Squirrel Traps! (& other things to worry about on the 6th anniversary of our wedding)

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

To celebrate six years of being wed, we decided to take a walk in the woods. Or perhaps we decided to take a walk in the woods & what do you know, it was our anniversary! Either way, there we were sitting down eating a snack when Martin fell asleep. Mom believes this tendency is located on the Y chromosome.




While he was resting, Iris invented squirrel traps. As you might suspect, squirrel traps are meant to trap squirrels. Anything meant to trap squirrels should somehow employ nuts. It is quite possible that the idea was inspired by a video that Dad sent us by Mark Rober, “Building the Perfect Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder.” Iris’s resources were a bit more limited than Mr. Rober’s. She dug a hole with a large stick, surrounded it by small sticks, placed a leaf on the bottom, and would bait the leaf at the proper time. This particular squirrel trap, just so you are aware, is not meant to physically trap a squirrel. It is meant to mentally trap their focus for a moment, distracting them from whatever they were concentrating on, enticing them into the hole to eat the nut. Then the squirrel would be free to go.




After much longer than you might think it would take to engineer such a trap, the work was done. Either because she figured it wouldn’t take much to distract a squirrel or because she didn’t particularly want to share her snack, Iris chose the smallest nut she could find then woke Martin for the celebratory baiting of the trap.




When we reached the place of the grandfather trees, Iris resumed building. First, she experimented with building tripods. She tried very hard. What she learned is that it is difficult to lean three sticks together and have them stay just so.




Meanwhile, Akiva continued to play toss-the-spike with an iron spike that we found in an old junk pile. He had been playing it the whole way’s down the path since the junk pile. It’s played like this: toss the spike. Walk forward. Pick up the spike. Repeat. Usually, the spike lands sideways, bounces, then spins.




In this photograph, I have managed to capture the moment the spike landed point-down in the ground. Pine needles splash like water drops.




While this is going on, I play with the panorama feature on my camera. I have never used it before. Upon developing the photos, I see that, when taking a horizontal panorama, it would be a good idea to have a long depth of field. My favorite panorama captures Martin once again enjoying the activity of woodland resting.




Having given up on building a tripod, Iris built a common four-sided gnome house with a bark roof. She chose a nice forked stick to set off the front door so that the gnomes would know how to enter properly.




Finally, I took some portraits of my children. Mom says I should just take some nice photos of them now and again. Aside from the days when I take lots and lots of photos at once, I hardly seem to be taking many photos at all lately. But the woods are lovely for portraits. Here are some regular-ol’ photos of my kiddos, so’s you can go on and admire their cuteness. Or at least so I can admire their cuteness. That’s why I take photos, really: not for you: for me.




































Circle Skirt 2

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

I wanted to make Iris a new dress. First I picked a fabric from my stash. Hmm. Yellow with green leaves. Three yards. That should be good. Then I picked an idea. I wanted to make a new version of a dress I made two years ago. Seeing as Iris was playing happily, in lieu of measuring anything (my first mistake), I decided just to go maybe two sizes up, lengthen the bodice a bit, and make the skirt a bit longer.




I made the bodice first. Lovely. Then I made the skirt. Oops. Not enough fabric. Fortunately, I’m great at piecing & I was able to piece together the circle skirt in a rather unusual, unnoticeable manner. I didn’t have any scraps large enough to cut pockets, so I cut them from a plain yellow, seeing as they would not be seen. Only the smallest, most useless scraps of fabric were left over.




I placed the pockets without measuring how long Iris’s arms are. I knew logically they should go at the top of the skirt, but I didn’t know if my circle skirt would exactly match the bodice, in terms of circumference. I wanted to leave room for possible miscalculation. My method for calculating the opening for the circle skirt is to do a bunch of math and then decrease the opening by one centimeter. I don’t know what the centimeter does, but last time, I wish I decreased the opening by one centimeter. I figured I’d better put the pockets too low instead of too high. If I put them too high, they might get cut in half if the diameter of the circle skirt is too small in diameter for the bodice due to my random one centimeter alteration. So I put them on the skirt, about three inches from the top. Things I do in a calculated manner I do in centimeters; things I do haphazardly I do in inches.




I used the rolled-hem foot for the first time on the bottom of the circle skirt. It turned out perfect, thank you. Then I attached the bodice to the skirt. That was also perfect! Thus, my random pocket placement is about 2.5 inches too low. Ugh. Useless! Finally, I went through the button box. I absconded with approximately 15,429 buttons from my mother’s house, so I always have the perfect button for every occasion*. In this case, I chose a pair of matching carved vintage mother-of-pearl buttons. Magnificent! I will not allow her to wear the dress anywhere.




For a photo shoot, we went to our new favorite spot on the Massawippi River. I discovered it one day when our old favorite spot had been just been shat upon. The shitter was still there. His shit was covered in flies and surrounded by toilet paper. He had shat right in the middle of the trail. Disgusting! I could tell it was him. He had stayed there a while, unpacked all his bike bags, eaten, and pooped in the middle of the trail. We biked up past him, right to the spot he used for a toilet, and he quickly got packing and left. Disgusting. So we had to leave, too, seeing as the spot was now ruined. The new favorite spot is lovely, tho.




I really don’t know what kind of occasion this dress is good for. Although I generally just let her wear the dresses I make anywhere, this one is a bit much and a bit more easily stained, due to its color, than the others. I suppose she can wear it to school, should school start up again in the spring. It should fit her for a couple of years. We will see if she still likes circle skirts and mama dresses when she is ten.







*NOTE: My mother does not have the perfect button for any occasion. In fact, she is no longer an owner-of-buttons. Sorry, Mom. I took them while you were plastering the ceiling. I thought you wouldn’t notice.**


**NOTE: Actually, Mom, you gave them to me saying that you probably wouldn’t use them any time soon. You would have been right had it not been for the completely unforeseeable global pandemic. The simple precaution of leaving you six plain buttons to make straps on which to hook your ear elastics to would certainly have prevented the pandemic in the same manner that carrying an umbrella keeps away the rain and that hanging the laundry is sure to induce a downpour. What I mean to say is, thank you for the buttons.

We walk upstream from the school

Monday, May 25th, 2020

We walk down through the school woods then turn left, back up the hill, where the stream goes under the culvert.

The children practice crossing and re-crossing a log.











There are many people footprints here. There are also raccoon footprints, ‘possom footprints, mouse footprints, and various bird footprints. Akiva finds snails to be the easiest animal to track and spends some time judging a snail race.





Upstream, we find many bones of a long-dead horse. Iris takes home some teeth.

Akiva throws rocks in the stream.

Friday, April 24th, 2020

I find it interesting that he throws rocks with his left hand:

he does everything else I can think of with his right hand.



L’Ile du Marais, Marinier Archipelago

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020



At L’Ile du Marais in Ste-Catherine-de-Hatley, the ice is still frozen. Instead of taking the regular trail around the main island, we follow the footprints of ice fishers fishing between the small island of the Marinier Archipelago and the western shore of the southern end of Magog Lake.





I am anxious to cross the ice, but Iris and Akiva have no fear. There is no reason to be afraid: there are many people safely fishing through holes drilled in the thick ice. It takes quite an effort to make fear succumb to reason.





I am tired because I am not good at sleeping. While I rest lazily, head down on a slope, the children explore. After some time, we leave. We never make it to the main trails.



Family Portrait, Pee-Yoo-Ka Lake

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

There’s a retention pond near where Mom & Dad live. When I was little, I used to go walking around there with Ari. It’s a pretty place on the outskirts of the city of Syracuse. There are ducks and geese and joggers and trees and dirt trails. In winter, Ari and I used to go skating on it. In late summer when the water is low, it gains the familiar smell of waterlogged decaying vegetation. Sometime in my childhood, I began to refer to the nameless body of water as Pee-Yoo-Ka Lake. At first it was a secret name, spoken only between me and my sister. But good children are not good at secrets. Eventually Mom informed me that the correct term for this small body of water is “the retention pond over by Barry Park,” but by then it was too late. No one excepting her would ever refer to it by such an unpoetic, scientifically and geographically correct name in my presence again.


Akiva, Iris, Mom, Dad and I walked by Pee-Yoo-Ka lake on our way to meet Dad on his way home from work. What with the sun setting and the invasive weeds shimmering like gold in the polarized light, I saw for perhaps the first time ever that this place would probably appreciate a name as pretty and as important as a wetland in the city can be. I directed everyone off the trail and aimed my lens at them for the one and only photo taken on our entire week-long visit to my parents’ house. Maybe the photo would have been better if the smallest person was at the highest point and the tallest person at the lowest, but we’ll never know. I have been impatient behind my camera lately and failed to rearrange them. This is how it is.



Hiking Friday with Grandfather Tree

Friday, February 21st, 2020

Above the overlook to the island there are two grandfather trees. You will recognize them. They are two of my favorite trees in the forest. What is the cause that there are two, standing on a high point, with no other trees of comparable size for miles around? What was this place like when they were young? 





Above the overlook to the island there are two children. You will recognize them. They are my two favorite children in the forest. What is the cause that they are young and I am old, with no children of comparable size for miles around? What will this place be like when they are old?



Walking with Friends

Friday, January 24th, 2020

This Friday, we went walking with friends.

We walked home in the dark under a clear night sky with Venus shining brightly above.



Hunt for the Lost Ornament (Single-Use Disposable River Crossing Over Bridgeless Brook, Part II)

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

Despite the fact that we had nowhere in particular to go, we didn’t manage to leave the house until nearly three in the afternoon. The goal was to find Linda’s missing gift.


We walked through the field, down into the woods to the place where Iris first showed me the ornament. It was not there. We walked to the near side of the river where we had crossed. No ornament. Then, because we could not cross the riverβ€” there was more water and less iceβ€” we bushwhacked down the easterly side of the river in search of an alternate crossing.


At the mouth of Bridgeless Brook was a mass of stuff: a large culvert lay perpendicular to the shore with up-rooted trees, ice and rocky mud all in a jumble amid the water flowing into the Coaticook River. We had found a new crossing spot at last! I tried it out myself first. I crossed a jumble of organic matter over sub-freezing water, walked along the culvert, grabbed something long & logish, inched out on a large protruding log & tossed the smaller log so that it lay across the remaining ice and water between me and the far shore.


“You can do it!” I said, and they came. And they did it. With a helping hand here and there and one final toss of the kids over the last bit of river, we all crossed Bridgeless Brook.


Iris & Akiva on the far side of the river crossingβ€”




Where we crossed the riverβ€”




Once on the far side of the river, the hunt for the missing ornament continued. We walked to the far side of yesterday’s river crossing. No ornament. We followed our bushwhack back to the washed out concrete bridge. No ornament. There we met a man named Pierre-Luc. He happens to be part owner of the property. We chatted with him for a bit, then walked through the field, across the street, and followed the path to the school. No ornament.


“There’s one final place I really think it might be,” I said as we re-traced our footsteps to the location of last night’s party. And there it was! There it was, hiding shyly in the fading daylight and all soggy in the snow, right near where we had put down our backpacks by the bonfire! Oh, were we happy.

Single-Use Disposable River Crossing Over Bridgeless Brook

Friday, December 13th, 2019


If the brook that used to have a bridge over it had a name, I’d call it by its name. At this point, due to the fact that we visit so frequently, I’m compelled to name it myself. I hereby name the little river that used to have a tiny bridge over it Bridgeless Brook.


After a brief stop for a snack, where Iris showed me the ornament that Linda had made for her and one for each person in the class, we reached Bridgeless Brook between 3:30 & 4:00 in the afternoon. Recently we’ve been crossing just slightly upstream of where the bridge used to be, because the stream is wide and the gravel is not too far from the surface. However, today it was warm. The brook was deep. I crossed the brook on a rope tied between two trees, but this was beyond the ability of my kids.


Up past the regular crossing is an eddy pool. A tree leans out over the eddy pool, growing vertically where once there must have been soil. After crossing the river, I put one foot on the tree’s trunk, wrapped one arm around the trunk, and put my other foot on the ice on the other side, where Iris & Akiva waited.


“I’ll take Akiva first,” I said. He walked out onto the thin ice. With one arm, I swung him across to my side of the river. He climbed the bank.


“And now Iris,” I said. She walked out onto the thin ice. As I swung her across to my side of the river with one arm, the ice under my foot crashed into the river. I pulled myself over to the kids.


“Good thing we’re all on the same side!” I said. “Lets walk upstream to see if there’s a better crossing somewhere.”


We walked upstream, up all the way to where the concrete bridge washed out. We walked up to the road, walked up the steep bank covered in phragmites, went over the river as the road crosses, then went back down through the tall stand of phragmites that covers the bank. We walked along the edge of the field, across the road to the trail to the school, then reached the school about 45 minutes before the second-grade Christmas party was to begin. We hadn’t planned on attending, but someone was just starting a bonfire, so we put down our backpacks and stayed a while. After some sack races, tug-o-war games, singing and dancing, we noticed our bellies grumbling & headed home. Upon arrival, Iris unpacked her backpack. The gift from Linda was nowhere to be found!


to be continued…