Tag Archives: winter

Frozen, fabulous February

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On this beautiful, sunny and warm (25 degrees … it’s all relative) Saturday I took a trip to see something I’d been wanting to explore for awhile now: the Alton Bay ice runway on Lake Winnipesaukee. I had only come across it once from the road, and even then hadn’t spent much time. So this morning I drove to the southern end of the lake and …

… this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

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The runway is about 3000′ long and the ice approximately 18″ thick. Dictated by Mother Nature, it is the only FAA-sanctioned ice runway in the lower 48 states.

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Today there were many people – most with cameras – out on the ice with me, watching the planes take off and land. All are small single-engine aircraft. There is no control tower and although there is radio contact with pilots, they pretty much govern themselves. For obvious reasons they cannot use their brakes. Landing on ice can be tricky.

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Volunteers keep this runway operational, plow it after snowstorms, and help with parking the planes. Today was a rare storm-free and windless day, perfect for a fly-in. In addition to the airplanes there were countless snowmobilers, bobhouses, fishermen, and people simply out on the ice walking their dogs. Everyone wanted to be outdoors today.

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Around for more than 30 years, this little wintertime runway brings life to Alton Bay in the dead of winter. Pilots support the businesses in the Bay, and visitors like me flock to watch something you can’t see anywhere else. Yes, winter in New Hampshire is long … but while it’s here, its residents sure know how to make the most of it.

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My second favorite


Photo Jan 16, 6 33 58 PMWinter is my second favorite season. You can’t beat autumn in New Hampshire, so that’s a no-brainer, and while most people would choose summer next I prefer winter. At this point in the season, though, I’m a little afraid to admit that.

I am probably the only person left in New England who likes winter. Yeah, we’re all winter-weary here, and I’m looking forward to spring as much as anyone else, but you can’t argue with the beauty of the season. I have included some photos here to prove my point, just in case someone pushes back on this.

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Winter here is the stuff of postcards and calendars: fluffy-white drifts of snow covering hills and fields. Curls of woodsmoke coming from chimneys. Centuries-old white architecture made even more beautiful with a frosting of ice. Little white lights in every window, illuminating the dark frigid nights.Photo Feb 10, 6 41 59 PMThen there are the things the postcards don’t tell you … the ice dams that back up on rooftops and allow water to creep into your house. Snowdrifts so high you can’t see around them to turn onto the street. High heating bills. Empty cars running in parking lots, staying warm while their owners shop. Bad hair days from all that dry static electricity in the air.Photo Feb 16, 4 19 43 PMIt’s all just part of living here, though. We know it, expect it, and put up with it, believing that spring can’t possibly be that far away. And when it does arrive it is a feeling like nothing else – new beginnings, new life, something that is looked forward to every year.

So until that day, I am loving this frigid white landscape and thankful that my roof hasn’t collapsed under the weight of two feet of snow. The ice dams haven’t caused any major damage. Yet. The car still reliably starts when it is seventeen below zero. There are no mosquitoes.

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I’m happy when my second favorite season begins. And just as happy when it ends.

It’s right here in black and white

As New Englanders hunker down for the big Blizzard of 2015, with snow measured today in feet and high winds and low visibility, I look out my window and see … black and white. January is like that. Stripped down, raw, bare-bones January. It’s a long, cold month but if it weren’t for January we wouldn’t appreciate the warmth of spring. Winter has a quiet beauty that is, to me, second only to autumn.

Sorting through some old photos I realized I have a nice little collection of black and white photos – though they were unintentional. Color photographs with no color. Silhouettes, snowscapes, patterns and textures. Fun stuff. And I thought I would share here on this snowy, colorless day, watching the snow pile up outside.

London train station detail

London train station detail

The view from Sliabh League cliffs, Donegal Ireland

The view from Sliabh League cliffs, Donegal Ireland

Sacré-Cœur from the clockface at Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Sacré-Cœur from the clockface at Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Gravestone, Ireland

Gravestone, Ireland

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Lunch at the Louvre, Paris

Lunch at the Louvre, Paris

Winter in New Hampshire

Winter in New Hampshire

It’s a good day to stay inside and dream up new places to explore in the coming year. New Hampshire is closed today!




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On the eve of each new year I try to choose something new to focus on and learn about in the coming twelve months. This is harder than it sounds. Sometimes I stick with it, and sometimes I don’t. Past picks have been all over the place: jewelry-making, Ireland’s history, how to start a blog. The year of attempting traditional Italian cooking sounded good on paper until I realized that I would also have to eat it; sadly, in the end I figured I did not need the extra pounds. So … some ideas work, and others don’t.

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For 2015 I wanted to do something creative. After days of crossing items off a mental checklist I finally settled on an idea: Instagram. Now, Instagram is nothing new, even to me. I had tried it once before. Social media isn’t really my thing. But Instagram IS photos, and I thought it might be another aspect of photography – however simple – that I should investigate. To up the ante a bit I decided it should be a Project 365 – post a photo a day – on Instagram. Let’s call it Instagram365.

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For the record (and I looked this up) “instagram” is a blend of the words “instant camera” and “telegram.” Photos are confined to a square shape, reminiscent of Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid images. A bit of a throwback in the midst of 21st-century technology. Not life-changing, but different enough to be fun (I hope).

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Instagram also encourages the use of filters, and this is where the creativity comes in … I have given myself permission to go a little overboard with it, creating images that might not look exactly like what I saw but maybe what I imagine it to be. After all, who cares? This is supposed to be fun. Instagram may not be challenging to learn or use, but my dare is to post something interesting – or at the very least not boring – every day.

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Twelve days in … so far, so good!

Follow me on Instagram


Giving thanks in unexpected places

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The calendar may say it’s Black Friday, but here in New Hampshire it’s White Friday. Wednesday night a storm moved up the east coast and dumped a foot of heavy wet snow across the state; as a result, a whole lot of people did not get their Thanksgiving turkey yesterday. 200,000 people were without power, down to about 80,000 today. This type of snow (known in Washington State as “Cascade cement”) can cause a lot of damage, leaving in its wake downed tree branches and power lines; yesterday morning my poor lilac tree looked like an inverted U. And it isn’t even winter yet.

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So this Thanksgiving I thought about some of the little things we take for granted – like electricity, hot showers and shopping on Amazon. Of course I’m thankful for the more obvious things too; but the morning news, that first cup of coffee, and being able to email my mom rank right up there. (Yeah, I would have made a lousy pioneer.)

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Black Friday has come and gone but it looks like maybe the snow is here to stay. It’s strange how something so beautiful can also be so treacherous. Blame it on technology, or the millennium, or anything you want, but this year I am doubly thankful for my family, my friends, and my internet access. For me, at least, they are all interconnected.

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In praise of mud

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The switch has flipped.

The calendar turned over to April and our temperatures have finally warmed up … you’d have to go back to last November to find a day warmer than today. There is light at the end of the neverending-winter tunnel. A ray of hope that we’ll soon see springtime daffodils, chirping birds, green grass …. or at least mud season. April first marks the day when bird feeders come back in the house, unless you want to provide a snack for a hungry, sleepy bear. It also is the day when bobhouses have to be off the lake, signaling the end of ice fishing. Word is that the ice in 19 Mile Bay is still 27″ thick, sparking theories that 2014 may have one of the latest ice-out dates ever. The record is May 12, which occurred in 1888; depending on what happens in the next thirty days, that date may be challenged this year.

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Roads are heaved from frost, meaning driving anywhere takes longer than usual. Load limits are posted on side roads. A small stream has developed alongside my property, heading down the hill towards the lake. A half-dozen deer are regularly congregated in my yard, looking for food and escape from the snow in the few bare patches of ground next to the woods.

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I like the smell of the mud, of the frozen earth letting go, of the boiling sap and woodsmoke that go hand-in-hand with the warming breeze. We’ve made it through, again. Spring is almost here.

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Photo Mar 23, 2 09 15 PM (Large)This past weekend was Maple Weekend in New Hampshire. Actually part of Maple Month, hosted by the New Hampshire Maple Producers Association, sugarhouses statewide opened their doors to the public to share their centuries-old craft. Broken down by region, this weekend was the Lakes Region’s turn – we printed out a list of 23 participating saphouses.

Notice how only the tops of the gravestones are visible!

Notice how only the tops of the gravestones are visible!

This year’s weather has not been kind to the maple syrup industry. For the sap to run you need daytime temperatures above freezing and nights below freezing, and Mother Nature just has not cooperated this year. It has been frigid right into March. Generally we get single-digit overnight temperatures in January … this year it has continued right into early spring. It was 3 degrees when I left for work this morning.

FROM 2013 Photo Mar 10, 2 40 22 PM (Large)So our first stop – Hunter’s Sugarhouse, right around the corner from my house – was a disappointment: there was no activity at all. With 1400 taps it is one of the largest sugarmakers in the area, having been in operation for generations. Our sugar-shacking day was not starting off well.

Photo Mar 23, 3 06 18 PM_ (Large)We visited three more saphouses this afternoon, though, and while there might not have been much sap to boil there were plenty of visitors to entertain. The houses and equipment ranged from state-of-the-art to downright vintage, and all the owners were eager to share the process of sap to syrup. The promotional material for the weekend had promised working demonstrations, tours, maple products, and food; being lunchtime, and hungry, we were mainly interested in the food. We were on a maple mission.

Photo Mar 23, 3 01 54 PM (Large)What the first place lacked in cuteness made up for with the attached bakery. We each bought a chocolate cherry scone (to die for) and had a cup of sap coffee. What is sap coffee, you ask? Sap is collected right out of the bucket – the one hanging on the tree – strained through a piece of muslin, and then added to a coffeepot while brewing. At this point it is the consistency of water. The result is a cup of coffee that is slightly sweet but smooth, not quite like flavored coffee but neither overly sugary nor maple-y. (And I drink my coffee black.) It was good enough that I thought it might be fun to tap a tree on my own next year and see what I get.

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The second saphouse was new and had an enormous shiny boiler that we were told cost $27,000. It was a thing to behold. This place had a display of taps and how they had changed over the years, which was interesting, but even better were the goodies offered in the shed next door. There were all kinds of maple products but what got our attention were the hot dogs cooked in sap! “Maple dogs” – who knew? In the name of experimentation we each tried one, gave it a thumbs-up, washed it down with some hot apple cider, and then bought a few things in their gift shop. There seemingly is almost no end to what you can do with sap.

Photo Mar 23, 3 02 17 PM (Large)The last saphouse was our favorite. We almost got lost finding it – with a GPS, no less – as it was way out in the boonies. But it was vintage, cute, and we were greeted by a pair of dogs. There was a crowd of people there – most of whom knew each other, I think – watching kids slide down a well-groomed snow trail through the woods on a plastic sled. (By the time they reached the bottom of the hill they were airborne.) This place, a wood-fired operation, was chock full of cool old stuff and provided us with a half hour of entertainment, courtesy of the very talkative owner. By the time we left the saphouse was full of steam from the boiler and the maple smell was heavenly.

Photo Mar 23, 2 59 14 PM (Large)The only things missing from our afternoon tour, according to the literature, were sugar-on-snow (which I’m sure we could do ourselves, not lacking snow this year) and some good cider doughnuts. We were happy with what we found, though, and grateful for such a uniquely New England weekend. This time of year, with spring just barely out of reach, it feels good to get out of the house and see what’s under all that ice and snow. And when the sap rises the promise of a new season is not far off.

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