Posts Tagged With: Vermont

Say It With Me

Go ahead.

Say it.

You know you want to.

Tufted Titmouse

Titmouse.

Some people can’t help but titter when they hear it or say it themselves, expressing child-like delight at making something so cute and delicate sound so nasty. A single Titmouse shows up at the feeders once or twice a season, events so few and far between as to be worth noting on the calendar. The other day they appeared in droves.

Well, maybe not droves. Probably not even a full drove, if you get right down to it, but the definition of drove is decidedly ambiguous so who’s to know? The point is, there was a dozen of them, which may not seem like many, but they were menacing.

It had only been an hour since I published my post about beard balm, where I wrote that the birds would have to wait if they wanted my winter whiskers for nesting material. The Titmouses came closer and closer and I began to think that maybe they didn’t want to wait, but how could they have known?

After a few photos (for identification purposes later, if needed) I struck what seemed, to me, a reasonable bargain with the Titmouses: In exchange for two cups of sunflower seeds a day in the meantime, I am allowed to keep my beard until the ice is off the lake.

Tough Titmouse

It was 78°F outside (25.5°C) that afternoon and I started thinking my negotiating skills could use a little work.

A Warm April Afternoon

The threat of a vicious plucking doesn’t have me thinking about toting a shotgun when I cross the dooryard (maybe a tennis racquet)  but that ice was looking kind of feeble and I wondered how binding a promise is when that promise is to a Titmouse.

Other bird names sound just as made-up as Titmouse. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker is one of my favorite silly names. It sounds funny, except when it doesn’t.

There are Coots and Boobies and Stints, Wandering Tattlers and Greater Yellowlegs (Lesser ones, too). Then there is the quadruple-entendre Bushtit and the (boom)Chachalaca. Throw in some Greenshanks, a few Beardless Tyrannulets, Cuckoos, Noddies and Snipe and there are hours of immature fun to be had with the bird-watching crowd. Don’t even get me started about Woodcocks.

Alas, new species of birds don’t come along very often (and the old ones have a way of disappearing) so the need for creative new bird names is quite limited.

A glance through fly fishing catalogs and magazines will convince anyone that those who tie flies are bound by no such constraints.

New patterns appear each year, whether created from scratch or as significant variations on a theme, and each of those new flies has a name. The need for names for new flies is virtually unlimited, but coming up with a catchy name no one has thought of requires creativity and deep thought. After all, once someone names a fly Rat Faced McDougal, what could be left?

Quack Doctor might have gotten a few chuckles, back in 1892, along with Cow Dung, when they were included in Mary Orvis Marbury’s “Favorite Flies and Their Histories”. Green Butt Skunk must have a story but I’ve never looked for it and I don’t know how the aforementioned Mr. or Mrs. McDougal felt about the whole thing.

Fly fishing has Boobies, too, along with other flies that lend themselves to innuendo, such as Stimulators, and Green Weenies. Others, like Bitch Creek Nymph are named by virtue of birthplace but are still fun to say.

I can only imagine what those who don’t fly fish think of those who do when they hear the names of some of our flies (or go poking through these pages). I learned early on that not everything I hear is quite as it sounds and I no longer faint like I used to when snippets of fishing camp conversations reach my ears.

Opening Day is the Saturday after next and I brace myself for eagerly anticipate the annual onslaught return of the anglers to Fish in a Barrel Pond. After six months of quiet, it takes some time to adjust to so many voices outside my head but it won’t be long before I can walk by a camp and not give it a second thought when someone yells, “What did you do to my Montreal Whore?” or, “Hey! Check out the size of my Meat Whistle!” or, “Where’s my Butt Monkey?”

To the ignorant or uninitiated, hearing such things might be shocking but somehow, to me, words like those are as much a sound of spring as peepers and song sparrows. Some of the men talk that way, too.

With less than two weeks to go before opening, me and the titmouses have not been the only ones watching the ice on the lake. Most haven’t been actually watching the ice; they’ve been calling and emailing to ask about it but it changes from day to day, even hour to hour, and I don’t get paid to stand around watching ice melt. The ice has been deteriorating — of that there is no doubt — but the changes can be subtle, at least when observed over the course of the average human attention span.

A camera on a tripod, however, can stand around all day.

And now, for something more dear to an anglers heart than Boobies or Butt Monkeys.

Say it with me:

Ice-out.

 

 

Categories: Humor, nature, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For People with Beards, and Those Who Love Them

For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I’m still wearing my winter beard half-way into April. It is usually so beat up, brittle and tired by the time spring arrives that I just hack it off and hang it in a tree so birds can use it in their nests, but not this year.

My feathered friends will have to wait a while (maybe longer) until I am done with my beard. Yes, it’s kind of grown on me and no, I didn’t lose my clam shell, but my beard is near the top of  the list of things that get me through winter and now I’ve found a way to get my beard through winter, too, thanks to Feared Beard VT.

Frosted Woods Beard Balm

Before anyone goes off the rails and starts in about doing a product review or questions my qualifications to write about grooming, I’ve done reviews here before (a list of them, and a disclaimer for this one can be found below) and this is me after all, so the term “grooming,” is used rather loosely. In addition, there is nothing ironic about my boots, my flannel, or my beard so don’t be thinking I’ve gone all hipster or something.

Frosted Beard

A trip around the lake on snowshoes (or six trips up and down the driveway behind the snowblower) can leave my beard full of ice, frost and frozen who-knows-what. I have yet to find any source recommending that sort of thing for any kind of hair. No silly scarves for me to keep my face warm, no sir, but all that freezing does take a toll.

Then, after the worst of winter is done and it looks like spring might be right around the corner, it’s time to make syrup so I spend hours and hours tending the arch, opening hot cast-iron doors and putting my face close to a roaring, searing fire — something else you won’t find on a hair care “do” list. You won’t find it specifically on a hair care “don’t” list, either, but not just because sugar house stokers are an under-served demographic.

Face to the Fire

The smell of burnt hair is thankfully rare but going to the edge of combustion on a regular basis is as bad for it as being frozen. All that extreme heat and serious cold, along with the naturally unruly behavior of long whiskers, adds up to a beard in need of serious help and I think you can understand why I am sometimes anxious to whip out the old clam shell as soon as spring arrives.

I’ve used different shampoos and conditioners, with varying results. I’ve tried oils for beards and oils intended for salads and didn’t like them one bit. Fly-aways, split ends and breaks were just a price to pay for having a hairy face when the nights turn hoary — until I saw a display at the Vermont Country Store last December, featuring beard balm from Feared Beard VT. Continue reading

Categories: Product and Gear Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Vermont Tenkara Finally Mainstream

We at The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond are not above tooting our own horn, especially when it comes to spotting important fly fishing trends, six years in advance. It may take longer for folks to recognize the genius of the Portable Long-Range Angler Management and Training System™ or the practicality of concepts like Gordon’s Getaway Club® (“for anglers who expect less from Nature”™) but we saw this Tenkara thing coming a long time ago.

Stalking wild brook trout in Vermont’s small streams is a delightful way to spend time on (and in) the water. Stealth and a delicate presentation are essential to success. Tight quarters and tiny pools add to the challenge, but there is no denying the beauty of native brookies or the pleasure of a few hours spent following a small, shady stream as it winds beneath a leafy green canopy on a warm summer day. For some, Tenkara provides a perfect set of fishing techniques and equipment to meet these circumstances.

And now, a little more than six years after we first wrote about it in these pages, Tenkara in Vermont has finally gone mainstream, if mainstream can be defined as being featured on Vermont Public Television’s long-running series, “Outdoor Journal”.

The segment below, recently posted on their You Tube page, follows host Lawrence Pyne as he fishes with angler and guide Bill Whitehair, using Tenkara rods to catch lovely little fish on a lovely little stretch of a lovely little stream.

The folks at Tenkara USA should be pleased.

The folks at The View from Fish in a Barrel Pond are pleased for them, I can tell you that much, especially after the fuss in their forum when we first wrote about Tenkara six years ago(!). Confusion was also reflected in a forum on a Tenkara site in Russia but the translation was poor, I have lost the link and, given the current political climate, I hesitate to search for things ending in “.ru”.

From November of 2006, here is our original post:

Vermont Hand Crafted Tenkara Rods

And, while they have not quite come around to our way of thinking, here is the fine piece from the Vermont PBS show “Outdoor Journal,” a very acceptable way to spend the next ten minutes:

(My favorite quote: “Cast it exactly like you would a fly rod. No trick to it at all.”)

Categories: Fly Fishing, Humor, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Balmy Days

Last week’s cold snap was forecast to end on Monday, maybe, but it didn’t happen. Tuesday, maybe, was a possibility but became a definite not. On Wednesday, however, the temperature climbed enough for the sap to run again, the tank filled, and the arch was fired up one more time at Bobo’s (boil #8).

Steam and Snowflakes

The stuff in the front pan, left behind from the last batch to “sweeten” the next, had frozen to slush due to its high sugar content, but the weaker stuff in the back pan was decidedly more solid and, according to the forecast, it’s going to happen again.

Not Exactly Sugaring Weather

Despite the snow and sleet, sap ran into the night and, in order to leave behind as little as possible to freeze, the fire in the arch was stoked until almost midnight. The shed has a lot of wood left in it, but prodigious quantities have already been burned. Opening the doors to feed the fire, especially when they are pulsating like angry cuttlefish, can be like flying into the sun, and closing them quickly — before one’s clothes burst into flames — can become a matter of some importance. Continue reading

Categories: Humor, Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steamy Video

The recent record-setting warm spell could not possibly last. It is March and this is Vermont, after all. Sap was still trickling down the hill as last evening’s boil ended at Bobo’s Mountain Sugar and, while the collection tank didn’t fill all the way, it had enough sap in it this morning to justify firing up the arch again.

Another justification for processing a not full tank is the fact that temperatures are predicted to drop to well below 0°F over the next few days. Anyone who has ever dealt with a thousand gallons of solidly frozen sap knows how that can slow down an operation. Everyone else can probably imagine.

As dependent on weather as sap runs are, boiling that sap into syrup can be affected, too. Barometric pressure has an effect on the boiling point of liquids and wind gusts to 50 mph have a strange way of preventing steam from leaving the building. Even with doors open.

Fogged-In

Fogged-In

It didn’t help that the outside air that did get in was cold and getting colder, and that it, too, turned to fog when it met the warm air rising from the arch.

Sitting down once in a while is allowed.

Sitting down once in a while is allowed.

The edge of a cold metal barrel is not really a comfortable seat but it will do. Lest readers get the impression I sit a lot, I don’t. Sometimes I stand and stare at the ceiling.

Looking up, into the steam coming down.

Looking up, at the steam coming down.

Mostly, my role in Bobo’s sugarhouse is stoking the fire and drinking beer acting as a role model for children. Mostly, it’s stoking the fire.

Heat

Heat

The sap tank is empty, the arch is quiet and the plumbing is drained. There won’t be another run of sweet sap until this bitter cold blast has moved through, maybe by Monday they say. It was freaky foggy in the sugarhouse today, but not constantly. The fog came and went, as you will see below.

The four foggy photos above are part of a series, a series of 299 images which, when stitched together, form a time-lapse, boiling down two and half hours to thirty seconds. The big hairy guy even does a little dance.

 

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

A Big Hot Metal Box

Snowshoes were appropriate footwear on Bobo’s Mountain last Tuesday as the last taps went in, racing against a warm-up that promised a run of sap (see “Something is Running and It’s not Me“). The race was won, the sap was caught, and by Friday children were seen running barefoot.

Three feet of snow disappeared. Some simply sublimated but most of it melted, running noisily down the hill as runnels met rivulets and rills became brooks, braiding their way toward the river.

Melt-Down

Melt-Down

It turns out that this year’s first boil took place on the same date as last year’s but whether or not that means anything is still open to conjecture. By the time this first run was over, somewhere in the neighborhood of 7,000 gallons of sap had been processed. Continue reading

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Vermont | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Something is Running and It’s not Me

Long-term weather forecasts can be useful but they are subject to change and not always accurate. A predicted period of snow showers followed by a slight warm-up can become 10 days of ice, snow and arctic winds followed by a drastic melt-down and, before you know it, the scramble is on. In this case, the scramble is up and down and across the slopes of Bobo’s Mountain, driving taps into every available maple tree before the sap starts running in earnest.

Making Tracks

Making Tracks

By mid-afternoon, sap was dripping from freshly drilled holes before spiles could be driven and drop lines hooked up. Licking a tree is not something normally done in polite company, but up on the hill, where nobody can see, why not? Faintly sweet and tasting of forest, those first drips are an elixir, pushing aside visions of snow drifts and cold, replacing them with thoughts of mud, hot fires and steam.

Across the Brook

Across the Brook

With all hands on deck, the last tap went in yesterday afternoon and the collection tank began to fill. Some of those hands, though, are a little worse for the wear, scraped by rough bark and sliced by sharp bits, all in pursuit of syrup.

Professional Hand Models, Bobo's Mountain Style

Professional Hand Models, Bobo’s Mountain Style

Today, the arch will be fired up to boil the first run of sap on Bobo’s Mountain, giving sore muscles and busted knuckles a break and allowing those hands to experience burns and scalds instead.

Bring on the mud!

 

Categories: Maple Syrup, Rural Life, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A New Gallery and Tips for Photographing Snowflakes

One in a Gazillion

One in a Gazillion

Embrace, endure, or leave. Those are pretty much the choices when it comes to winter in Vermont. It is not uncommon for those who stay to find themselves wavering between the first two choices, while those who left are content to look at the pictures.

Drifting Among the Drifts

Drifting Among the Drifts

That’s a lot of snowflakes and, like my daddy always said, “When life gives you lemons, shut up and eat your lemons,” although in this case it’s snowflakes, not lemons.

Group shots of snowflakes can be tricky, especially on a sunny afternoon, but individual portraits are more interesting. The most famous snowflake photographer of all has to be Wilson A. “Snowflake” Bentley, a resourceful farmer from Jericho, VT, who became the first person to photograph a single snow crystal in 1885.

Photography has come a long way since Snowflake Bentley hooked up a microscope to his big bellows camera and exposed individual glass plates. Gear was just part of the equation, though. Snowflakes are small, fragile, and temporary, so conditions and technique were also important. They still are, no matter what kind of rig you use. With almost as many camera variations as there are snowflakes in my dooryard, I’ll leave that part up to you. Getting those snowflakes in front of your lens, keeping them there, and having a chance at a decent photo is what this post is about. Continue reading

Categories: Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Spreading Something Other Than Ugly

An inquiry regarding a mayfly photo last summer triggered a furious search, which is ongoing. The photo in question resides among some 10,000+ images I’ve taken over the past few years, which someone is finally taking the time to catalog, tag and edit. At least a thousand pictures weren’t worth any words at all, other than “delete” because they were so hopeless but, even at my most ruthless, thousands more have thus far been spared.

That particular mayfly hasn’t been cataloged yet but many others have been and it’s only a matter of time before I find it again. After all, what good is a photo if you can’t find it? And what good are hundreds of others if no one is going to see them?

The answer, of course, is that they are no good at all.

I could dole them out, one at a time, on a blog that is updated sporadically at best, but that would take years; I could post them here in big batches, sure to overwhelm while serving no particular purpose; I could just leave them where they are, the way they are, and do nothing at all.

Or, I could spend some frigid mornings and long, dark winter nights building a place to hold some of the best pictures I’ve got, where anyone and everyone can see them, any time they want.

A place like Nonesuch Mountain Images.

Five galleries are up, with additional images and galleries to come. All images are copyrighted. Larger (printable) file sizes are available for purchase as licensed digital downloads for personal or professional use.

You might notice there are no (visible) identifiers or watermarks displayed. Heck, there’s even a little button to click if you want to share them with someone else. Please do. There is plenty of ugliness in the world so why not spread a little something else? Just remember they’re mine and at least link back or give credit where credit is due, please.

Clicking a photo below will whisk you away to that photo’s gallery page at

Nonesuch Mountain Images

How about a gallery of mayflies (which will always be one image short until I find the one that started all this)?

Sulphur Dun, Nonesuch Mountain Images

Maybe some loons?

Loon Looking Silly, Nonesuch Mountain Images

Dragonflies and Damselflies are always interesting…

Green Darner, Nonesuch Mountain Images

There will be additions, but here are some of the rare and more unusual wild flowers I come across:

Purple Fringed Orchid, Nonesuch Mountain Images

Purple Fringed Orchid, Nonesuch Mountain Images

It won’t be long before the sap starts to run and the arches are fired-up for another sugaring season. More pictures! More syrup!

Late-Day Steam, Nonesuch Mountain Images

Late-Day Steam, Nonesuch Mountain Images

It used to be called “shameless self-promotion” but it’s called “branding” now, I guess. Nobody’s offered to cough up 17-million dollars to put my name on their building yet, so words and pictures are about all I’ve got.

Enjoy.

Categories: +Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hoar Frost

Sometimes, even winter holds its breath and, in the cold stillness of a winter night, water vapor changes from gas to solid on contact with chilled surfaces, constructing crystal matrices resembling feathers that last until the sun hits them or somebody coughs.

The adjective “hoary” is sometimes defined as “gray or white, as with age, and in some cases worthy of veneration”. It can also mean “old, overused and trite” but with frost it supposedly refers to the appearance of an old man’s beard.

Old and overused, maybe, but trite?

Old and overused, maybe, but trite?

Tomorrow will have one minute more light than today, and when tomorrow becomes yesterday there will be one minute more as we begin tilting slowly back toward the sun. Meanwhile, it is winter, and even winter can hold its breath.

Yukon Jack, “The Black Sheep of Canadian Liquors” and purported to be the regimental liqueur of the South Alberta Light Horse regiment of the Canadian Army, claims a “taste born of hoary nights…” which probably means it was too dang cold out to go find some better whiskey, so someone mixed what they had with some honey in an old turpentine barrel and hoped for the best.

Something else born of hoary nights is the poetry of Robert Service. There are worse ways to spend the next nine minutes of your life than watching this video recitation of “The Cremation of Sam McGee”:

Categories: nature, Vermont, Winter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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