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Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

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Archive for October, 2012


Autumn Harvest In The Farmington Valley aka Nana V’s “Third Season”

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

 Nana V is a nick name given to my mother by my daughter Sarah, because it was easier for her to pronounce than Virginia. My mother’s favorite time of the year was autumn. She often referred to autumn as “the third season.” She celebrated the beginning of the “third season” with the harvesting of a crop of chili pepper plants growing outside one of our kitchen windows. My mother loved chili peppers and included them in many of her favorite recipes. Unfortunately, chili peppers were seldom stocked by grocers in our neighborhood, so she decided she would plant her own. Her favorites were jalapenos and serranos; two varieties that she knew were easy to grow successfully. In early spring, the “first season,” she set up a small planter on the inside sill of a sunny kitchen window to germinate seeds for her tiny pepper garden. When the sprouts were strong enough, she would move two or three of the strongest plants  to a platform on the outside of the window. The plants were always small and produced only about two or three dozen peppers per plant, but that was enough for her. Throughout summer,  the “second season,” she would nurse these plants into producing flowers and eventually fruit. The growing season for chili peppers in this part of the world in is a long one, and her small crop of peppers were seldom ready for harvest until the end of September, and often as late as mid October. The calender date didn’t matter, as far as she was concerned it was summer until her peppers were ready to harvest.  She felt that autumn, (“the third” season”), should only be celebrated after her chili pepper harvest.

In spite of having some serious reservations about her reasoning, I have, without admitting it until now, held to this tradition for the past fifty years. Every year chili peppers are a center piece in my garden. Every spring I buy a variety of chili pepper seedlings from a local farmer and, like my mother, plant and nurture them through the summer, hoping for a successful harvest to celebrate the beginning of  the “third season.”

Last year, two garden killer storms, one in September and the other in October, destroyed most of the crops in the Farmington valley, including all of my chile peppers. This season the weather was perfect  for growing everything, including chili peppers.  By September my pepper plants were loaded with fruit. I calculated that their 80 day growing cycle would be complete and ready for harvest at the official start of autumn on September 22.  However that day passed and my peppers were not quite ready for harvest. All signs were pointing to mid October chili pepper harvest . This year, my mother’s unofficial “third season” harvest celebration would be late.

     A heavy frost was predicted for most of Connecticut on Friday night October 12, and fortunately my peppers would be ready for harvest by then, so I planned to harvest them the day before. From the 8 bushes that I planted: two jalapeno, two hot cherry  two  hot Portugal and, two cayenne, I picked about 40 pounds of peppers. What you see in the picture below is what was left after sharing my harvest with friends and neighbors.

This year, I am happy to share my celebration of Nana V’s, late but successful, “third season” harvest with some photos of Autumn in the Farmington Valley.

The eight pepper plants below were given to me by the folks at Krell Farms. This picture was taken in early July and by mid September all  were full of healthy fruit. These plants produced the finest crop of peppers that  I have ever grown in my garden.

The Blunt family “third season” harvest

An autumn view of Heublein tower on top of Talcott Mountain in Simsbury Connecticut.

A view of the Farmington Valley From Talcott Mountain

The Farmington River as it flows behind Kolp Gardens.

Meet the Krell family. These folks own and operate one of the most productive farms in the Farmington Valley. In the spring they prepare the  Kolp Garden plots for planting. When the growing season ends in mid October they plow the fields again, and plant a cover crop of winter rye to nourish the soil and keep it in place over the winter. All of the corn growing in the background belongs to this family. In other fields they  also plant potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, summer and winter squash. All of the Kolp gardeners that I have spoken to praise how fertile and productive the soil is in these field. They also understand and they all understand that this family of professionals deserve credit for this success.

Farmington Community Garden Plots (Kolp Gardens–July 2012)

Gardens like those pictured below require consistent and timely care by the gardeners. The meticulous and professional maintenance of the soil provided by the Krell family is of equal importance.

“Third Season” Harvest at Krell Farm

A successful pumpkin harvest for Krell Farms. Most of these pumpkins will be gone in just a few days

The Krell family farm stand is a popular week end stop for many folks that live in and around the Farmington Valley. Some of the best tasting heirloom tomatoes that I have ever tasted are sold here this late in the season.

Apple picking is also a “third season” tradition for the Blunt family. Here my wife, Tricia,(on the left) and a close family friend ,Ilene, are picking apples at a popular Valley orchard. Ilene drove to Connecticut from  New Jersey to join us in this celebration.

This orchard also has plenty of apples for customers that prefer to have their apples picked by someone else.


Blue herons of Oregon, Part 1

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

I’m getting antsy. I’m trying to get two of my own novels ready to put up on Kindle and to also produce paperback copies of each on Amazon’s Create Space, or whatever they call it. So, to relax, I take drives with Chloe (my Canon 5D Mark III camera) and my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens. A few hours ago, I also asked my friend, Christine Mack, to go with us. Christine likes Chloe, but Chloe’s not so sure about Christine.

Somehow, the drive took us up Jerry’s Flat Road, leading inland out of Gold Beach, Oregon, on the south bank of the Rogue River. When we reached Lobster Creek, we pulled into the campground and drove down to the boat launch ramp.

Christine saw the heron in the water, near the shore, first. We were out of the car in a flash. (Christine has incredible observational skills and has often seen things I’d like to photograph long before I do. In fact, without her, I may not see many of them at all.)

I was surprised the heron hadn’t already flown away because there was a boat at the end of the ramp with three people in it. But I caught on quickly: They were fishermen and they were cleaning and fileting their catch and they were feeding the scraps to the birds that had flocked around. This included the heron.

By the time Christine and I were getting down to the the water, the heron was walking away along the shoreline. That’s why I couldn’t get better photos of it. And, because they are inherently skittish and it already had its piece of fish in its beak (that the salmon-colored thing hanging out of its mouth), it flew across the Rogue to get away from us. But, not before I got some photos.

All of these were cropped for the blog.

This was the first of the photos I took of the heron. He (she?) had already gotten the handout from the fishermen and was walking away. That’s just a big piece of fish in its mouth.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 7.1     ISO 500     focal length 200mm


Still walking away with his fish scrap.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 7.1     ISO 640     focal length 200mm


I’d actually looked down at the camera to check my previous shot when the bird started flying across the river, so I missed its takeoff. Until then, I had been wondering if it was going to fly with such a large piece of fish in its mouth, and here was the answer.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 7.1     ISO 400     focal length 200mm


Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 7.1     ISO 500     focal length 200mm


And here it was landing on the north side of the river, still carrying its fish scrap. I wish I’d had my 400mm lens on the camera — but I didn’t.

Shutter speed 1/1000     f-stop 7.1     ISO 250     focal length 200mm


Olmsted Park—From Malarial Swamp to Popular Green Space.

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

In 1880 the growing pollution in the brackish water of a winding tidal creek forming a natural boundary between Brookline and Boston, concerned the townspeople that lived in this area . In Brookline, a three man Park Board was elected to work with the Boston Park Commission and Fredrick Olmsted to develop a plan for improving conditions in this small stream called the Muddy River. Olmsted developed a plan for “The Sanitary Improvement of the Muddy River. The Brookline Commission led by Charles Sprague Sargent (first director of the Arnold Arboretum) worked for fifteen years to make Olmsted’s plan a reality. Olmsted’s plan called for changing the meandering line of the river to more regular course. Both banks of the river from Longwood avenue, on the Boston side of the Necklace, to Olmsted park, were planted with native trees and shrubs. Most of the Muddy river that flows through the park was reworked. The large malarial swamp at the northern end of the park was dredged, and a out flowing stream was dug from  an ancient kettle pond at the southern end of the park, allowing water to flow to the dredged area to create Leverett Pond. The swamp was now transformed into a linear park with three major ponds connected by a natural looking but man-made watercourse. The park also features six granite pedestrian bridges, and several attractive walkways and natural stone walls. All of this is embedded in 17 acres of dense woods configured to shelter the park from the busy city that surrounds it. Unfortunately,over the years this chain of waterways has become clogged with silt and invasive vegetation grew up along it’s banks and in shallow water. These conditions have caused flooding along the river from Olmsted Park in Brookline to it’s outlet into the Charles River in Boston. The Muddy River is currently undergoing a restoration project to improve flood control and water quality. This was started in the 1980s when the State appropriated about one million dollars for the restoration of Olmsted, the Muddy River, and other parks in the Necklace. With the support of then- Governor  Michael Dukakis the Emerald Necklace Plan was completed in 1989. This plan, which is still in progress, represents a road-map for the long-term restoration of this majestic park system.

Of special interest to those that frequent Olmsted Park was the restoration of the Babbling Brook section of the Muddy River, which flows inside the park from Willow Pond to Leverett Pond. Other improvements to the park include: the transformation of a parkway originally designed by Olmsted as carriage road  into a bicycle and pedestrian path, and the recreation of Allerton Overlook. This semi-circle walk descends into the park onto the bicycle and pedestrian walk and provides a scenic view of the banks and islands of Leverett Pond. Two influential and productive Town of Brookline park advocacy groups, the High Street Hill Association, and the Friends of Leverett Pond have been very active participants in the implementation of Master plan in Olmsted Park. For the past two decades these groups have held neighborhood celebrations, park clean-ups, and pruning workshops. They have also worked to increase awareness of issues of park stewardship.

I made two walking tours of this park in late September. The first walk was a pleasant experience on that  warm sunny day, but I wasn’t impressed with the basic simplicity of the park. I felt that it lacked the spender of  other parks that Olmsted designed.  I decided to visit the Olmsted National Historic site, which is in the same neighborhood. I wanted to learn more about what was Olmsted’s intention when he designed this park. I found what I was looking for in a report that he wrote on the design of Franklin Park. In this report he wrote: “The urban elegance generally desired in a small public or private pleasure ground is to be methodically guarded against. Turf, for example, is to be in most parts preferred as kept short by sheep, rather than lawn mowers; well known and long tried trees and bushes to rare ones; natives to exotics; humble field flowers to high bred marvels; plain green leaves to the blotched, spotted and fretted leaves for which, in decorative gardening, there is now a passion.”

Olmsted’s designed this park to create a countryside setting in middle of an urban setting.  In this park and others like it, he designed broad spaces of growing grass, broken groves of trees. Throughout the park a visitor experiences the reflection of foliage on bodies of water to produce an element of in intricacy. This effect was similar to parks on estates that Olmsted had visited  in England. He called this style of park design, pastoral.

My second tour was during Boston’s busy evening rush hour. Walking through this park, even during this hectic time of day, is an exercise in peaceful relaxation. The noise and confusion of city is left at the entrance. On my first tour, I was  preoccupied with looking for some sort of majestic grandure. As a result, I failed to recognize the familiar pastoral eloquence that made growing up in this area such a wonderful experience .

I entered the park at the north entrance near Brookline Village, and walked along the pedestrian path to Allerton Overlook.

Allerton Overlook

Behind this vista of trees is Leverett Pond. For most of the year this overlook offers a spectacular view of the pond and it’s islands.

This granite  foot bridge gives access to the park, over the river outlet from Willow Pond to Leverett Pond.

Two Views of Leverett Pond facing north toward Brookline Village.

Daisey Field

Originally, Olmsted designed this area as large meadow surrounded by woods. It has since been redesigned into playing fields to serve community groups for little league, soft ball, soccer and touch football.

Muddy River/Babbling Brook Area

The babble has been restored to this section of the river.

Wards Pond

Wards pond is an glacial “kettle hole” formed at the end of the last ice age. In this scenic , heavily wooded area I found a quite wilderness just yards form the busy rush hour traffic surrounding it.

Wards and Willow Pond Granite boot bridge

There several gravel walking paths in the park that invite the visitor to safely walk through heavily forested areas. The path that I took led me to this recently restored foot bride and back to the paved pedestrian path.

The park is open an well maintained during the winter months. The cold weather and the snow add very different but unique beauty to this place. I visit  the Boston/Brookline area several times during the holidays. During these visits, I will return to this and other parks in Necklace and share the experience with you.



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