Regional specialities

img_0339The above photo shows a favorite Quebec food: the iconic poutine. For those of you unfamiliar with this dish, it consists of just three ingredients: french fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy. Because there are so few components, each one must be perfect. The fries have to be thoroughly cooked, the gravy can’t be too spicy, and the cheese curds must be fresh, with a slightly squeaky texture when you bite into them.

Cheese curds are sold in plastic bags in grocery stores throughout Quebec. In addition to using them in poutine, people enjoy them as snacks straight out of the bag.

The poutine at the St. Albert dairy co op in St. Albert Ontario, which we visited during the holidays, was the best we had ever tasted. We already knew St. Albert cheese curds were delicious, but this dish, with its slightly sweet fries and melting cheese, blew us away.

img_0345 The restaurant is in a new building that replaced the facility lost in a fire a couple of years ago.

The gift shop sells the cheese curds, of course, but you can also buy all kinds of Quebec specialities like Tarte au Sucre (maple sugar pie) and Tourtiere (a French Canadian meat pie).

img_0346We also bought some of St. Albert’s award-wining cheddar, which is aged for five years. Coming from Canada, I miss their good cheddar. The cheeses in RI are usually too creamy and mild for my taste.

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All this food, especially the poutine, is hearty winter fare that tastes great and keeps you warm on a day of skiing or working outdoors in the cold. It’s not stuff you’d want to eat if you were spending the day on the couch, and one serving is enough for two people to share.

The St. Albert dairy co op is well worth a visit if you’re in western Quebec. They have amazing ice cream, too.

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Solstice

img_7320I am writing this on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. As they pine for those long summer days, everyone says “it gets better from here on.” I truly love this time of year because it is so cozy and restful. It’s as if nature is taking a well-deserved break, so we can too.

img_7245The woods are beautiful in winter, especially when there’s snow. And there’s the added bonus of animal tracks. I think it’s going to be another green Christmas in Rhode Island, unfortunately.

img_7285I’ll be taking a couple of weeks off from the blog, but I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a peaceful, restorative holiday. See you in January, and thanks for reading.

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It was a bear

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In a recent post, I wrote about a probable bear attack on my bird feeders. Here’s the culprit, captured by my neighbor’s wildlife cam. I didn’t want to write about it while it was still in the area, because I was afraid some yahoo would hunt it down.

I took my bird feeders inside every night for a few weeks, but lately, I’ve been leaving them out, and the bear seems to have moved on.

We don’t hear a lot about bears in southern Rhode Island, but yearling males are known to frequent bird feeders in the fall as they roam around, looking for a territory of their own. (Although in recent years, researchers have speculated that there might be bears living and breeding in RI.)  I was told that this one weighs approximately 150 pounds and is very skittish, running away from people.

We moved here because it’s wooded and quite wild. I love the idea that an animal as impressive as a black bear has been here, even if he was just passing through – and even if he destroyed a couple of my feeders.

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More from New York

img_9987When I am in New York, I spend a lot of time looking up. There’s just so much going on with all those buildings. It truly is a photographer’s dream.

img_9990Notice how the building in the middle of the shot is actually a reflection in the mirrored surface of the larger building. I generally do not like reflective buildings because they kill so many birds, but in this case I was simply admiring the aesthetic.

img_9984At the “Bank of America Winter Village” at Bryant Park, we browsed some of the stands at the holiday market and watched the skaters.

img_9981In the center of the market, there was a pleasant, ivy-covered area to sit and rest your feet.

img_9922The older buildings also catch my eye. I admire the architectural details and craftsmanship, from a time when such things mattered.

img_9920Another striking facade. It’s all in the details.

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Central Park

img_9945I spent a few days in New York recently, and took a walk through Central Park. It’s so amazing to have this immense green space in the heart of such a large city. What I also love about it is the many smaller spots within the park, some of them bucolic and others bustling.

img_9932This is one of those places where I often think I’ve seen some of the views before in movies – probably because I have. img_9933The fall weather was perfect for walking.

img_9937I took a lot of pictures of trees. This big beech has endured some carving.

img_9940There are many ginkgo trees in the park, and they were resplendent – almost an electric gold.

img_9925The Japanese anemones were still in bloom, although they took a back seat to the spectacular fall foliage.

img_9936I am always struck by how much green space there is in this densely-populated city, and how people get out into it. This is a great urban treasure, worth repeat visits. There is always something new to discover.

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Super

img_9860Narragansett Beach was the place to be on Sunday, just before the supermoon. Astronomers don’t use that term, which was coined by an astrologer in the 1970s. The technical term is perigee-syzygy. Nit-picking aside, the proximity of the moon to earth resulted in a greater variability between high and low tides. This was the beach on Sunday afternoon. Huge and glorious, and the tide wasn’t even all the way out.

img_9865If you look closely, you can see a diver’s flag next to what remains of a sunken barge. In the nearly 20 years I have lived in southern RI, I have never seen that wreck exposed.

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When our dog took a dip in this large tidal pool, we were all (including the dog) surprised when two large fish started jumping out of the water as she swam. Obviously they had become trapped, and there was enough water to keep them alive. We couldn’t tell what species they were, but there were at least a foot long. I wonder if they made it back to sea.

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Adventures in bird feeding

img_9818This is what happened to our bird feeder pole on one recent night. YIKES!!!! Whatever the animal was, it bent a sturdy metal pole in a very unequivocal way. Could it have been a black bear? We may never know.

Whatever it was, it also destroyed my  expensive, metal “squirrel-proof” feeder, which I found in pieces on the ground.

img_9822And of course, the suet feeder was trashed, too.

img_9820So now, I have to take all the feeders in at night – the ones that are still usable. We may spring for a wildlife camera just to see what the heck is so strong that it can do that to a feeder pole. If we do, I’ll be sure to post photos.

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Found in the woods

img_9792On a recent hike in the woods, we came across this nest on the ground next to the trail. Many years ago, I would have picked it up and taken it home to tuck into my Christmas tree. Now, though, I am a faithful practitioner of “Leave no Trace,” so we moved it a bit further off the trail and left it there.

This was a particularly stunning nest, which appears to have been constructed from just two materials: lichens, and on the inside, pine needles. It was so light, I barely felt it on my hand. I looked it up in my nest book and also online, and I think it was made by a flycatcher. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to chime in.

img_9784The leaves have been spectacular this fall, despite the drought and the caterpillar infestations, especially the revolting gypsy moths. We saw plenty of gypsy moth egg masses on the tree trunks, so next summer is shaping up to be another tough one for our trees. But these days, I am trying to live in the moment and just enjoy the stunning colors.

img_9796I have always enjoyed looking at the interesting plant communities that grow on boulders. This one was playing host to a few pine seedlings, some princess pine and several mosses. Those fallen leaves should break down nicely.

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Bulb planting time

img_9775Eeeek!!!!! It’s the “garden monster,” just in time for Halloween. This is the hand of a woman who has spent the entire weekend planting spring bulbs. I am starting a garden from scratch, and I thought I would begin with bulbs. They are among my favorite garden plants – so colorful and welcome when they emerge in the spring.

I might have gone a little overboard, though. In all, I ordered 640 bulbs of various types. Here’s what I bought: two crocus varieties, one a pale blue and the other an interesting orange color, Iris Katherine Hodgkin, a lovely little blue-green rock garden-sized iris. 100 scilla, the intense blue “Siberica,” that I remember spreading all over people’s lawns when I was growing up, two  species tulips; Linifolia, a bright red, and Clusiana Cynthia, which is orange and red. If you have never grown species tulips, you should give them a try. They are much hardier than the hybrids, and they spread.

I planted several narcissus: Professor Einstein, Geranium, Avalanche, Minnow, and Baby Moon, a miniature cultivar that I planted near our mail box. I also bought muscari, or grape hyacinth, “Paradoxum,” which looked interesting in the catalog.

I looked at the alliums, but they are pretty pricey, so I can wait for a year or two to get those.

I planted the bulbs throughout the lawn, at the bases of trees – wherever I thought they would be interesting and surprising. It’s a good thing I have a mattock, because I needed to it hack through roots and sod to create the planting beds. I’ll be sure to take lots of photos in the spring and post them here. I am now going to take Advil and try to get the dirt off my hands.

 

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Random bird stuff

img_9764If you were a sparrow and you had somehow found your way into a Home Depot, which department would you live in? The bird seed section, of course! This must be every bird’s fantasy.

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As I was taking the dog out one last time before I left for work, I saw a flock of wild turkeys browsing in the grass in the circle at the end of the street. When they saw us coming out of our house, they made their way across the road and up the neighbor’s lawn. They didn’t seem to be in any hurry and I was treated to a good long look.

I’ve been seeing lots of turkeys lately. Maybe it’s because we are practically knee-deep in acorns this fall, and turkeys love to eat acorns. (They must have incredibly strong beaks.)

On my way home today, I came upon another large flock, grazing on both sides of the road. Encountering wildlife is always a pleasant surprise –  like being let in on a secret.

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