Thursday, September 25, 2008

First Guests

I'm a bit behind with my blog and have a lot of catching up to do, so back to the beginning of our country living. We bought the house on Friday, August 22nd. The very next Friday we had our very first overnight guest, Uncle Patrick. He's Tom's best friend, Mickey's uncle. Patrick was due to arrive on Saturday for Tom's birthday, but Patrick and I had been texting, plotting behind Tom's back. I knew very well that Patrick would be arriving in Sheffield on the 3:30 Peter Pan bus from Penn Station. Since my short-term memory is shot, I can't even remember what lie I concocted so that I could be in Sheffield to pick up Patrick without Tom, but it was all part of our elaborate plan. And since internet access was not yet hooked up at the house and since there was no way I was going to get away to shop, Patrick did my shopping for me. We splurged and got Tom a spa package at Mepal, an inn and spa in an old country estate not too far from our house. Picking up the gift certificate was on my list of things to do once I had escaped the house to pick up Patrick. After I had retrieved Patrick, we stopped at the Sheffield Farmer's Market in hopes of purchasing a strawberry rhubarb pie, Tom's favorite. Alas, all they had was apple, so apple it would have to be. Our last stop before heading home was the liquor store where we loaded up on intoxicants, including a bottle of really good wine called "Bitch". With a label like that we thought it had to be rot gut, but no, it was really, really tasty. When we pulled up in the driveway, Tom and Mickey were inside. I sent Patrick in first without me. Great surprise! Happy Birthday, Tom!

We had a great weekend. Friday night was all about grilling, enjoying beverages, and hanging out on the front porch. (Since my short term memory is shot, I'm making up the course of events from this point forward.) Saturday found a stream of visitors through our yard and house. We had Nicola, who went to Medical Center Nursery School with Mickey, and his brother Carlo and their parents, Sue and .... uh ... Sue's husband. Then, while we are all out on the front porch having lunch, a car that was driving by stopped in front of the house and emptied out into our yard and onto our porch. Turned out to be friends of Sue and they just happened to be driving by and just happened to spot Sue on the front porch. How weird is that?

On Sunday, we piddled around the house and then decided, too late at the last minute, to head up to the Dream Away Lodge in Lee, for a Vaudeville Circus with a bunch of wacky performers from New York City's East Village. Because we waited till the last minute to go, the circus was over by the time we arrived, but I hear it was whacked out and that Mickey could have been freaked. I guess they had a real live sword swallower that completely undid Rebecca's brother, Kevin. It was no big deal that we missed the show as we really went up so Mickey could spend time with Rebecca, who also went to school with Mickey at Medical Center. Hopefully, we will get to see them now and again as Rebecca's grandparents live in Lenox, several towns north, and her family visits them often. We had a great time strolling and lolling about the grounds of the lodge, a very hippy dippy kind of place, and everyone got to enjoy some Icees. The kids had their usual flavors, but we adults got to enjoy adult flavors like Mojito, Margarita and Pina Colada. Yum!

On Saturday, while I fixed breakfast, Tom, Mickey and Patrick hiked 15 minutes up into the woods behind us at which point they found foot prints that were not those of a house cat, so they turned around and came home. We haven't seen one yet, but I keep hearing stories of mountain lions around these parts (and moose!) On Sunday, we had more visitors. Rebecca and her family dropped by for another play date! Yeah! After they departed, I proposed that it was a perfect night out for a delicious family evening at Tanglewood. Tanglewood is one of my favorite places in the world. There you'll find gorgeous lawns and trees, dazzling stars, and the best music in the world. And you can enjoy it all from a simple blanket spread on the grass and strewn with cheese and crackers, fruit and sausages, and wine, wine, wine. And juice boxes. The concert was the closing concert of the season featuring jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard (who I did not know but now love) and his composition for trumpet and jazz orchestra, "A Tale of God's Will; A Requiem for Katrina." I'm telling you, it was a gorgeous evening in every way.

Saturday morning's hike up the hill behind our house whetted our appetite for some real hiking, so on Monday (Labor Day), we headed out for some real hiking at Umpachene Falls about 15 minutes from our house. Really gorgeous.

Swinging before our hike:

Can you see Mickey and Tom?

Mickey's avante garde photo of Uncle Patrick:

After our hike, we went and had some lunch and then loaded Tom and Patrick into the car and drove them to the train station so they could both head back to NYC. Tom had to be in the city first thing Tuesday morning to teach at Pace University (he's reverse commuting till mid-December). The goodbye at the train station was the first time we sent Papa off to the City without us and it was not easy, especially for Mickey. Tears and trembling bottom lip. Dinner at McDonald's smoothed things over and then it was off to home where, by the time we arrived, I had a 53 pound sack of dead weight to carry into the house and put to bed.

It was a very nice weekend, and once the renovations are done and guest bedrooms put together, we look foward to showing off our home and beautiful part of the world to all of you, too.

Black-capped Chickadees

The state bird of Massachusetts is the black-capped chickadee, and we have plenty of them, but I didn't really notice any of them at first. Sitting out on the front porch I never really noticed birds in our yard. Given that the north side of the yard is the part of the yard I see mostly from the front porch, and given that the north side of the yard is more conducive to frogs and perhaps cranes, heron or turtles and alligators (you know, things found in a swamp), I guess it isn't surprising that I don't see robins fishing for worms. I do hear robins in the canopy surrounding the house, but I've never seen them. I also hear cardinals, but again, have never seen them. I do see the crows and blue jays, and I have seen a large brownish bird going after the crows, but because it is always going after them inside the woods, I can't tell if it is an owl, hawk or falcon.

I have found it disappointing that I don't get to see birds in my yard, so I decided to take some steps to make them want to be there. Well, one step. Food. Provide it and they will come. When my best friend, Kelly, and her husband moved from NYC to the suburbs, they bought a window bird feeder that attaches to the window with suction cups. I was so taken by this feeder because you could sit at breakfast and watch the birds come have their breakfast, too. (So, yet another reason to move to the country. I couldn't legally have such a feeder attached to my windows in NYC.) I finally found a window bird feeder at the hardware store on Main Street in Great Barrington; it was their last one. I already had bird seed at home, so Mickey and I installed it, filled it up and waited. And waited. No birds were visiting. Frustrating and disappointing.

The broker who assisted us in the purchase of our house gave us a very nice housewarming gift consisting of a garden basket with three hand spades, a hose, sprinkler, a sprayer, mosquito repellant sticks you set aflame in the yard, and a gift certificate to a lawn and garden shop. While putting the gift certificate to good use purchasing bulbs that I have yet to get in the ground and gravel to patch up the front steps leading down to the street, I found a bird feeder intended for cardinals. I also discovered there was a seed mix especially for cardinals, as well. Who knew. We bought both. We hung the bird feeder up in the spruce in the front yard and replaced the generic wild bird feed in the window feeder with the cardinal mix. It wasn't long before we had action in the spruce. (Click on the photo below to enlarge it so you can see our first visitor.)

The packaging the cardinal mix came in said to also expect to see black-capped chickadees and one other bird that I forget. While I have yet to see a cardinal, the chickadees emptied the hanging bird feeder in two days. Needless to say, there are slew of them. They are a fast little bird and they don't care if you're standing under the feeder or not. They'll come and get a seed or two as long as you stand still. Fun.

It was very exciting to finally have birds flitzing through the air above the swamp, traveling back and forth between the spruce and the over growth bordering the swamp. But still no visitors to the window feeder. I decided to let the hanging bird feeder run out completely in hopes it would force the now abundant flock over to the window feeder. I'm so smart.

So my next feeder will go somewhere on the south side of the house, using the same mix, in hopes of attracting the cardinals that I hear in the canopy.