the way.  I resolve to do better moving forward.  When we last visited, I had posted photos from my May 2011 wedding and Trash-the-Dress session.  With our first year anniversary already behind us, detail shots from our CT wedding dessert & champagne reception held in June of 2011, two weeks after the wedding, are long over-due. Pink and white colors with a tropical theme set the stage.

It turned out to be a most magnificent weather day, stunningly gorgeous with just the right amount of sun & puffy white clouds.  A Kauaian sea turtle garden flag marked the entrance to the property where the reception was being held.  Large pale pink and white balloons dotted the lawn and lined the drive along with frosted glass candle lanterns sporting ties of pink ribbons.  The white party tents were festooned with paper poms in shades of pink. On the food tables were white linens with fuschia pink embroidered silk banded toppers. Guest tables were decked in white linens and pink table toppers made by yours truly and an oval hinged box filled with Hawaiian themed key chains for wedding keepsakes had been set out.

Sheer white embroidered panels graced the wedding cake tent and were held in place with bright fuschia ties. The cake tent showcased one of our wedding photos from Kauai along with the two special umbrellas that Steve had painstakingly custom lettered for us.  Orchid blossoms surrounded the ten individual cake stands for the ten small round wedding cakes: one for each initial of our first names.  Wooden letters that Steve had painted topped every one of the cakes, spelling out each of our names.

Umbrella tented round tables displayed tiers of various home-made desserts filling antique glass and silver-plate serving dishes clearly marked by miniature chalkboard signs embellished with mini oriental paper umbrellas. Hawaiian themed cookies included mango ginger and a pistachio-almond.  Sugared hearts , Viennese finger cookies, pineapple frosted tropical cupcakes, brownies and other desserts were on hand.  Bowls of custom M&M’s included sentiments that held special meaning to us: “Can’t Help Falling/ In Love With You”, “Kauai 5-23-2011” , “You Wash, I’ll Dry”, “Susan & Steve”,  while blooming orchid plants dotted the tables.  In a nod to my co-ownership of the Canton Barn antiques gallery, an antique wooden washing machine complete with hand-crank rollers held wash tubs full of iced sodas and waters.

Special thanks to the talented Sweetheart Mountain trio for providing outstanding music perfectly suited for a magical afternoon, and to photographers Kristina Hill (Kristina Hill Photography), Ralph Rookey & Melissa Knox (Ralph Rookey Photography) who documented the day, and to neighbors, good friends, Best Man & Better Woman, Patrick & Tammy Casey who not only flew to Kauai to stand up for us, but who graciously opened up their property for our CT reception. Additional thanks to Andreas Obranovic, Gloria & John Lobre, Deb Kusjac, Bob Pulford , and Mike Reilly for all their help with setting up, and to Mandy, Miranda & Brittany who served our guests with smiles and polish.  🙂

Photos for this blog provided by Kristina Hill Photography, Ralph Rookey Photography, GeminEye Images, Tammy Casey and Ginny Lindroth.  All images are copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form.

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Winter Storm Alfred….as in Hitchcock

Storm Alfred……as in Hitchcock. And what a fright this October Halloween weekend storm was. It started out as a beautiful fall day on Saturday. By noon, snowflakes were falling hard and fast. A couple of hours later and the ground was already coated with a good three to four inches of the white stuff. With the leaves still on the trees here in New England, this storm couldn’t have come at a worse time.

And so it begins . . . .an early, heavy start to Alfred..
This October 2011 snowstorm: Beautiful but destructive by the time it ended.

By 5 p.m., towns were already loosing power due to downed trees and tree limbs so heavily weighted by the wet falling snow that they just snapped. Five hours later, most of the state was in complete darkness as the storm continued through the night.

We had cranked up our furnace thermostat earlier in the evening preparing for the worst. Even though we lost our power at 7 p.m., the house stayed fairly warm that night. We laid in bed listening to the creaking, snapping and popping of trees as limbs gave in to the weight of the snow. It was a might bit scary wondering if one of those cracks would result in a tree coming through the roof or bedroom window.

At dawn’s light, our backyard looked like a war zone. Later, as we walked around town, we would realize that our war zone was comparatively minor in the scheme of things.

The morning light revealed the damage despite the heavy snow coverage.

Mother Nature wields a double edged sword. For all the beauty she gives us, there is her dark side, too. Sunday morning’s views around town were vividly exquisite…the snowy scenes: outstanding. The damage, however, was widespread and disruptive to everyone’s everyday lives.

As the sun rose, we were almost the only ones out and about. The quiet stillness of our little town was somewhat eerie. The beauty left us filed with wonder and awe from the majestic row of pines edged with snow, to the shimmering river…..from the snow lined power lines, to the line of pigeons and the single white dove sitting on them.

Small trees struggled to survive the bending of Mother Nature's forceful hand.
These Majestic Pines stand their ground through Storm Alfred.
This stately tree beside the church wasn't so fortunate.
The Farmington River dressed in October white.
A single white dove (far left) hangs out with the pigeons as the sun comes up.
Snow covered traffic lights no longer signaling safety for motorists.
Looking down a snowy Route 44 at the junction of Route 219 in New Hartford, CT

We headed back up our street dodging tree limbs and dangling power lines. Checking on our neighbor’s house, we were amazed at the number of tree limbs blocking their driveways. We picked our way through with care. A snow covered limb in their pond was beautiful in a Chinese woodblock sort of way. Finding a clear view of their home revealed that two trees had fallen on either side of it…one actually on their garage. We were relieved that our neighbors and their home had survived the worst.

Our neighbor's driveway...a wonderland of snow covered trees draped like winter curtains.
Like a Chinese woodblock print, this snow covered limb arched in the pond evoked a certain stillness to this winter scene.
Storm Alfred dropped trees everywhere but our neighbors were very fortunate not to suffer substantial damage here.
Un-naturally Bent.

The rest of the day was spent readying ourselves for what we optimistically thought would be at least a couple of days without power. We had already filled the bathtub with water the night before. Now we packed up our refrigerated items in a cooler that we filled will snowballs to keep our food from spoiling.  The frozen foods, ice creams and frozen fruits, went into a hole we dug in the snow. The cover was taken off the outdoor gas grill and the single burner camp stove was readied as well. Blankets, pillows and a sleeping bag were pulled out, and firewood was brought over to the porch to stoke our fireplace. The mess of fallen trees in the backyard could wait.

That first day without power, we managed to scramble up some eggs for breakfast, had sandwiches for lunch, and Boboli goat cheese pizza on the grilled for dinner by candlelight, of course.  Then we hunkered down for what would be the coldest night with temperatures in our area predicted to plunge to 18 degrees!  It was a wicked cold night! Brrr!

Monday morning dawned and hard boiled eggs were on the breakfast menu. Next up? Tackling the trees in the yard. For those of you who don’t know, we were married in May and one of our wedding gifts was a chain saw.  🙂  Out it came and Steve put it to great use. After several hours of cutting, dragging, stacking, and piling we called it a day. Lunch was grilled cheese sandwiches. Dinner: soup.

Tuesday was more tree limb cutting, moving and stacking after a breakfast of pancakes. My first road trip was to a nearby grocery store I had heard was open. I had to drive over a huge power line and dodge tree limbs to get there only to find out that all they were selling were canned and pre packaged goods….no meats.

I had heard a story about another grocery store in the other direction…..that they had fought the town’s zoning regulations several years ago when rebuilding to be able to install a huge generator. The store had eventually won its fight. This store had remained open throughout the storm, with tractor trailer trucks lined up off loading their goods everyday.  So off to that store we went in search of pork chops for that night’s diner. We were able to get the chops and pick up some deli meats for future lunches.  While out, we stopped at Cosi’s for a warm lunch…..warm food in a warm environment. It was like heaven. Truth be told, I wasn’t anxious to leave!

Grilled Porch Chops by Candlelight

Through all of this, we have been fortunate that I purchased a Xoom Motorola tablet a few months back that has 3G service. With a full tank of gas in my jeep, I am able to recharge my cell phone and the tablet, so I am always able to access the web via one or the other.  That  is how we learned that New Hartford is one of the hardest hit towns in the state and that we may not get our power restored until Sunday night….a full 8 days after losing it. The internet has been useful in other ways, too. Facebook allows people not to feel so all alone and everyone shares info about open gas stations, open grocery stores, and roads that are impassable among other useful hints like keeping your faucets dripping so the pipes don’t freeze.  Tablets and phones are also good for playing games, writing blogs, and checking emails.

Murphy has a leg up on Lily as they stay cozy and warm by the roaring fire.

Day four without power: Camping in the living room is getting a bit old. The cats constantly want to be in our laps when they are not parked right in front of the fireplace for warmth. It’s comforting to know that food is readily available from a number of sources, if needed. If we are careful, our wood supply will make it another four days and our power will be restored before we run out. Our pipes haven’t frozen yet which gives us hope that they won’t. Steve had to return to work today so I held down the fort on my own…stoking the fireplace, etc. He was bold enough to take a sponge bath in cold water. I readily admit….I would rather die first than do that!

We dined by candlelight once again.  Three cheese ravioli was on the menu. All this candlelight would be romantic if it was just 40 degrees warmer inside. In the meantime, we’ll throw another log on the fire and play another round of Angry Birds.

About 9 p.m. last night, power was restored to the center of town. Our house is a stone’s throw away but we remain in the dark. Another night of stoking the fireplace every couple of hours. We look forward to a night of uninterrupted sleep; of not having to sleep with one eye open watching the embers in the fireplace, of icy, cold water face washings, and cold fingers and toes. A friend of ours posed a really good question of Facebook just last night: How did those cowboys ever stay warm while huddled around an open fireplace when the heat dissipates into thin air so quickly? Food for thought. We’ve come along long way since those pioneer days and yet there are still cowboys doing just that out on the range for a living.

Our 24/7 heat source for the last five days. Hoping we don't need it a sixth night.

Day Five:  After dragging tree limbs and debris into piles in the backyard, I huddled by the fire as a chill set into my bones.  Lighting companies from various states have been seen working on our road. I am slightly encouraged. My neighbor was told we would get power back by 3 p.m. but here it is several hours past that and no power yet. I am sitting at Blue Sky Foods in New Hartford charging my laptop and typing this in a nice warm building.  Their power was restored last night, too, although their home is still without, and even worse, the road to their house is littered with downed trees and wires, still. We are each hoping each other gets power to our homes quickly.  Whoever does, the door is open for the other to shower in.

Three views of our backyard from Oct. 29 and Nov. 3

I’m sorry to have missed an episode of Dexter on television, would like to be able to use my desktop computer for work, and would LOVE a hot shower, but all in all, things could be much worse, and so, I am grateful.

I do have a request for the state of Connecticut. Please spend the money to create jobs and boost our economy by replacing all above ground wiring with underground conduits. Although it may cost a fortune to do so, in the long run the state will save millions of dollars in repairs from storms and its residents will no longer have to suffer through 8 days without power ever again. Even one day without power in this electronic world is one day too many.

A snow capped fence....just another Storm Alfred scene.
Leaves still on the trees makes for dangerous storm conditions.

Hope springs eternal. We will hope for our power to be restored daily until it is. Until then, I know we are not alone. Stay warm and stay safe.

-Susan

Post script to story:  Power was restored that Thursday night. After one hot shower, our hot water tank broke from the reconnect strain of the power surge and we find our selves without hot water for another 5 days until the replacement tank arrives.  A cruel twist of fate, but at least we have heat in the house now.

All photos copyright GeminEye Images 2011