Friday, May 29, 2009

Tea Party at Moon in the Pond

teaparty, originally uploaded by jahansell.

At first glance it looks like Mrs. Goose is hosting a party at the table. Only if you look closely to you see the upside-down boots and other items that don't fit the theme.

And of course, Mrs. Goose is probably destined to be the main course at someone else's party, sooner or later. But she'll have lived a life of dignity, with fresh air and freedom, until that day comes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Moon in the Pond

moon1, originally uploaded by jahansell.

I visited Dom Palumbo's organic farm in Sheffield last week. He raises sheep, pigs and cows, and a wide variety of the most beautiful vegetables - purple potatoes, hard-neck garlic - everything perfect and precious - and delicious. I'll post pictures of the farm in the next few days.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Slow cows

slow cows, originally uploaded by jahansell.

There is a dairy farm on Route 22, a couple of miles south of Millerton. Mid-afternoon, the cows cross the road, and everyone stops and waits. Here's the cow parade.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Parade

dolls on parade, originally uploaded by jahansell.

The cute kids are not the point of the parade - the veterans are. But this picture was so cute and so representative of our wonderful local parade that I couldn't resist making it the main photo of the day. There were veterans, firemen and fire trucks, local teams and scouting troops, and lots of vintage cars and other cool vehicles. I don't know why, exactly, (are we supposed to remember the cars of days gone by? If so, I remember you, '76 Chevy Impala that died on the Lodge Freeway when I forgot to check the oil!) but it makes for a longer and more festive parade!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Look all around you

pastoral, originally uploaded by jahansell.

Whenever I go up to Twin Oaks Field I make sure to look in all directions - it's beautiful no matter where you stand. A cloud was moving across the sun as I watched, leaving half the field in shadow and half illuminated.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Twin oaks spring

twin oaks spring, originally uploaded by jahansell.

I think I've completed the series now - winter, spring, summer and fall (enter "Twin Oaks" in the 'search blog' field to find them all and more.). The new leaves were still bright and pale yesterday morning, but the grass in the field is already tall. I forgot to check myself for ticks afterwards - bad idea!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Democracy In Action, blah blah blah

I don't usually use this blog to express opinions on controversies, and I know I might be getting myself into hot water by this post. I know I am in the minority on this subject, and I welcome any who disagree with me or have other points of view to post them here. Keep it collegial, no personal attacks - I've tried hard to be respectful of other points of view here while still being true to my own.

Something under 10% of the voting public showed up at Town Hall last night to vote on the town and school budget. That's my off the cuff estimate - it looked like about 150 people, standing room only. I have never gone to one before, but I'll never miss one again: it's where all the action is.

I had received anxious emails from various acquaintances for the last few weeks, urging me to go vote no on the budget. Some contained statements such as this one, and I paraphrase: "if the school budget passes, taxes will go up so much that several people I know personally will have to leave town." As I understood it, the opposite was true: the school budget had no impact on taxes at all, and quite the contrary: if it didn't pass, several school teachers or staff, residents of Sharon, would likely lose their jobs.

Not that the school did a particularly good job of making their case, either. No letters home to parents, no email bulletins laying out the rationale for the budget, no letter to the editor explaining why it was appropriate to give staff 4% raises when town staff were only getting 2% - which seemed to be the crux of the issue for many. Or, to be fair, maybe all those things happened and I wasn't paying attention. But I don't think so. In the Webutuck district just over the New York state border, the superintendent writes the parents and community very regularly, explaining his thinking and planning process - it all seems open and transparent. But in Sharon, though I very much respect the administration and think they're doing an excellent job, the communication is not as broad. I guess I better start showing up at Board of Ed meetings!

So my vote was as knee-jerk as the antis: I vote pro-school as a matter of course. Others voted anti-school out of what appeared last night, based on comments I heard, to be anger, fear, resentment or (not to jump to conclusions about people's motivations) their own reasons which I don't (yet) know and understand.

Here's the weird part of last night's vote. The vote was originally supposed to be for the whole budget: town and school together. A motion was made to separate the vote: first town, then school. The town attorney explained, very clearly, that we could indeed decide to do that. However, if one half of the budget was voted down, both would go down. Vote yes to school, no to town: both town and school are defeated. In other words, splitting the vote would have absolutely no purpose. But the motion still passed, overwhelmingly. And as it turned out, while there was no practical purpose to splitting the vote in two, there was a huge symbolic one: the town budget passed by roughly 70/30, and the school budget went down by almost the same margin. So a protest was clearly registered - people were unhappy with the school.

While waiting for the vote to be tallied, we got to consider and vote on such items as cemetery maintenance, a new dog pound, and a waste oil recycling thingy at the town garage. Passions ran high on all the issues, though the reasons for those passions weren't always clear. One fellow (known to all in the room) argued that we don't need a dog pound, a 12-gauge shotgun will do just as well, and wondered why a town should bother maintaining its cemeteries. Another had a huge issue with the way the cemetery funds were being handled, though exactly what his issue was became no clearer after quite a few minutes of speaking.

I appreciated some aspects of the way it was all run. The moderator kept his sense of humor. The attorney was calm and clear. The first selectman explained his budget items well. And everyone got to say their piece, but unlike in informal arguments, they only got to say it once and then had to sit down and be quiet.

There's another interesting aspect to all of this, and it gets back to the "Democracy in Action" theme. My instinct is to respect the hard work of the board of finance, selectmen, and board of ed and support the research, hard work and decisionmaking process that went on behind the scenes. But I know that kind of blind trust can lead down the road to ruin - I should dig deeper and question authority. Even if some of the people objecting were coming from perspectives with which I disagree, or had their facts wrong, or argued ridiculous positions like 'shoot all the stray dogs' - it's still critical that everyone shows up, asks all the questions, makes all their arguments, and demands facts and accountability.

We'll have another chance to vote on the budget in due course, and meanwhile we are all still neighbors - we all still say a friendly hi to each other in the grocery store post office.

So here's what I'm wondering. Should I run for first selectman?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


seedlings, originally uploaded by jahansell.

I'm not having much luck in the seed-starting department. I started a bunch in March in the basement under shop lights, as I have every year for at least a dozen years. Nothing has changed about my setup, the temperature or anything else - but nothing grew. I suspected mice, so when the weather got a little warmer, I started over, on the screen porch (it's got storm windows so I figured even tender plants like zinnias would be fine as long as the temp didn't drop into the 20's. Kind of like a cold frame.)

I'd mostly given up on things that needed to be started very early, and bought tomatoes and peppers from Paley's. (I'm sure I'll buy more from Sol Flower at the Millerton Farmer's Market, too!)

But yesterday I went to look at this tray and saw that bunches of the sprouts had been decapitated. No mouse droppings, so I'm not sure who's the culprit. The cat? (But she didn't eat the seedling, just slice it off and leave the leaves sitting on the dirt.) Very frustrating!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Crabapple blossoms

cherry blossoms, originally uploaded by jahansell.



Monday, May 04, 2009

Epimedium and bluebell

epimedium and bluebell, originally uploaded by jahansell.

It's spring. I'm helpless - how can I not take pictures of flowers?

Sunday, May 03, 2009


notquiteamile, originally uploaded by jahansell.

The kids' run in the Sharon Classic yesterday. My daughter ran for the first time and (permit me a mommy brag here) finished fifth, in 6:33 - for a MILE. That's about twice as fast as my pace in the 5 mile race. She's not a runner - or at least hasn't been one before but maybe she's got talent!

Once again the race was a great Sharon event - cloudy and cool at first, then sunny and gorgeous, it seemed sparsely attended at first but I think in the end it had its usual complement of about 100 or so runners, plus quite a few walkers and the usual tots' fun run and kids 1-mile-ish run. Bake sale, silent auction, bouncy house, all to benefit Sharon Day Care. The same cast of characters always shows up and runs, and everyone supports everyone else, fast, slow (hello) or in between.

And a shout-out to the event organizers: I have run in a LOT of races in the last few years - this one has the BEST support and organization!