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

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Honoring Two Ordinary American Heroes and Others No Longer With Us

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 by Richard | Comments Off on Honoring Two Ordinary American Heroes and Others No Longer With Us

Both of my parents were World War II Army veterans. My mother was especially proud of her military service. Her favorite symbol of our country’s victory in this costly struggle was the U.S Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. When I graduated from high school in 1961, she took me to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorial. She believed that the thousands of Americans who died during this war should never be forgotten. She kept a small framed black and white photo on a nightstand next to her bed. This photo was moved to the living room on Memorial Day.

The photos below are of the National Iwo Jima Memorial located on the New Britain/Newington town line in Connecticut. This memorial was dedicated on February 23, 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the original flag raising to salute the 6,821 Americans who died fighting on the last strategic stronghold before the planned invasion of Japan. I visit this park every year as Memorial Day approaches.

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National Iwo Jima Memorial

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An eternal flame provided by Connecticut Natural Gas


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Two engraved tablets honoring the chaplains and medical corps that served on Iwo Jima 

Walter James Duffy and Virginia Lee Blunt —two of my favorite heroes

Once a year I drive to the Massachusetts National Cemetery to visit the grave sites of Jim Duffy, brother of Dave Duffy, and my mother. Their sites are within walking distance of each other. I park at the administration building and walk to both grave sites; rich, well-maintained landscaping here makes a visit seem like a tour of a National Park. It is a fitting final resting place for Americans who served the country in the military. Both of these brave soldiers were volunteers, and never voiced any regret over their decision join the military. The war cost my mom her marriage and she was left to raise a son on her own. She considered succeeding at this difficult task to be her greatest achievement.

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Remembering Fun Times

 The photo below was taken in the late 60s in Washington, D.C. Dave and I were visiting Dave’s older brothers Hugh and Bill. On this particular day, Hugh, Dave, Jim and I decided to visit the Capitol Building. As we approached, I started to complain about the hot sun. Jim listened to my complaints, smiled, took off his hat and put it on my head and said, “Always happy to help a wimp.”

In 2005, Dave wrote a salute to his brother Jim, in which he describes the highs and lows in Jim’s life. However, as he described Jim’s classic interception at a football game against a rival football team, he failed to mention that I was the second string offensive center on the same team, and was standing on the sideline with them. At football practice Jim and I often contributed to mess up some of the best plays executed by the first string offense. From time to time, for no apparent reason, one of our many practice field antics comes to mind. This always brings a smile to my face, and thoughts of other fun times off the field. You can read Dave Duffy’s article in Issue 95, September/October 2005 — Sgt. Jim Duffy an Ordinary Hero, that is an inspiration for my comments.


Memphis Style Ribs

During the frequent hot summer days of the late 50s and 60s my mother was invited to spend time in the Cape Cod town of Mashpee at the summer cottage of an long-time army friend; my mother said this friend belonged to the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.

Because electricity had not yet reached this part of the cape, portable gas lamps were used for light at night, and most cooking was done on wood fired stoves or BBQ grills. One of my mom’s greatest pleasures was preparing meals for everyone using recipes that she developed. Over the years I have been able to reconstruct some of my mom’s favorite recipes from this period. Next week I will begin posting some of these recipes and cooking techniques she used during our summer visits. I will post the first one this month, and, if possible, I will post at least one or two recipes a month. My mother was great cook, and I am sure that you will agree after preparing and sampling her recipes.

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Mother’s Day at Tomasso Nature Park

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 by Richard | Comments Off on Mother’s Day at Tomasso Nature Park

In the late 1980s a local airport located in Plainville, Connecticut decided to expand its runway. Building the extension required the filling of four acres of wetlands along the Pequabuck River, which runs through several towns in the area, including Farmington. This, unfortunately, would destroy a major portion of a vital wetland area. To mitigate the loss of the wetlands, the town of Plainville turned an adjacent sand pit into a four-acre wetland by meticulously removing the wetland soil, vegetation, and animals from the construction site and transporting them to the current location in the nature park. To say that the area survived all of this and thrives to this day would be an understatement.

There is an abundance of wildlife living in Tomasso Nature Park: the eastern painted turtle, common snapping turtle, northern water snake, great blue heron, Canada goose, northern rough-winged swallow, raccoon, white-tailed deer, muskrat, and more. The park is also filled with a wide variety of vegetation common to a healthy wetland area. Footbridges were built to help visitors cross streams and wet areas. Plenty of benches and large rocks are available to visitors while exploring the park.

My first visit to this park was in November last year, two days after the park had been closed for the winter. I returned early in March when it reopened, but the snow and cold of Connecticut’s long winter made exploration difficult. Also, to reach the park I had to walk down a paved path alongside a fenced hazardous waste area on one side and a housing complex on the other. This short walk made me wonder if a nature park could really exist in an area like this. However, I returned in warmer weather a few weeks later to find high grasses and wildflowers swaying in a gentle breeze and dozens of painted turtles sunning themselves on rocks, lily pads, and stumps in man-made ponds. As I walked down the short entry road, several swift-flying birds caught my eye, as they as they seemed to vanish into a sand-like embankment near the waste dump. Later I discovered that they are rough-winged swallows tending their nests dug tunneled into the sand bank. I knew then that this park was going to be a rewarding discovery.

After entering Tomasso Nature Park, it took me only 20 minutes walking at a comfortable pace to go completely around the park. But this walk could have easily taken much longer had I paused to enjoy the many varieties of birds and other wildlife moving freely around the park. Another feature that I liked was the absence of crowds that I often find in other nature areas. I could actually hear and identify several different bird calls during my short walk.

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When I returned home after my last visit to the park, I called my daughter Sarah and shared my experience with her. She suggested that we visit the park with Mom on Mother’s Day if the weather was nice. My wife, Tricia, has an arthritic condition that is sometimes aggravated in cold weather, and this past winter made some days very uncomfortable her. She likes to walk with me when I visit parks, but not during the winter cold. The visit to Tomasso Nature Park would be her first of the warm weather season.

Below: Sarah and Mom enjoying the scenery and warmth of the sun.

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Tomasso Park’s crab apple trees were in bloom.

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Below: the largest pond in the park

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All of the interesting or unusual trees in the park have identification tags.

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This Tree-of-Heaven is our favorite.

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Below is the swallow nesting area located near the entrance to the park.

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Rough-winged swallows were tending their nests.

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It would not be a wetland area without Canada geese.

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Sarah and Mom are both teachers in a local school system. As we left the park, they promised to return again and bring some of their students back on a nature walk. This year, Mother’s Day was a huge success.

Looking for Signs of Spring and Bald Eagles

Saturday, April 11th, 2015 by Richard | Comments Off on Looking for Signs of Spring and Bald Eagles

Eagle Rock

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Several month ago, thanks to the generosity of my “Where We Live” associate and long-time friend, John Silveira, I became the proud owner of a Canon 400 millimeter prime telephoto lens. I think he was weary of listening to me weep and moan about the difficulty I have photographing birds on the wing without a telephoto lens. However, with the weight of this lens (about 8 pounds) and its specific light requirements, it took two weeks and about 200 practice shots for me to learn how to use it. Unfortunately, after completing this learning period, winter settled in on the East Coast, grabbed it by the throat and held tight. We are approaching the end of March, and the beginning of spring while in the grip of record-breaking cold and snow.

Photographing bald eagles as they breed and hunt along the banks of the lower Connecticut River is prime during the month of March. Twenty-one inches of ice and a three-foot snowpack made getting close enough to snap photos impossible, even with a telephoto lens. So last week I hit the road looking for signs of spring and a bald eagle to photograph.

I found what I was looking for while driving along Route 66 in central Connecticut. This eagle has been sitting  proudly on the eastbound side of the road since 1989. The rock was given a facelift in 2001, and reflective paint was used for the eagle’s eyes.When driving by at night, motorists are greeted by a glistening eagle eye peering at them from the side of the road. On the day of my visit in late March, winter was very much in evidence, marked by the snow cap on the eagle’s head.

The owner and publisher oBackwoods Home visits frigid Connecticut.

Dave Duffy and his wife Ilene drove cross-country visiting friends and family this past month, and decided to spend a weekend in Connecticut. He and I grew up in Boston, and he was also at a loss for why this winter was still so much in evidence. As we walked along the Farmington River near Kolp Gardens it started snowing. The somewhat milder weather in Oregon has softened him up a little, so we headed back to the car.

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Visiting friends who know how to survive a long winter

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My friends Tom and Debbie Fausel live in a large house and have been refinishing it for several years. The house sits in an open area surrounded by 22 acres of woods. Heating costs, even during a normal winter, can be painful. Tom read a Central Boiler advertisement in Backwoods Home Magazine and decided that it was the answer to his heating problem. He ordered a unit and installed it himself. The unit supplies all of their heat and hot water. It also heats a large in-ground swimming pool. This winter has proven the wisdom of his decision. Dave and Ilene were impressed with the precision of Tom’s work.

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My search for spring continues in Boston

Dave and Ilene were leaving Connecticut for Boston the next day. Dave suggested that since the weather would probably improve later in the week, Tricia and I could join them and pay a visit to our Webmaster Ollie.

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No spring in Boston

The mountains of snow that were deposited on Boston this winter were gone, but cold and wind were still there. The wind was blowing so hard that it caused an eerie and very loud howling sound from the Prudential building, shown below. The cold winter weather also lingered over the drained Duck Pond in the Public Gardens.

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A beer and a good lunch in Copley Square saved the day.

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The search continues back at home — the first signs of spring arrive in my favorite place

My friend Carl, the professional farmer at Krell Farms, conditions the soil of the Community Gardens for spring planting. The day after we returned from Boston, Carl called to inform me that he was on his way to Kolp Gardens to plow, lime, and fertilize the soil in preparation for spring planting. This was my first sign that, in spite of the cold weather, spring was not far away.

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The plowed fields are ready for the town surveyors, who will map the individual plots.

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Below is a couple that have walked these fields for over 70 years in search of artifacts left by the Tunxis tribe that lived in this area during the 1700s. They systematically explore nearly every inch of the fields every spring and fall after the farmers plow. They are a welcome assurance that spring is close.

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Spring is alive at Krell Farms. Below, Carl shows us a small section of his seed cultivator that will produce the vegetables, fruits, and other plants that he cultivates in the many fields under his care.

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A healthy and thriving greenhouse at Krell Farms

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Carl is not a part-time farmer. Farming provides a living for him and his family. Now that spring is showing signs of visiting the Farmington Valley, I will be following Carl to learn how he and his family make this farm a success every year. If all goes as planned, I will share what I learn with the readers of Backwoods Home Magazine.



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