Archive for August, 2011

Irene

August 31, 2011

Hurricane-cum-tropical storm Irene came and went on Sunday. We were prepared for the worst, but it wasn’t bad at all. We had high winds much of the day and off and on rain, but it was no worse than a summer thunderstorm. A lot of twigs and small branches were knocked out of the trees, along with a larger branch here and there, but I was expecting at least a tree or two down and that didn’t happen. The power flickered several times during the day, but it never went out for more than a few seconds, which was especially surprising since it’s not unusual for us to lose power during high winds (living at the end of a dirt road in the woods will do that). Hearing about the flooding in Vermont, I can say we got lucky. The pond is up a few inches, noticeably colder, and a lot murkier since the storm, but we didn’t see any real flooding here.

E. has now been through her first hurricane, even if it didn’t amount to much here.

Family reunion

August 21, 2011

Yesterday we took a trip down to Connecticut for a gathering of my mother’s mother’s extended family. My grandmother had a lot of siblings, who had a lot of children and a boatload of grandchildren, most of whom I have never met. In fact, there were at least a good fifty people there, some of whom I may have met at some point in my life, but no one that I could say I knew.

The setting was a pleasant one, a house with a great big back yard in rural Connecticut. There was a pool, much to the delight of the little ones (there was lots of splashing), a deck, several large canopies for shade, and a big grill. Food was burgers and hot dogs, plus a wide assortment of pasta, potato, and green salads, with some other nibbles on the side. Several home brewers in the crowd brought samples of their production, although I didn’t get around to trying any (one was spiced with habanero peppers, which turned me right off).

You could tell it was a gathering of that branch of the family in two ways: first, the hair. That family has distinctive dark curly hair, which I got some of myself. We didn’t see quite as much of it as we were expecting to, but we saw enough. Second, the cheerfully chaotic way in which the day proceeded. There was no program or plan, people showed up over a span of several hours, food appeared when it was ready and people ate when they were hungry. The kids ran around and splashed in the pool, people wandered in and out. Nobody made any fuss or tried to organize things and everybody just had a good time doing whatever they felt like doing.

Although we were outsiders of a sort, there were many of the older folks who remembered “Aunt Patty” (my grandmother) or my mother and her siblings. We chatted with some of the younger folks as well, both family members and those who were, like E., “guilty by association.”

We spent several pleasant hours there, but made an early departure since we had a long drive home. The drive was not a difficult one, although it was long and we ran into slow traffic a few times. All in all, we had a good day.

Special dinner: August

August 10, 2011

The menu for August

Starter: fresh vegetable salad

Local cucumber, chery tomatoes, and carrots

Main course: barbecued pork and grilled corn

Local pork and corn

Dessert: blueberry crisp and vanilla ice cream

Local blueberries, though sadly not our own

Special dinner: July

August 6, 2011

I had the idea recently to start doing a special dinner once per month, something a little different from what we usually have. I get to have the fun of cooking and trying out new recipes, and E. gets to enjoy decorating the table, which is fun for her. I decided to pick a theme for each year and work with that theme. For the remainder of this year, I picked an easy theme: local and seasonal foods.

I’m a little slow in getting this up, but here is the menu from July. August will be up soon.

Starter: garden salad

Local spinach and cherry tomatoes

Main course: grilled vegetable lasagna

Local zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, and basil. Homemade pasta

Dessert: brandy snap baskets with whipped cream and berries

Local cream. Our own blueberries and raspberries

Brand snaps may not be familiar; I had never encountered them before our recent trip to Britain.  It’s a thin candy-like shell that can be shaped when hot into baskets that you then fill.

The wall: Carlisle to Bowness on Solway – June 24

August 1, 2011

Today’s walk: 14.5 miles / 23 km in 6 hours

Today was our last day of walking, and also our longest, at least in terms of distance. We’ve had longer days timewise when we were going up and down the crags, but this was the farthest distance on the map. We’re solidly in the flat coastal plains here, barely even a low hill to climb today.

Today was also the best weather of our trip. After a couple little sprinkles in the morning, the sun came out and shone down strong. It was warm and dry for the rest of the day, which made for a welcome change. Instead of being cold and wet from rain we were hot and wet from sweat, but it was nice to see the sun.

There are virtually no visible wall remains between Carlisle, where we started today, and the termination of the wall in Bowness-on-Solway where we ended. In fact, it is possible that the wall was not built in stone along the whole of this length. Parts may have been turf or wooden palisade, but the other works such as watchtowers and roads allow us to track the line of the frontier.

The trail took us out of Carlisle along the River Eden.

The river Eden, downriver from Carlisle

We were very quickly in the countryside, tromping over pastures and fields again and through pretty little villages.

One of the many little villages we passed through

The most complex stile we saw, and the only one of its kind on the trail

We stopped in one village about half-way along the route, Burgh-by-Sands, to have a drink and a little lunch in the local pub.

The Greyhound Inn in Burgh-by-Sands

Walking through the village, I was reminded of Bermuda: the tiny but immaculately kept gardens, the colorful plaster on the houses, and the sound of the sea coming from not far away.

After Burgh-by-Sands a long stretch of the walk crossed a broad tidal flat. The very low slope of the ground meant that when the tide was out it was way out. We seem to have arrived at low tide and the water was almost out of sight.

The salt flats

A herd of cattle was grazing on the salt flats, although some of them seemed to prefer the higher berm at the landward edge.

Cattle on the berm just above the flats

From the flats we could look north across the Solway Firth at the southern hills of Scotland, East back at the Pennines, and south at the Cumbrian Hills.

The trail took a few jogs inland across some fields where the modern roads offer no convenient way of keeping on the wall line, but we ended up on the shore again, making our way finally to our destination, the village of Bowness-on-Solway.

More tidal flats, at low tide, near Bowness

We paused at the edge of town to help another pair of walkers get a picture of themselves arriving, and they returned the favor for us.

We made it!

Bowness is a charming little village, one winding street full of houses built cheek-by-jowl in typically British fashion. Our B&B was in an old converted Methodist chapel and our hostess was a chatty, cheerful woman full of welcome.

The brown stone building in the middle is where we stayed. The owners live in the white house next door

There is only one pub in town for dinner, and it happens that their cook is on vacation this week. Our hosts, however, have made arrangements so that their guests can get dinner. We went at the appointed time and had a very good dinner and dessert. It was clearly a locals’ place, with a crowd of people chattering away around the bar with the ease long familiarity.

The King's Arms in Bowness-on-Solway

Bowness was a very pleasant place to end our walking trip. We got the bus into Carlisle the next day, mostly retracing our previous day’s walking. We schlepped our luggage along to the local historical museum which had a new Roman exhibit opening that very day. We enjoyed the exhibit, then got ourselves to the train station to get a train back up to Edinburgh, where our vacation began. We stayed overnight in Edinburgh, going back to where we had dinner our first night to have our last dinner in Britain. The following morning we were up very early (too early to get breakfast, sadly) to catch the bus to the airport. We flew home again by way of Dublin and got back to our regular lives.

This walking project has been on our minds for the past six months, since I first proposed it and we began walking ourselves into shape for it. It has taken a lot of planning and effort, but it was well worth it. We are both glad that we did it. I don’t think we will ever want to walk the whole wall again, but there are parts that I may well want to visit again someday.