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Monday, August 19, 2013

A Night and Day in the D.A.R.

This past weekend we took a short camping adventure at the D.A.R. State Forest in Goshen.  And really, with state forests like this one, who needs to travel for hours and hours to find the perfect place to camp?  This was our first overnight outing with Little Madley, and we got a late start on reservations, so one night was all we could manage; but it was a successful one and I'm already excitedly thinking about our next camping trip.

Our site, with a so-called 4-person tent -- plenty of room for another tent or two.
In brief, the woods were beautiful, the sites were nice, there were multiple trails for biking and hiking, a lake in which to swim, fish, and canoe -- and even showers and flushing toilets!  The only fault I found, which isn't really much of a fault, is that there were no logs or stones set up around the fire pits, which meant that if you wanted to sit comfortably, you had to have your own chairs (which we didn't).  Also, pets are allowed, and there were many dogs around camp.

Below are the pictures documenting the camp; be sure to read the informative captions if you have any interest in camping.

An empty site.  Two vehicles are allowed per site.
The site neighbouring ours.  The view is somewhat obscured, but not entirely; and, there is a path between the two, in case you camp with friends.
Each fire pit had an adjustable grill.  Wood must be purchased onsite and costs $5/bundle; we easily used 2 bundles in our overnight.  (Be sure to bring firestarter and a hatchet -- kindling from around camp is damp and the logs are large-ish.)
There is a beach and swimming area reserved for campers.
The beach is a lovely place to go at sunrise or sunset.  The light plays out wonderfully on the water, and you might see a family of ducks or a heron.
A lovely trail through the woods by the lake.
View from that same trail -- the Long Trail, or the path to Al's Chapel.
This review wouldn't be complete without a picture of a facilities -- water and washing stations.
The bathrooms, with running water and electricity.

Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture of the showers -- they were in use when I had my camera out for documenting.  But they were painted cinderblock, like the bathrooms, one room (free!) showers with wooden benches and shampoo racks; wear flipflops and you'll be fine and clean in no time.
The park service also sponsors activities like campfires, hikes, skills lessons, birding, and more.  Calendars/schedules are posted at camp.

After setting up camp, we all happily ate hot dogs and grilled/steamed veggies and marshmallows for dinner on Friday night.  We followed that up with a trip to the campers' beach to watch the end of the sunset and visit with a family of ducks before tucking into our sleeping bags.  Saturday started with a breakfast of scrambled eggs and cereal, and then Mr. Madley and Little Madley were off on a cycling adventure up the hills and around the dirt roads.  I enjoyed the peace and calm of a quiet walk through the woods before scrambling to get everything packed back into the car and ready for departure.
After checkout (11am) on Saturday, we headed to the open beach where there were lifeguards, grills, and picnic tables.  We were able to swim, relax, nap, picnic -- and Little Madley ran around and fished with friends he had made a nearby campsite.  All in all, a delicious way to spend a Friday and Saturday.  And like I said before, with state forests like this one, who needs to travel for hours and hours to find the perfect place to camp?

To plan your camping trip at the D.A.R. State Forest, visit  Rates may vary according to season or days booked, but start at $12/night (there is also an online registration fee to factor in).  And if you're not into camping, but just want a nice place to spend a day swimming and hiking and picnicking, the parking fee is $5 and well worth it.

Monday, August 12, 2013

For Whom the Road Tolls

Drivers through Western MA will begin paying tolls between Exits 1-6 starting October 15, reports MassLive, after the House approved a compromise bill that was also passed by the Senate.  The total to drive the Pike between these exits will be $1.75.  Don't be caught by surprise when October arrives!

For more on tolls, see this page.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

YMC Car Show

Every Monday evening from spring through autumn, the Young Men's Club of Hadley has a car show.  Finally, after months (years, really) of seeing the signs and driving past the fields, Mr Madley, Little Madley, and I finally went.  Below, you will see (unmodified) pics from the show (click to expand).

This, of course, is just a sampling of the delights found at the car show -- so much classic beauty to be seen in everything from headlights to dashboards.

Do you have a favourite classic car?  Our favourites are as follow:
Mr. Madley: Jeep Station Wagon, followed closely by the cream Corvette
Little Madley: Big Green Muscle Car, followed closely by the Viper
Me: Kaiser Darrin, followed closely by the Cobra

Friday, July 26, 2013

Garden Update 2: Fruits of My Labours

Today I harvested the garlic I planted last October (or was it November?).  And they are beautiful.  I can't exactly remember if I planted 2 or 3 kinds last year.  At least one kind from the Garlic Fest and a generic grocery-store garlic, but I think I may have purchased 2 small bulbs from the Fest (they were remarkably expensive and I had very little cash that day).  After the success of my first planting, I am excited to purchase more garlic this year to try -- at least 3 bulbs!

Aren't they beautiful?  I wish I could remember the garlic varieties, but I will do better with that this year.  And, like so many things, there are hundreds of garlic varieties, though in American groceries, there is usually only one type offered.  I'm glad to have the option of propagating and trying more varieties.  (This is where I plug supporting local farmers and heirloom seed suppliers.)

I also was able to pick my first tomatoes this afternoon.  Three small currant tomatoes and two yellow pear.  Gorgeous and delicious.  Mister Madley, Little Madley, and I downed the five within seconds and marveled at their sweetness.
Such colour!  Such shine!  Such form!  I eagerly anticipate the ripening of more tomatoes.  If all the fruits on the vine ripen, we should have quite a happy harvest, even if the majority of them are tiny.

One of my cocozelle plants, sadly, took on some rot and passed it on to each of its young ones, so I had to rip it out.  At the same time, I transplanted one of the other cocozelle to another part of the garden and am hoping it will take root and produce happier squash.  For someone who had 4 plants (now only 3), I have picked surprisingly few cocozelle squash.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Garden Update

Way back when I dug that cubic yard of compost into my garden, I promised an update on the state of the garden.  And here it is.
This past week, I pulled these carrots (and one white beet) out of the garden:
My root veggie section was overrun by weeds that I didn't get pulled because of a sudden lack of time, and I didn't pluck these until they were past their prime, so they weren't particularly tasty.  But I was impressed that they actually grew, considering all the problems I have had growing root vegetables in my garden.  It's a good start, but I'm thinking I won't try root vegetables again for a couple of years.  Too much work and too much space for vegetables I can buy locally that will taste sweeter.

Then, of course, there is my tomato jungle:
These tomato plants (and there are likely too many of them) are as tall as me (I'm 5'8) and are producing little green tomatoes by the dozens.  I can't wait for them to turn red/yellow.
 Yellow pear tomatoes, which I certainly hope to try in preserves...
And Rutgers tomatoes, which I look forward to canning.
I also have quite a showing of currant tomatoes (the picture was a bit blurry), on which I'm happily anticipating snacking.
They are all so beautiful and smell so good.

You may notice some slender corn stalks in the background.  On a whim I decided to plant some kernals of mandan bride corn from the Wheatberry CSA I participated in last year.  All the stalks are coming up and some are even showing ears.  I certainly hope they produce, because I love that corn!

I have some very enthusiastic basil and cocozelle; this humid & wet weather, however, have been causing the cocozelle to rot on the vine.  However, I have been working on some solutions, and if they work I will share them with you.  The cocozelle are lovely, and I hope I finally get some squash I can eat:

The tendergreen beans are plentiful, though not really straight....  I picked the first harvest today and am excited to eat them.  I also have some Boston pickling cucumbers blossoming and climbing the trellis; I would be totally thrilled to get enough to actually pickle.

Snap pea season is long past, but we had so many we couldn't quite eat them all; the brussels sprouts are having some problems (probably bugs and weather), but a few plants are still growing.  The lettuce was beautiful until the second major heat wave when it all bolted.  None of the melons survived -- most of the seeds didn't even sprout, as far as I could tell.

Perhaps the most fun thing in the garden, though, is the little toad I keep seeing and all his friends.  I'm more than happy to have them there, enjoying the shade of tomato jungle canopy and eating the bothersome little insects.

So, all in all, it's been a very educational and interesting gardening season, and I'm just in the middle of it (I've discovered that the season is a bit delayed in my yard compared to others).  I'm looking forward to seeing what everything is like in another month.  (I'm already planning next year's garden....)

Monday, July 15, 2013

Let's Talk

Coming in just over a week -- this conversation with local therapist about the emotional needs of our sons:

FROM ACTING OUT TO TUNING IN: Building Emotional Awareness in Your School-age Son.

Join therapist Harry Remer, LMHC, in discussing how parents can help sons recognize and express all of their feelings in healthy ways.
When  boys are comfortable with their own emotions, their behavior and mood stabilizes, they resist mental illness, and they grow into strong, compassionate men.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 6:30 p.m.
Jones Library (Amherst), Amherst Room (2nd Floor)
• FREE • 

For more information: or 781-883-5675; see also his website.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Barstow's Anniversary Party

In case you're looking for a great way to spend the day tomorrow, here's an idea to get you started:

The ice cream is delicious, the cows are mighty, and farm tour is interesting and informative -- a highly recommended event for the family!


Monday, July 1, 2013

Free Summer Concerts

Some of the communities surrounding Hadley are offering free summer concerts for the family this year.  I would LOVE to see Hadley do something like this and actually use that glorious common we have available, but in the meantime, I will probably attend in the other towns.

Northampton has a great lineup on Fridays in Pulaski Park starting July 12.  The music is free, is played during the family-friendly hours of 6-8, and features local bands & musicians.  Check out the info here.

South Hadley has music on their common every Thursday night starting July 11 (they also had a concert in June, but it's past) from 6:30-8:00, and also promises a number of fun shows.  You can see their lineup here.

If you know of other free local concerts, add a comment below.

The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum in Hadley also offers a summer concert series on Wednesday nights -- their Wednesday Folk Traditions -- and series on Saturdays during their Perfect Spot of Tea.  Please note that these do have an entrance fee.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What Will the Library Be in the Future?

As part of the long-range planning process the Goodwin Library is currently participating in, it is conducting a community survey.   This survey is being sent out with the quarterly tax statements (I just got mine today -- on the salmon-coloured paper), but can also be found online at

Survey respondents will be eligible to win a gift card to Barnes & Noble -- but more importantly, respondents will provide information that will influence the direction of and goals for the library in the coming years. 

The survey is not very long and shouldn't take more than 5-10 minutes to complete.  Please fill out either the paper survey or the online survey -- whether you are a regular library user or not -- and encourage your friends and neighbours to do the same!


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Butterfly Garden, pt. 2

Remember when I posted previously about the butterfly garden going in at the elementary school?  Well, it's been started.  Take a look at the early stages:

I need to get down there and take some more current pictures, too, but I bet it's going to be beautiful!

Remember -- if you'd like to help or donate, contact Debbie Windoloski at Gardenscapes!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Open Space & Recreation Plan Survey

The meeting tonight is being shown live on Channel 5, and I'm learning all kinds of interesting things -- and some things I'm glad to know about.  (I'm really looking forward to some of the mentioned projects finishing up, so there are more trail markers and maps and such to designate open space.)
I did find a link to the Open Space & Recreation Plan Survey that I mentioned before.  You can find copies at the Senior Center, Town Hall, or the Library, and you can also print it out and mail it in.
The link to the survey is found here, or you can click here to open the PDF directly.

Open Space Meeting -- Tonight!

Perhaps you have seen the Open Space & Recreation Plan survey handed out at town meeting this month.  If you haven't, I highly recommend finding one (I know there are some available at the library) and filling it out.
And then, just maybe, you would like to attend the Community Forum on the Hadley Open Space and Recreation Plan that happens TONIGHT from 7-9 at the Hadley Senior Center.  Look at this page for information.
If you care about how the open space in Hadley is utilized, consider attending.
Happy Thursday!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Squirrels and Bears and Raccons -- oh my!

How amazed were we the other day when a raccoon showed up in our lilac bush, seeking out the birdfeeder hanging there?  We had seen far too many squirrels and their gymnastic manner of procuring food from the feeders; we had seen a bear tear our feeders from their perches and devour everything inside; and occasionally, we even actually see birds enjoying a meal.  But until the other day, we had not yet seen a raccoon go after the birdseed.
It happened something like this: Mr. Madley saw a quick shadow go around the side of the garage but did not get a glimpse of what the creature was, and within moments I was watching a raccoon out the kitchen window, climbing through our lilac, breaking branches as she sniffed around.  Finally, she found what she was looking for -- the feeder -- and she went at it.  Not as light as the squirrels, and with longer fingers and paws, her position in the lilac was a bit precarious as she approached the branches with the feeder.  But she managed to reach her target and proceeded top open the feeder, reach inside, pour out seed, and eat some before she knocked the contraption to the ground.  (Seeing it on the ground like that makes me think that this is not the first time she has visited -- I have picked that feeder up at least 2-3 times previously.)
We thought seriously about scaring her away, as we sometimes do the squirrels, and next time we probably will, but I had never seen a raccoon in action so close before and was mesmerized.  Besides, who can refuse a nursing mother delicious free food the day before Mother's Day?

All these critters coming to my house for meals.  Maybe I should open a restaurant....

PS -- Just saw the lady again, walking down the street, right up our driveway, across our walk to the front step, and then around the side of the house to the back.  A brave, hungry mama.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Dahling -- You Look Radishing

Let it begin -- let the garden excitement really begin.  The sugar snap peas are clinging to their supports, the shelling peas are popping, the spinach is almost ready to eat, the beets and carrots and brussels sprouts are poking their heads up above the ground, the lettuce is looking leafy, the garlic is growing by the day, and the radishes... well, the radishes are sparkling.

I had never planted radishes before, but a whole packet of sparkler radish seeds came as a gift with my order from Comstock Ferre this year, so I decided to plant some -- about a 3-foot row.  And they sprouted.  And they grew.  And soon they were the only leafy bits in the garden (not counting the garlic, but it's not exactly what I would call leafy).  I was so happy.  I planted them March 30, and today, May 10, I pulled up my first one.

It's beautiful.  Radish-red on top, creamy white underneath.  It is definitely more root veggie than I got in my garden all season last year.  And tonight it will be eaten -- greens and all.  The greens will go in the salad.  The radish, well if the radish even makes it to the salad, we'll be lucky.  I anticipate gobbling it up straight.

Happy gardening!

*The delightful title of this post comes with compliments from Mr Madley.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Butterfly Garden at Hadley Elementary

If you have been any kind of follower of my blog, you should probably know by now that I love gardens.  And I love butterflies and flowers and birds.  And vegetables.  So I was very excited to learn that Debbie Windoloski of Gardenscapes, in cooperation with Principal Jeff Udall and school mom M G-O'C, is building a butterfly garden at the Hadley Elementary School this month.
From the letter requesting donations:

The garden will be located on the front right end of the school and will be a special place for butterflies, birds and pollinators, and more importantly, the children of HES who will enjoy the garden and help plant and take care of it. In the future, we hope to build vegetable gardens as Phase 2 of our schoolyard gardens project.
I think every school should have gardens -- butterfly, flower, and vegetable!  What a wonderful way to teach students about nature and healthy environments and sustainability and nutritious food.  This is a great project, and I look forward to seeing how it turns out.
Students are already growing annuals for the garden -- some butterfly zinnias, mini-sunflowers, and butterfly cosmos.  Ground will be broken (clearing space for the garden) Saturday, May 4, at 7:30 AM, but the big event, the dedication ceremony, will be in June. 

For more information about, to donate (they are happily and readily taking donations of labor, tools, butterfly plants, and more), or to support this garden project, contact Debbie Windoloski at Gardenscapes (phone and email contact available).

Thursday, April 18, 2013

My Trip By Train

Before this weekend, I had never taken the train in the United States; the subway, yes, a train in Europe, yes.  But never in the United States.  However, I am increasingly disappointed and vexed with the rapidly degrading service and increasing cost of airplane travel, so I decided to try my trip by Amtrak -- I needed to get to Ohio to visit my parents.  Below is the travelog I wrote on my from Springfield, MA, to Pittsburgh, PA.

6:30AM departure.  We took the river route out of Springfield, past farms and forests, rolling across the countryside of New England. My seat was by the window, with plenty of leg room and two power outlets on the wall to my right. It was early and the train was quiet, starting off slowly and picking up speed. Occasionally the horn sounded, but it seemed quite in the distance. The seats seem more spacious than the typical airplane seats; they definitely have more legroom.
There is some sorrow in traveling by ground -- it means seeing not only the beauty of the country, but also the dirtier side of things -- like all the trash people dump behind their houses and in the wood where they think no one will see and the refuse from manufacturing.
We pass through neighborhoods and past marshlands and between trees of the forests, and though I brought lots of reading, I can't take my eyes off the window.  The train runs along the river much of the time.
A stop at a pass-through, and now stop at Windsor station. "Takeoffs" and "landings" are so smooth, with none of the stomach-jumping you get in an airplane. This car of the train is starting to fill up, and I guess I am surprised, not realizing how popular trains still are (or have become again).
Taking the train across the countryside of America, I feel like I should be singing "This land is your land."
Hartford. Lots of people getting on here. I might have a seat-mate.  Kensington. Stop. Wallingford.  I love all these classic old train stations, their stone and brick and wood architecture.

Amtrak 143, making all scheduled stops all the way to Washington D.C.  New Haven.  Train has nearly filled up.  8:37 Bridgeport, CT.  Stamford. Coming soon to Penn Station.  New Rochelle.
Penn Station. The bathroom stalls are much too small, but there is a nice waiting area for ticketed Amtrak passengers and plenty of places to get food.
The new train, Pennsylvanian 43, has curtains and foot rests, outlets at my seat, and even more space available. Some seats face each other. I, of course, in seeking a window seat, end up with a big curtain at my shoulder, but a nice big window ahead of me. Heading out any minute now.
Rolling along, the PA43 is not as smooth as the other train -- a bumpier ride, but faster with fewer stops.
I am reading "The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age," and there is quite a bit of railroad history included, which makes it seem like an appropriate read for the day.
With a thirty minute wait, in Philadelphia I got off the train; the station here is beautiful. It is full of little restaurants and shops, but the architecture is high. Such a pity that travel has become so low, when there once was such beauty and class. 
Apparently, rail travel has increased 44% from 2001-2011; that's fairly significant.

No wifi on this train, though it was promised on the website.  Perhaps I am not on the wifi car, or this is one of the trains without.
One of the best differences between train and plane is that when you look out the windows of a train, there's actually something to see -- for the whole trip! And I could spend hours, perhaps days, watching out a window; it is more refreshing than even watching a movie.

People still wave at passing trains -- kids boating down the river, people standing in their yard, a fisherman.
5:17. Soon to be rounding the famous Horseshoe Curve. Trains slowly making their way through the curves of the foothills of the mountains. I fear a freight train blocked most of my view of the horseshoe curve, but what I was able to see was impressive.
Dinner on the train is a chicken caesar salad ($8) and a carton of milk ($2!).  I have snacks, but am getting a bit tired of those.  The cafe car has a fairly decent selection of eats.
The train is quiet and not nearly as crowded.  With a few more stops to go, people seem to be settling in for Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh!  Twenty minutes early.  There is a classic Ohio Railroad car on the tracks; I should have taken a picture. 
Now I have some time to relax before my ride arrives.

I did not write on my return trip.  I had three trains, instead of two, though the route was very similar.  One of my trains was delayed and overbooked, causing a delay all the way up the line and getting me into Springfield about 30 minutes late.  All the return trains had wifi, but functionality depended on how many other people were trying to access it at the same time as me.  Nevertheless, I quite enjoyed my journey by train and am looking forward to another trip.  And hopefully I can replace planes and automobiles with trains more often -- so many advantages..
Happy travels!