1) Grass Lilies; 2) Garlic Mustard; 3) Darwin Hybrid Tulip; 4) Dandelion
A Texas City Girl In A Small New England Town
Historic markers all across the nation provide a glimpse into the past and preserve history for future generations. On the last Friday in April each year, National Historic Marker Day invites volunteers and communities to come together to maintain their markers. Unfortunately, weather and time take their toll on these small monuments to history. By working together, we not only ensure these markers tell the stories to future generations, but we also take the opportunity to celebrate the history and culture they preserve.
First brought to North America by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds. They are stocky black birds with short tails, triangular wings, and long, pointed bills. Though they’re sometimes resented for their abundance and aggressiveness, they’re still dazzling birds when you get a good look. Covered in white spots during winter, they turn dark and glossy in summer. For much of the year, they wheel through the sky and mob lawns in big, noisy flocks.
After a warm Spring Break, the rain is very welcome in New England. Kevin and Katelynn drive to Queen, New York, where he drops her off at LaGuardia Airport. It rains, but it shouldn’t interfere with the time of her departure. This evening, Katelynn will be back in Dallas, Texas again.
In early May 2021, Kevin and I visited Avery Point Lighthouse in Groton, Connecticut. Walking towards the Shennecossett Yacht Club, we heard quite a commotion on the Thames River. We wondered, what was going on. The U.S. Coast Guards made so much noise, we first thought someone is in deep trouble. Come to find out, the Coast Guards were guiding a Submarine out of the river and the bay to the sound into deeper waters. Later I discovered that there is a Naval Submarine Base and a museum, where the Nautilus is located upstream of the river. That was very interesting. I haven’t seen a submarine in 31 years. When I was 16, I had the chance to see the “Wilhelm Bauer” (U-2540) Submarine in Bremerhaven, Germany. Seeing the submarine entering the Long Island Sound was the highlight of this trip to New London/Groton.
Today is National Submarine Day. It celebrates the purchase of the USS Holland, the first modern commissioned submarine. This day is important to the submarine community as it honors the US Navy’s purchase of their first modern submarine, but life underwater isn’t all that glamorous. Often, crews are out at sea for months at a time and return when food supplies run low. Subs can be cramped with tedious tasks to complete daily, and some might not always be the best of friends with everybody on board. It’s not just enemies and the sea they have to contend with.
Kevin and I took Katelynn to the Saville Dam Castle, this afternoon. We still had to recover from yesterday’s hike. It was not a long hike, but the hills were exhausting. Katelynn liked the castle. Unfortunately, it is closed to the public. Kevin and I were at the Saville Dam Castle, a little over a year ago. The Reservoir was frozen and we had to walk in the leftover snow to get to it. We definitely have to come back here in Autumn, when the leaves are turning. The colors will make a very colorful background.
Coming from the Jericho & Mattatuck Trail, I wanted to go take a quick look, at if the skunk cabbage is blooming in Echo Lake Park Katelynn and I decided to hike along the trail, while Kevin went home to feed the dogs and boil some potatoes for dinner. We saw some mallard ducks and a couple of geese.
Kevin, Katelynn and I hiked on the Jericho & Muttatuck Trail for a little bit. We entered the trail on Echo Lake Road and made our way to the powerlines before we walked back. Not very many plants are green yet. But Spring is coming. Katelynn enjoyed walking in the woods and listening to the woodpeckers drumming on those trees. Hopefully, the small hike will help Katelynn to get rid of her jet lag.
It was so nice today: warm temperatures and lots of sunshine. The Harbinger-of-Winter, Crocus, and Periwinkle are blooming. The snowdrops should be done blooming, soon. Birds chase each other and sing the songs of reproduction. That sounds better and more kid-appropriate than calling it the “Screams of Sex”. Soon, we will have birds building nests and tenting for their offspring. The bears come out of their Winter dens after a long Winter of hibernation. Nature begins to wake up. I’m still waiting for my little chipmunks to appear in our yard. I haven’t seen them, yet. They might snooze for another couple of weeks.
Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers live in both hardwood and conifer forests up to about 6,500 feet in elevation. They often nest in groves of small trees such as aspens and spend winters in open woodlands. Occasionally, sapsuckers visit bird feeders for suet. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers perch upright on trees, leaning on their tails like other woodpeckers. They feed at sap wells —neat rows of shallow holes they drill in tree bark. They lap up the sugary sap along with any insects that may get caught there. Sapsuckers drum on trees and metal objects in a distinctive stuttering pattern. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers are mostly black and white with boldly patterned faces. Both sexes have red foreheads, and males also have red throats. Look for a long white stripe along the folded wing. Bold black-and-white stripes curve from the face toward a black chest shield and white or yellowish underparts.
It began to snow at around 8 o’clock last night. When I looked out of the window at midnight, I could see the accumulation of snow for the last four hours. And it kept coming down heavily. This morning, Kevin used the snow blower for the first time this Winter season. He was so excited.
When I came out of the house, the snow fell off the trees and shrubs this afternoon. It was mild enough for the snow to melt from our house roof and off the greenhouse roof as well. The dogs and Joshua were the only pets going outside. Chewbacca and Ozzy wanted nothing to do with it. When Joshua’s paws were wet enough, he came the dogs back into the house. It’s no fun having snowy paws being a cat.
Since this Winter was very mild, we didn’t get much snow this season. Kevin was giving up on snow for this Winter. But, I warned him: “It might all come down in March and April until Easter. And we have snow. Well, it’s still February and Winter after all. However, soon this will get old. We need warm weather for gardening.
Last night it got frosty. And we had some ice rain this morning.
Kevin and I did an almost 2-mile hike on the Herron Pond Loop at White Memorial Conservation Center. It was a good up & down hike this afternoon. Close to the Fawn Pond we missed our trail and walked the outer path. Since we made a “mistake”, we had the chance to see the engraved boulder, a rock in memory of the White siblings, Alain & May. Back on the track, we were at the overlook of Fawn Pond. The pond looks so pretty with the tree stomps and a water lily forest beneath the surface of the water.
Once, Kevin and I made it to Herron Pond, we took the outer track again. This time, we did it on purpose. The east side of the pond was too muddy, so we decided, we take the trail on the west side. There I found an interesting plant, I’d never seen before, the flat-branched tree clubmoss. At first, I thought, it was rooted due to the pine trees above. But it is a ground cover plant. We learn something new every day.
Peter Vermilyea (HiddeninPlainSightBlog.com) describes the former ice-making operation that once thrived on Bantam Lake before electricity and refrigeration were available. The site is located on the White Memorial Foundation property near Litchfield Town Beach.
Since I had to go to a doctor’s office, Kevin gave me a ride down to New Haven. After seeing the doctor, we went for a short walk to New Haven Green. I captured some photos. There is a bus station and so many questionable people on and around New Haven Green. We didn’t feel comfortable at New Haven Green. We made our way to the car to get back home.
Traditionally the groundhog awakens from his nap for a nice welcomed break during the winter to see if he can see his shadow. Many believe if the groundhog sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If this is so, he retreats into his den and goes back to sleep. However, if he does not see his shadow, the groundhog remains outside to play, and people celebrate, believing spring is just around the corner.
Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, has hosted the annual Groundhog day event. Thousands of people come to the town of Punxsutawney on Groundhog Day for this day of celebration.
Since Kevin and I went to the Devil’s Hopyard State Park, we went to Gillette’s Castle State Park as well. Since they are about 15 minutes apart, and we were in this area already, mind as well we visit it. We arrived at the castle and noticed, that it is under construction. Which is okay with me. At least I know, where part of our taxes goes. And the castle needs to be maintained for future visits. During our visit, we found out that the castle was built with local fieldstones, which are supported by a steel framework. This gives the Gillette castle a Medieval look. Mr. Gillette also built a three-mile narrow gauge railroad. While the Castle sits in New London County, the biggest portion of the State Park is in Middlesex County.
William Hooker Gillette was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1853. His father, Francis Gillette was a U.S. Senator. William Gillette visited numerous colleges including Trinity, Yale, Harvard, etc. But he never received a degree. In 1916 Gillette had his most famous role for his portrayal of “Sherlock Holmes”. He passed away, due to a pulmonary hemorrhage, in 1937 at the age of 83 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Kevin and I drove to the Devil’s Hopyard State Park by East Haddam. I wanted to see Chapman Falls. The weather was great. We had 50℉/10℃. And there were a lot of people hiking with their kids and dogs. I believe there was also a small photo group in the park. Kevin and I hiked the short Chapman Falls Loop Trail. Some areas were a little muddy. Due to the fact, we had rain and snow last week, I can see the Eight Mile River flooding its shores. This time of year is still the best time to go hiking in these state parks. Once Spring arrives a lot more locals will come out, and tourists will be all over the place. We can’t blame them. It is a beautiful State Park.
Originally Kevin and I planned to hike the Orenaug Park Trail in Woodbury. But we couldn’t find the entrance to the park. So, we went down to the Trolley Bed Trail. There we followed Stone Brook to the Woodbury Reservoir. Even with temperatures in the mid-30s and snow in the forecast, it was a comfortable hike.
Temperatures near the freezing point, a chilly wind, and some snowflakes won’t stop Kevin and me from a hike in January. We are good to go as long as we are bundled up and the trails are not icy. Last weekend, we decided we hike in Southford Falls State Park. Mainly, I wanted to see the falls close to the parking lot. But we went further down the trail before the fallen trees stopped us in our tracks. There we’ve noticed, bigger snowflakes coming down. Before it got too messy, Kevin and I went back up the trail. I captured a few more photos And then we warmed up in the car. Winter weather is cold in Connecticut. However, we don’t have to deal with the bugs in the Winter season.
Since it was a beautiful day, Kevin, Sara, and I went hiking in Camp Columbia State Park for New Year’s Day. It was chilly a little bit. But we bundled up. We took the Camp Columbia Tower Trail, which is a short (0.6 miles/1 km roundtrip) trail. When Kevin, Sara, and I climbed the stairs of the tower, we had a nice view of the Camp Colombia State Forest. I can only imagine, how beautiful the view will be in Autumn again. While Kevin went down the steps and looked up some history about the Instrument House, which is now a ruin, and the tower, I had to get Sara down again. The outer staircase gave her some anxiety. Once she was on the ground and away from the tower, she did fine again.
Since Kevin and I were on our way to Danbury, I mentioned the new Sandy Hooks Memorial to him. “Well, it’s not raining. Let’s get off Interstate 84 and check it out!” Arriving at the parking lot, we were not the only people visiting the Sandy Hooks Permanent Memorial. Several visitors came to look at the new place on Black Friday, since it was recently opened on November 13th. Kevin and I walked around the Reflecting Pool to read the engraved names of the victims of the school shooting, which happened almost a decade ago.
The Sandy Hooks Memorial has a Visitor Plaque at the entrance, which includes a quote from former U.S. President Barack Obama when he spoke at an interfaith vigil at Newtown High School on December 16, 2012.
Here in Newtown, I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation. I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope it helps for you to know that you’re not alone in your grief; that our world, too, has been torn apart; that all across this land of ours, we have wept with you.
Encased within the stone is soil created from items left in impromptu memorials throughout Newtown in the days following the tragedy.
The Reflection Pool is the main feature which sits at the center of a circling network of gravel paths. In the very center of the basin is a young sycamore tree, symboling the young ages of the victims
The memorial is perfectly designed for what it sadly represents. I can only imagine how beautiful it will look in Spring and Summer when all the flowers bloom and the ornamental grasses will complement them.
Today we drove to the Railroad Museum of New England in Thomaston. From there Kevin, Sara, and I took the train to the Campville Summit, about four miles north of Thomaston along the Naugatuck River. Meanwhile, we had cold apple cider on this beautiful Autumn afternoon. Once we reached the summit, we rode back through Thomaston and made our way down to Watertown, just past Echo Lake Road. Kevin jokingly said: “If we jump off the train, we have to walk only a mile to be home.” Back towards Thomaston, we made a stop at a small pumpkin patch. Kids and adults could take pictures and bring a small pumpkin on the train. After 15 minutes the train loaded up again. And we rode back to the train station. The excursion took about 1 hour and 20 minutes. It was a nice little ride through the Litchfield Hills. We also had the chance to see the Thomaston Dam and look down into the Naugatuck River Valley. Sadly, the peak season of leaf peeping is over. Most trees are almost bare.
This afternoon we went to Fayerweather Island in Bridgeport to see another lighthouse. Once at the park, we had to climb across the barrier stones between Long Island Sound and Black Rock Harbor to get to the island. This was quite a puzzle. But I also watched other people on which stones they stepped to make the walk easier on the way back. It was a beautiful, sunny day. And a lot of anglers were out to catch fish. One guy caught a bluefish that was over a foot and a half long.
Arriving at the Fayerweather Island Lighthouse, Kevin, Sara, and I took a short break and looked up its history. We found out, that this lighthouse is not the original building. The original wooden lighthouse was built in 1808 and was destroyed in the Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane on September 3, 1821. In 1823 it was replaced with an octagonal stone tower, which we visited today. Same as the original lighthouse, this building is 40 feet (12.1 meters) tall.
As mentioned before, the walk back was much easier and faster since we knew on which stones to step. Sara was so far ahead, I told Kevin to catch up with her and pick me up in the car. Meanwhile, I sat on a bench and watched the gull on Seaside Beach.
Another wonderful month is almost over. Now, we’ll get from the vacation season into the harvest season. The school will be back in session, soon. Everything will be back to normal and on schedule. It’s time to say goodbye to July and welcome the new month of August.
This morning Kevin and I went on another hike at the White Memorial Conservation Center. The Apple Hill Trail has an elevation gain of nearly 500 feet and is 3.3 miles roundtrip. Along this trail, there are quite a few tree roots and stones and a marsh boardwalk to get to the observation deck. The Observation deck is a wooden platform with a staircase. From there we had a good view over a field, Bantam Lake, and the surrounding mountains. The wind was very refreshing in this humidity. It got warmer, and we made our way back to the car across the Marsh Point Road entrance.
Kevin, Sara, and I made use of this beautiful morning. It was only 59℉ (15℃) when we drove for a hike to the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield. At the center, we parked the car by the Sawmill Field and walked along the Bantam River. In the swamps, we’ve heard a lot of frogs croaking, but couldn’t find one. They were camouflaged in the water. Close to the Mattatuck Trail, Kevin pointed out a snake. I was lucky enough to photograph the Garter Snake from head to tail before it disappeared under a rock. There were also plenty of wildflowers like chicory, purple loosestrife, swamp weed, and water lilies. A lot of people were also hiking and biking on those trails or kayaking down the Bantam River towards Bantam Lake. When we walked back to our car, we noticed it wasn’t even 9 am, yet.
This is a nice rain relief; we have been getting it since last night. The temperatures have been much cooler for the last couple of days. We turned off the air conditioner and opened the windows. This is a nice little break, before the Summer’s heat turns on again. The weather is supposed to be in the upper 70s to mid 80s (25℃ – 30℃) for the rest of the week.
Kevin and I went for a small hike at Echo Lake Park after dinner. He’s still recovering from last week’s trip to Dallas. The jetlag is real. The best way to get rid of it is moving around and staying hydrated. We did our little walk behind the lake. Back there we’ve met the King/Queen of Echo Lake, a nice big beaver. He/she was working on its beautiful water mansion, getting small tree branches from the lake dam. It was quite interesting watching the beaver swimming with the branch across the lake. A family across the lake was fishing. Once they saw the beaver, they were quite fascinated by the strength of the beaver as well.
Kevin and I visited the Little Pond Boardwalk Trail at the White Memorial Conservation Center back in March. Since it is not far from our house and an easy hike, we decided to take the girls and Christian there for a walk, last Sunday. Instead of snow and ice, everything is green and in bloom now. We walked by a lot of wildflowers. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a lot of wildlife. It was a nice 1.7-mile hike around the loop and back to the car.
Last Friday, Kevin and I decided to take the girls and Christian to Kent Falls State Park. We wanted to make sure, while Christian is here, he had the chance to see a few places in Connecticut. While Kevin, Sara, Katelynn and Chris hiked for a little bit, I stayed down and captured some photos at the bottom of the falls.
Exactly one year ago was a bittersweet day. We finalized everything by signing the Texas house over to the new owner. It was our home for nearly 16 years. And we’ve raised our girls in this place. The Colony is a great community to raise children. It has great schools with an awesome ISD (Independent School District). The shops are close to home. But our street is still quiet. We will miss our good old home and community. At the same time, we are very grateful for still having a job during this pandemic. Even when it brings us to a completely different area in this country.
Before we signed the papers for purchasing the home in Watertown, we got a chance to look at the house inside. I saw it only in photos and on a live camera, when Kevin and the Real Estate Agent walked through the place. Finally, I’ve got a visible dimension of the house and the property. We saw what needs to be changed and how we have to approach it. In the afternoon, we signed the papers at the title company in Oakville, which is still a part of Watertown.
Yesterday evening Kevin, Zoey and I took a little stroll in Echo Lake Park. Because there is a sign to walk in twos or bigger groups due to wildlife activity, I’ve never been on the backside of the lake. The weather was beautiful and we had to stretch our legs from driving back and forth to New York City. The Echo Lake Park Trail is approximately half a mile one way. While on the trail, we saw a turkey hiking up the hill, trying to get away from our curious dog. There are several benches to sit and relax by the water’s edge. On the backside of a boulder there are a couple of artwork drawings. A beaver left its own work close by the lake. Kevin wondered how long it would take a beaver to chew through a tree that size in the photo above. Since it gets warmer, more Canada Geese come back to Echo Lake, again. Zoey really wanted to chase them. But Kevin had a good grip on her, even when she jumped right off the bench. This girl is crazy, when it involves chasing wildlife. After all, she’s part Labrador and part Pity.
On Saturday, Kevin and I decided to take a spontaneous hike at Castle Craig. Katelynn came with us to get rid of her jetlag faster. When we arrived at Hubbard Park, it seemed like there was an event going on. Later, I found out it was the weekend before the Daffodil Festival. The tents went up, and vendors prepared for the event. Unfortunately, Peak Drive was closed off. And so we had to walk along the Merimere Reservoir towards the castle. On the walk, we saw wildflowers, and a millipede and had a good view of the castle’s tower. Since we didn’t bring enough water, we turned around after approximately two miles. Roundtrip, we did about four miles. Even when Kevin, Katelynn, and I didn’t make it all the way to Castle Craig, we had a nice hike at the park.
After dropping off Sara in school, I drove over to Echo Lake Park. Echo Lake Park is my favorite spot in Watertown. And it is only half a mile from our house. Usually, when I go there, I get greeted by a lot of Canada Geese. Today, there was a lonely goose paddling on the lake. My guess is that the other geese arrived at the park, later. I’m still waiting for the trees to bud and turn green. However, this could take until the end of April into the beginning of May. Connecticut teaches me a lot of patience in nature, for sure.
This morning I found Skunk Cabbage in the swamps in the northern part of Echo Lake and Echo Lake Brook. Since the Skunk Cabbage is a Harbinger of Spring, I was very exited to see most of them open to show off their Spadix, which is the seedball inside of the plant. I really like their Bourdeaux speckled with green colored Spathe. When I touched the spade to find out about the texture of the Skunk Cabbage, I definitely knew where they’ve got their name. My fingers had a very light smell of skunk spray. I can’t wait to explore more new plants in the area this Spring.