Monthly Archives: December 2011

Hippeastrum

A Note about Hippeastrum 

Living in New England the year round, with our tiresomely long winter stretching miles before us, followed by a typically late and fugitive spring, we can become easily wrapped in those winter-blues. Fortunately for garden-makers, our thoughts give way to winter scapes of bare limbs and berries, Gold Finches and Cardinals, and plant catalogues to peruse. If you love to paint and write about flowers as do I, winter is a splendid time of year for both, as there is hardly any time devoted to the garden during colder months. I believe if we cared for a garden very much larger than ours, I would accomplish little of either writing or painting, for maintaining it would require just that much more time and energy.

Coaxing winter blooms is yet another way to circumvent those late winter doldrums. Most of us are familiar with the ease in which amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs will bloom indoors. Placed in a pot with enough soil to come to the halfway point of the bulb, and set on a warm radiator, in several week’s time one will be cheered by the sight of a spring-green, pointed-tipped flower stalk poking through the inner layers of the plump brown bulbs. The emerging scapes provide a welcome promise with their warm-hued blossoms, a striking contrast against the cool light of winter.

Perhaps the popularity of the amaryllis is due both to their ease in cultivation and also for their ability to dazzle with colors of sizzling orange, clear reds and apple blossom pink. My aunt has a friend whose family has successfully cultivated the same bulb for decades. For continued success with an amaryllis, place the pot in the garden as soon as the weather is steadily warm. Allow the plant to grow through the summer, watering and fertilizing regularly. In the late summer or early fall and before the first frost, separate the bulb from the soil and store the bulb, on its side, in a cool dry spot—an unheated basement for example. The bulb should feel firm and fat again, not at all mushy. After a six-week rest, the amaryllis bulb is ready to re-pot and begin its blooming cycle again. Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Coaxing Winter Blooms

Click above photo to see slide show

The taxonomy of the genus Hippeastrum is complicated. Hippeastrum is a genus of about 90 species and over 600 hybrids and cultivars, native to topical and subtropical regions of the Americas from Argentina north to Mexico and the Caribbean. For some time there was confusion amongst botanists over the generic names Hippeastrum and Amaryllis, which led to the application of the common name “amaryllis” when referring to Hippeastrum. The genera Amaryllis refers to bulbs from South Africa.


 

Tribute from Senator John Kerry to Joe Garland

REMEMBERING JOE GARLAND

Mr. KERRY: Mr. President, over the course of the past half-century, Joe Garland served as the unofficial historian of Gloucester, MA—its fishermen, its boats and its life. But Joe Garland not only wrote history in his books and newspaper column—he was part of history, guiding his beloved hometown through headwinds and troubled waters. Joe Garland passed away August 30, and his family and friends gathered October 1 for a memorial service. I would like to share with the Senate the thoughts and memories of Joe that I shared with those who were part of that service honoring this great champion of all things Gloucester.

If you visit the Fisherman’s Memorial on Gloucester’s waterfront on a stormy winter day, the statue of the Heroic Mariner seems to be steering the whole town into the wind toward fair weather. And if you look closely at the statue, you can almost see Joe Garland in its carved granite face, full of grit and determination, guiding his be- loved Gloucester through headwinds and troubled waters.

‘‘Beating to windward’’ is the art of sailing into the wind. ‘‘Beating to Windward’’ is also the name of the column Joe wrote so many years for the Gloucester Times. And it is no surprise to any of us who knew him that Joe used the column to champion all things Gloucester.

Joe didn’t just chronicle Gloucester’s history—he was a part of it. In his column and in his books, he brought to life the era of the great schooners—like the 122-foot Adventure, the flagship of Gloucester, and the larger-than-life Gloucestermen—like the ‘‘Bear of the Sea,’’ Giant Jim Patillo, and the ‘‘Lone Voyager,’’ Howard Blackburn.

But he also used the sharpness of his pen to make his case on all kinds of civil causes—opposing unbridled economic development, warning about the loss of local control of the hospital and water supply, complaining about compromises on the environment or demanding the preservation of Gloucester’s beauty. And trust me—Joe never hesitated to offer his advice to a certain U.S. Senator, if he felt like I needed it.

Joe wrote with passion, conviction and humor, never with ill will or with the intent to wound. He was a gentleman. And always, whether in his column or in his books, he promoted the interests of Gloucester’s fishing fleet. In my office in Washington, I have a copy of the book he wrote in 2006, ‘‘The Fish and the Falcon,’’ about Gloucester’s role in the American Revolution. His inscription to me expresses his appreciation ‘‘for your efforts to relieve the fiscal crisis that has long haunted our beleaguered fishing industry.’’ He urged me to keep up the fight, and I have.

Joe wrote 21 books, and I always enjoyed his sharing the latest with me. In my Boston office, I have a copy of his book about the Adventure, which he helped to restore. It arrived with an invitation from Joe to tour the schooner and, of course, I didn’t waste any time accepting his invitation. He welcomed me aboard, and his tour made the Adventure’s history come alive—from its construction in 1926 through its career as a ‘‘highliner,’’ the biggest money- maker of them all, landing nearly $4 million worth of cod and halibut during her career.

But the book that spoke to me the most was his last, ‘‘Unknown Soldiers,’’ his memoir of World War II and his journey from a student at Harvard to a ‘‘dogface’’ with a close-knit infantry in Sicily, Italy, France and finally Germany. It is a clear, eloquent and unflinching panorama of the mundane and the horrific in war. It is, by turns, humorous, poignant and gut-wrenching, with the common soldier perspective long associated with journalist Ernie Pyle or cartoonist Bill Mauldin, a point of view with which soldiers from my war, from any war—a band of brothers stretching through generations of Americans—can identify.

I was deeply saddened to learn of Joe’s passing. But I am glad that his passing was gentle, his last moments of his life near the window of his beloved house by the sea, surrounded by loved ones and squeezing the hand of the woman he loved—Helen, his wife, his World War II pen pal.

And how fitting that in those final moments, the schooner Lannon fired a farewell cannon salute to Joe as it headed out to sea. Joe loved the tradition of cannon salutes, so much so that he fired one at the wedding of his stepdaughter, Alison, only to have it backfire, burning a hole in his jacket and covering his face with gunpowder, just in time for the official wedding photos. But that was Joe, and a face smudged with gunpowder underscored what we all know—truly, his was a life well lived.

There is an anonymous quote I once read which may well describe how we should think of Joe’s passing. It says:

“I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until, at length, she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, ‘‘There! She’s gone.’’

Gone where? Gone from my sight— that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her, and just at the moment when someone at my side says, ‘‘There, she’s gone,’’—there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, ‘‘There she comes!’’ And that is dying.” [See editor's note.]

Because Joe loved the sea so much— and because he enjoyed watching seagulls soar—I close with a special poem. It is titled ‘‘Sea Joy’’ and it was written in 1939 by a little girl named Jacqueline Bouvier. America eventually came to know her as Jackie Kennedy. But when she was 10 years old, she wrote:

When I go down by the sandy shore

I can think of nothing I want more

Than to live by the booming blue sea

As the seagulls flutter round about me

I can run about—when the tide is out

With the wind and the sand and the sea all about

And the seagulls are swirling and diving for fish

Oh—to live by the sea is my only wish.’’

To Helen and Joe’s family, I extend my deepest sympathy, but with a reminder that Joe’s work, like the sea he loved, is eternal and booming, and that Joe’s life, like the seagulls he enjoyed so much, swirled and soared.

And to Joe, from one sailor to another, I wish him ‘‘fair winds and following seas.’’

Editor’s Note: The quote “I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean…” was written by Henry van Dyke (1852- 1933), an American educator, clergyman, and author.

Ring Out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
 
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
 
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
 
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
 
Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
 
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
 
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
 
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.        -Alfred, Lord Tennyson
 
Our daughter Liv posted this poem on her blog Boston to Brooklyn. The sentiments expressed befit our times equally as well as when Tennyson wrote Ring Out, Wild Bells in 1850.
 
Jonathan Dove (1959), the contemporary British composer of opera, choral works, plays, films, and orchestral and chamber music has written a beautiful arrangement to Ring Out, Wild Bells, performed in this video by the Antioch Chamber Ensemble.

 

I Wonder as I Wander

I Wonder as I Wander (Appalachia) ~ Words and Music collected by John Jacob Niles, 1933

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.

Many thanks to Father Matthew Green from St. Ann’s Church for posting his photo of the St. Ann’s Nativity scene on Good Morning Gloucester blog. I was looking for an image to go with this hauntingly beautiful Christmas carol and was inspired to go see the nativity at the rectory after seeing his photo posted on GMG.

My Interview with Isabelle Lafleche on Pink Lemonade

My dear friend and fellow author Isabelle Lafleche has posted her interview with me on her always super fun and chic blog Pink Lemonade. Isabelle posts the most wonderful high-style photos, garnered from fashion and style publications from all around the globe.

Isabelle’s first novel J’adore New York has been published in French, English, and German and is now available in paperback. More on Isabelle in a future post.

Isabelle’s Upcoming Novel

Home for the Holidays

Both our children are at last home for Christmas! Read Liv’s “Home for the Holidays” post at her delightful blog “Boston to Brooklyn.”

Live writes: The Christmas spirit runs strong in our family, mainly due to our mother’s dedication in making our home a joyous and decadent celebration of the holidays. No room in the house is left without some unique Christmas decoration and our abode smells of paper whites, clementines, and pine needles for the entire blessed month of December. I’m finally home for the holidays after my first semester of graduate school, and nothing makes me happier and more relaxed than being surrounded by Christmas joy and familial love. Read more, with lots of photos, at Boston to Brooklyn.

 

Liv Hauck iPhone photo

Amaryllis ‘Orange Sovereign’

Amaryllis ‘Orange Sovereign’ will be in full bloom by Christmas Day!

For tips on coaxing winter blooms, including forcing bulbs and flowering tree and shrub branches, see Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!  David R. Godine, Publisher.

Snow Dome

For the past week, while at home and in between holiday baking, at different times throughout the day under varying degrees of low winter light, I’ve been taking photos of this snowiest of “snow storms.” The light coming through the living room windows along with the Christmas tree lights created myriad fascinating effects.

Click any photo to see the complete slideshow.

From wiki: Precisely when the first snow globe (also called a “water globe,” “snow storm,” or “snow dome”) was made remains unclear, but they appear to date from France during the early 19th century. They may have developed as a successor to the glass paperweight, which had become popular a few years earlier. Snow globes appeared at the Paris Universal Expo of 1878, and by 1879 at least five companies were producing snow globes and selling them throughout Europe.

Santa Baby

Santa Baby, slip a sable under the tree, For me.
been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa baby, a 54 convertible too,
Light blue.
I’ll wait up for you dear,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Having fun photographing Christmas decorations around the house. My husband Tom made this cardboard Santa for me –that year Santa was bearing a jewelry box with a very pretty ring…

Think of all the fun I’ve missed,
Think of all the fellas that I haven’t kissed,
Next year I could be just as good,
If you’ll check off my Christmas list,

Santa baby, I wanna yacht,
And really that’s not a lot,
Been an angel all year,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa honey, there’s one thing I really do need,
The deed
To a platinum mine,
Santa honey, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex,
And checks.
Sign your ‘X’ on the line,
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight.

Come and trim my Christmas tree,
With some decorations bought at Tiffany’s,
I really do believe in you,
Let’s see if you believe in me,

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing,
A ring.
I don’t mean on the phone,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight,
Hurry down the chimney tonight,
Hurry, tonight.                                     -Joan Javits and Philip Springer

“Santa Baby” was originally recorded by Eartha Kit with Henri Rene and his orchestra in New York City, 1953.

Vin d’orange

Orange infused wine, or vin d’orange, is a warm weather Provençal aperitif, but I never remember to make it during the summer months, only during the holidays. Although, when drinking it, I like to imagine sipping orange wine from a garden cafe somewhere (anywhere!) along the Côte-d’Azure. Vin d’orange is marvelously easy to prepare and makes a much appreciated holiday host/hostess gift.

Over the years I’ve experimented with the original recipe, which was, to my way of thinking, much too sweet—add more sugar if you like a sweeter aperitif. I think you will find this concoction intoxicatingly fun, light, and aromatic. I hope your family and friends enjoy as much as do mine!

12-15 Clementines thoroughly washed and cut in half

3 bottles modestly priced dry white wine

1 Cup sugar

½ Cup Courvoisier

Long strips of orange zest

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl combine the wine and Clementines, gently squeezing each half to release some of the juice. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 5 days. Save the empty wine bottles and corks; wash and remove labels. You will need a fourth empty bottle.

Remove orange infused wine from the refrigerator and squeeze any liquid remaining in the orange halves into the large bowl. Discard oranges. Add the sugar and cognac, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Strain through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Pour wine concoction into wine bottles. Insert a strip of the zest into each bottle and cork. Chill the wine for one week. Serve neat or over ice.

Vin d’orange will keep for 6 months when chilled. Makes approximately 4 bottles.

Dear Readers, There must be a southern Italian equivalent to vin d’orange? In Italy they make something entirely different, also called orange wine. Italian orange wine is made from white grapes that have been left to ferment with their skins, treated in essence like red wines. These wines may macerate for days or even months, which gives the wine color shades varying from rosy pink  to amber cider to vivid orange, however this is a different process than wine infused with oranges. Please write if you know of an Italian version of the Provençal aperitif or some similar deliciously fun fruit infused wine recipe.

Christmas Tree for Liv

My darling daughter, away at graduate school, is missing home and missing especially Christmas-making. She called last night to request a snapshot of our Christmas tree. My wish for Christmas was that both Liv and Alex could come home for Christmas.  Alex we knew for sure would be home (if for no other reason than he misses home cooked dinners) but Liv started a brand new job with a crazy schedule and is mired in papers and finals.  I learned yesterday that she will be traveling home on the 21st and son will be home Thursday of this week. Happiest of moms am I!

Click any photo to see slide show

Lobster Pot Tree Lighting

Main Street photos from Toodeloos!, Art Haven, Supreme Roastbeef Diner, Dress Code, and Bananas. Click any photo to see slideshow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Everywhere you go;

Take a look in the five and ten, glistening once again

With candy canes and sliver lanes aglow.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,

Toys in every store

But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be

On your own front door.       Meredith Willson (1902-19840)

Click any photo to see slideshow.

Meredith Willson (1902-1984) was a composer, songwriter, playwright, and conductor and was best know for writing the book, music, and lyrics for The Music Man.

Foggy Autumn Sunrise Featuring Ring-necked Pheasant

Foggy Autumn Sunrise ~ Featuring Ring-necked Pheasant, November 9, 2011, 7 minute duration

Filmed at Good Harbor Beach on a luxuriously warm November morning. Standing in the sand dunes filming the wildflowers and rising sun I heard a noise behind me, and only several feet away. I turned to see a Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus). This is my first encounter with a Ring-necked Pheasant at Good Harbor Beach, but have subsequently learned they are fairly common. I was amazed to see it foraging so close to the public beach and not closer to the marsh where cover is dense. Introduced to Massachusetts in 1894, this game bird continues to thrive in both rural and metropolitan areas. The footage of dried flower heads is of Seaside Goldenrod (Solidago sempervirens). The opening and final clips show the White’s house, formerly referred to by townspeople as the ‘”Birdcage” because it was wrapped on all four sides with open porches, which have now been enclosed.

Music composed by Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Sesaons Opus 8 Autumn Allegro. Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra with Itzhak Perlman Violin.

From wiki: The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni) is a set of four violin concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. Composed in 1723, The Four Seasons is Vivaldi’s best-known work, and is among the most popular pieces of Baroque music. The texture of each concerto is varied, each resembling its respective season. For example, “Winter” is peppered with silvery pizzicato notes from the high strings, calling to mind icy rain, whereas “Summer” evokes a thunderstorm in its final movement, which is why the movement is often dubbed “Storm.”

The concertos were first published in 1725 as part of a set of twelve concerti, Vivaldi’s Op. 8, entitled Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione (The Contest between Harmony and Invention). The first four concertos were designated Le quattro stagioni, each being named after a season. Each one is in three movements, with a slow movement between two faster ones. At the time of writing The Four Seasons, the modern solo form of the concerto had not yet been defined (typically a solo instrument and accompanying orchestra). Vivaldi’s original arrangement for solo violin with string quartet and basso continuo helped to define the form.

Chocolate Amaretto Truffles

Chocolate Amaretto Truffles

Mini muffin baking cups or petit four cups

2 ounces. Baker’s sweet German chocolate, broken into small bits

6 ounces Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips

¼ C. Disaronno Amaretto liqueur

2 Tbs. strong coffee

Few drops almond extract

2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 Tbs. vanilla extract

½ C. pulverized Jules Destrooper almond thins (or Anna’s, or any super fine, thin cookie)

Confectioner’s sugar to taste (approx. 1/2  cup)

 ½ C. Ghiradelli unsweetened cocoa powder for final powdering

Melt sweet chocolate bits and semi-sweet chocolate chips over a gently simmering double boiler. Whisk in liqueur, coffee, almond extract, and vanilla. Whisk vigorously, over gentle heat, a few minutes more until mixture is shiny and smooth. Gradually add the butter by tablespoons. With a wooden spoon, beat in the pulverized cookies. Beat in sifted confectioner’s sugar, to taste. Remove the pan from the double boiler and place in a bowl of ice with water. Stir until well chilled and firm enough to form into balls.

By teaspoonful, gather up a gob and form into a rough, truffle-like shape. Roll in cocoa powder and drop into frilled paper cup.

Makes about 22, depending on size. Refrigerate in an airtight container. They will keep for several weeks or they may be frozen. (Very) loosely adapted from Julia Child’s Chocolate Amaretti Truffles The Way to Cook Page 485. To vary using orange liqueur: Replace Amaretto with Grand Marnier or Cointreau, replace almond extract with lemon or orange extract, and replace almond thins with thin gingersnaps (Anna’s, for example).

Cherry Street Gang

Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

I find it fascinating that the turkeys populating Cape Ann are descended from wild-trapped New York birds. By 1851, the Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) was extirpated from Massachusetts because of widespread loss of habitat and hunting. Nine unsuccessful attempts to reestablish the birds were made between 1911 and 1967. Between 1972 and 1973, 37 birds were released in Berkshire County. The bird’s range quickly expanded, establishing populations from the western to the furthest eastern regions of Massachusetts. To read more about the Wild Turkey visit the Massachusetts Audubon Breeding Bird Atlas

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

Dear Friends,

It’s that time of year again for holiday gift making and gift giving. Possibly you are one of those fantastically super organized holiday spirits finished with your holiday shopping, or even more probably, you’re not in the mood for another holiday commercial. If so, please forgive, but  I am writing to suggest that my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden, which I both wrote and illustrated, makes a wonderful holiday gift. If you already own a copy, perhaps you will agree that it would make a thoughtful gift for that someone on your list who loves to garden, or a young couple who may have recently purchased a home and needs sound advice, or someone who simply likes to read about flowers, butterflies, garden lore, and garden-making.

This is a link to the Press Page of my blog, where you can read excerpts of reviews by The Boston Globe’s Carol Stocker, Bloomsbury Review, Patriot Ledger, North American Butterfly Association, and more. With spending any spare hours blogging and with my video projects and garden design newsletter, I am embarrassed to say that my website has not been updated in over a year, however, both the Book Page and Story Page on my website provide more information about Oh Garden!

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! ~ Notes from a Gloucester Garden is available at Toad Hall, and wherever fine books are sold.

Excerpted from the introduction ~

We all carry within us the image of a home to create and a garden to tend. Perhaps you dream as I do of a welcoming haven to foster family bonds and friendships and to rejoice in life’s journey. The garden and the home to which it belongs becomes a memory catcher to weave a life’s tapestry.

To imagine a garden paradise one must live in one’s home to listen to its own particular music. Gradually, by degrees, the idea of the garden will grow. A home and a garden should look as though they had grown up together and will when one takes the time and necessary thought. A garden cannot be hurriedly created. Delicious, blissful pleasure is derived from the garden’s use as a continuation of the home.

Our gardens provide a safe harbor from hectic lives, a place to celebrate life and an opportunity to express our creativity. The garden is an inviting sanctuary to guide one through the rhythms and harmonies of the natural world. Planted to nurture the imagination and hearten the soul, a “new” cottage garden is a whimsical, exuberant intermingling of scented flowers and foliage, fresh fruit, and savory herbs.

As a designer, I believe I am here to channel ideas for the benefit of many. This book is my communication of a profound desire to share with readers the immeasurable joy gleaned from creating a personal paradise of one’s own making.

The illustrations are of flowers, songbirds, and butterflies I love to draw and to paint, and selected because they only become more beautiful when intimately observed.

A poetic world lies waiting to be discovered. Let us open the garden gate and take a step within.

And Joe Garland’s lovely blurb for the book’s jacket:

“Drawn by the tender magic of her brush, one feels somehow renewed under the spell of the author’s singular warmth as we stroll within these pages in the intimacy of the secret garden she reveals.”

~ Joseph Garland, author and historian

Moles, Holes, and Voles

Visit Toad Hall’s Facebook page — you’ll find a 10% OFF coupon there that you can use between now & Christmas. 

Moles Holes, and Voles ~ First published December 2008

“Bother!” Overnight, beneath the low-lying boughs of holly, there appeared a pint-sized mountain of freshly dug earth, surrounded by several tunnel entrance and exit holes.

Toad Hall Bookstore is a nonprofit organization and gives 100% of its net profits to environmental projects.

A day goes by and a second messy mound appears. “Such a rumpus everywhere!” Is it Mole or Ratty who has come built his winter residence on our lot? “Oh my! Oh my! Oh my!” I do hope it is Mole and not Rat. Investigating burrowing critters, moles and voles in particular, I was immediately transported back to the Wild Wood of Wind in the Willows. Perhaps you may recall Kenneth Grahame’s adventures of the anthropomorphized small creatures—good-natured Mole, Ratty (a water vole), Toad (well-to-do, jovial, and full of conceit), and lone Badger—and Grahame’s imaginative descriptions of their dwellings (Toady’s Toad Hall) that lie beneath the earth of field and wood and riverbank.

After reading about each and every suspect burrowing creature listed on the Massachusetts Wildlife’s State Mammal List, I believe that our new neighbor, fortunately for us, is a mole, not a vole. Voles are unwelcome garden guests; they delight in carbohydrate-rich spring flowering bulbs, roots and tubers of hosta and hollyhocks, and many other perennials. Voles cause serious damage; however, the deep tunneling habit of both moles and voles plays an important role in the overall health and vigor of soil, aerating and pulling topsoil down and subsoil upwards. In the garden, the cat that is allowed outside at night is the best defense against voles (really not recommended, for the cat that is, in communities where dwell coyotes). In areas where damage to food crops has been extensive, farmers have had the greatest success with installing raptor poles to encourage birds of prey.

Aside from examining the holes and surrounding mess, which we found did not give a clear identification, we discovered an easier way to determine whether mole or vole. Quarter an apple and skewer with a stick. Lay the skewered apple slice across the hole that appears to be the primary entrance. Our Scottish terrier conveniently and enthusiastically led the way. Within twenty-four hours you should see identifying signs of chewing. In our little experiment, it took less than four hours. Members of the Order Rodentia will leave large parallel teeth marks in the soft flesh of the apple whereas moles, which do not have large teeth, leave behind telltale shredding. Not only was the apple slice shredded, the mole had flung the remains, stick and all, a foot away from his tunnel entrance.

Of the three species of moles found in New England, we can narrow it down to two, either Scalopus aquaticus, the Eastern Mole, or Parascalops breweri, the Hairy-tailed Mole. We ruled out Star-nosed Mole. Both Eastern Moles and Hairy-tailed Moles construct two different types of tunnels. Built just beneath the surface of the earth are temporary, or feeding, tunnels and they are created by the mole during its search for earthworms, beetles, and grubs. The deeper tunnels constitute the moles living quarters, winter retreat, and nesting site. Star-nosed Moles construct only the feeding tunnels. All three New England species, like many species of moles, are called fossorial—adapted to digging—and have fossorial feet. The moles short paddle-like front feet are disproportionately large, as broad as they are long.

The dense, silky fur of moles lies equally well when brushed forward or backward, allowing ease of movement in either direction in its subterranean burrow. Their tiny eyes are covered by fused eyelids concealed in fur. Eastern Moles have gray-brown fur and the face, feet, and tail are pinkish-white, with a sparsely-haired tail. The Hairy-tailed Mole is more robust withshiny jet fur and a densely-haired tail. Both hairy-tailed and eastern moles do not hibernate; they are active all year round, day and night. Except during the breeding season, they live solitary lives. Few animals prey on moles because of their musky odor and burrowing habit. Snakes, owls, and foxes are their main predators.

I could hardly bring myself to think about how to rid our garden of a creature such as one who resides in the pages of this beloved childhood book. Why don’t we wait and see, leave it be, I pleaded with my husband. The grub-eater is a gardener’s friend.

Recently I stopped by Toad Hall Bookstore. Warm and welcoming, a thoroughly relaxing ambiance, and chock-a-block full of enticing, beautiful and thoughtful gifts. Don’t you find the most memorable gifts from childhood are the storybooks given from loving adults—parents, grandparents, or that special aunt? Perhaps a copy of The Wind in the Willows, originally published in 1908, would make a treasured gift for the young reader on your list. We found a pristine second-hand copy illustrated with line drawings by Ernest H. Shepard. This 1960 Charles Scribner’s Sons edition had eight additional color illustrations, also rendered by Shepard, commissioned to celebrate the books mid-century birthday. Currently available is a hardcover centennial anniversary edition, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Greasy Pole Fall Classic Full Length Edit

As First Seen On Good Morning Gloucester

The Greasy Pole walk is a uniquely Gloucester Italian-American event that takes place every summer during the St. Peter’s Fiesta. The pole is rigged on a platform in the harbor off Pavilion Beach. The objective is to walk the heavily greased pole and capture the flag. During the fiesta three walks take place, one walk each on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and there are three winners declared. Much bravado and celebrating takes place during and after walking the greasy pole. To see Greasy Pole videos from the summer of 2011 visit Good Morning Gloucester. To read more about the Greasy Pole and Gloucester’s annual St. Peter’s Fiesta visit the St. Peter’s Fiesta website.

This past autumn the platform rigged in the harbor that supports the pole was damaged first by Hurricane Irene, and then destroyed by a subsequent ‘noreaster. Roughly eighty thousand dollars is needed to reconstruct the platform. The Greasy Pole Fall Classic fundraiser, from where the video footage was shot, was held at the local football stadium, and is a one time only re-creation of the annual event that takes place in the harbor. Gloucester’s St. Peter’s Fiesta is attended by tens of thousands and is a beautiful celebration of St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen. The Greasy Pole is a highlight of the fiesta, and just one of many religious and celebratory events.

Donations to restore the Greasy Pole may be sent to the following address:

St. Peter’s Fiesta Committee

P.O. Box 3105

Gloucester, MA 0193