Thanks to global warming, or at least an overactive La Nina pattern, summer started sometime around April up here. That's very unusual for New England. Unheard of, actually. 

And, it has been a scorcher! But, here we are in the middle of August and we can see and feel hints that summer will soon depart. Some nights are well near 50. Flowers and crops that should fizzle in late August or early September, have already started to buzz. Soon, the water will be too cold for a dip, and the breezes will take down the first leaves of autumn, as a warning.
 
Until then, enjoy this little taste of summer in western New England. We've had gatherings with family and old friends, grandkid birthday parties, indoor and outdoor concerts, garden parties and garden tours, daily trips to farmstands for corn and tomatoes, and luscious  solitary swims at the end of the day. We even sat for a spell in a cottage ornée in Pat's gorgeous rose garden. 

Wish summer could go on forever, but I know better. 

I hope you've had a good season, doing whatever it is you wanted to do. That's the way it should be. This is not the autumn of our lives, but the summer. Remember that and dress accordingly. 

 
 
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We drove home from West Virginia Sunday right behind the storm, careful to not catch up with it. To the west, the sky was clear and blue. To the east, it was churning with energy. Because of road closures, it took us two days to make the trip
Over the past two years, I’ve posted many flower photos taken at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, a beloved local attraction where at least one Birds reader puts in many hours as a volunteer. The town's garden club had the brilliant idea to recycle an old trolley bridge into a public garden. Its a perfect place to clear your head and find something to sing about, in spring, summer and fall. 
We almost lost it over the weekend. 
Then, there’s Wilmington, Vermont, where we spend as much time as we can in a cabin in the woods, a little west of town. We lived there full time most of last year, but now that we’re back in our home in Massachusetts, we go up on weekends. It’s only 40 scenic minutes away, on slow roads. You would never know the Deerfield River, seen below, could turn into a ferocious dragon in a few short hours, with a little coaxing from Irene. 

We almost lost it over the weekend. 

The last video was taken from the west side of the landmark eatery Dot's Diner, the little white building on the right and next to the bridge, in the previous videos. You'll notice the water completely covers the bridge on its east side, at this point. To see the river's normal size, look at that little trickle going alongside Dot's in the winter shot, above. 
 
Our cabin is standing and we think it’s fine, but the town it’s part of was all but destroyed. You may have seen the video on CNN. A young woman was washed away by roaring flood waters.

At this point, the state and federal emergency management people have mobilized to bring in water, food and medicine, while the locals have set up the high school as a shelter for those who lost their homes or don’t want to live without utilities. Our road was completely washed out, but a temporary path was quickly plowed out by the town because some important people live on it (not us).

But, the US highway on either side to town is closed, indefinitely. To get to the next town, some people will have to drive south to Massachusetts, then take another road north, hoping they don’t run into a roadblock or a hole big enough to swallow a semi. There are so many bridges out around here, engineers could work on them for a lifetime.


How many bridges? Here's a map showing many roads and 36 bridges out in just ONE county: http://www.windhamregional.org/roadstatus

 
 
My gift to you! Take a visual dip in Vermont snow melt on a very hot but breezy day. Please turn your audio dial down (or off) to avoid the static in the audio feed caused by a strong west wind. Enjoy! 

 
 
It's true, summer is really, really here, with a vengeance. It's been wickedly hot in New England the last week or so, but we have hope the universe will settle down and go back to normal. It's a good time to go for a dip, take a long ride, visit a country fair or smell the roses. 

Here are some photos taken in and around southern Vermont/western Massachusetts recently. 

If you haven't had a chance to take a vacation, sit back, relax and take one now. Enjoy!

For a virtual dip in the lake, go to One-minute vacation

 
 
Three-foot blizzards?
  This is New England.  
Crippling ice storms?
  Par for the course.
Devastating spring floods?
  A-yup.   
Republicans elected to Senate?
  Once in a blue moon.  
Yankee fans in Red Sox Nation?
  Not if they value their lives.
Tornadoes in Massachusetts?
  No way!

Yesterday, Dave and I slogged through a hazy, hot and humid morning, waiting for the cold front to move in so we could breathe. Around 3, the skies opened up, and rain fell by the bucketloads.

He came in out of the rain and switched on the afternoon Red Sox game, rescheduled so Bruins fans would not miss last night's Stanley Cup game. A little after 4, all hell broke loose.

First, an Emergency Alert System message took over the television, warning that tornadoes were in the area and may have touched down. A similar message was beeping on radio and when I looked at my Blackberry, there it was on my default browser. Since we live in a second-floor apartment, we weren’t sure what to do, so we waited for more information.

We actually have three television network affiliates based in Springfield, the only real city for miles around. It’s 45 miles to our south. We also rely on New England Cable News out of Boston, which will go outside the city once in a while to cover something big. And, they did!

All four news operations took over the afternoon and evening schedule, giving minute-by-minute reports on tornadic activity, hail, severe lightning strikes, damage, emergency shelters, road closings  and the like. Reporters who have gotten comfortable reading scripts from behind desks were forced to perform real public service under all-but battlefield conditions. Those in the field had to race out in torrential rain, wind and lightning, to small towns that are hard to find on a good day. Since so many roads were closed, some crews had to hike in while the storm was in progress. 


At least 19 towns took damage from the tornadoes, including the city of Springfield. A woman was hit by lightning up by us, and so were barns and buildings scattered around our county. To our north and south, tornadoes were popping up, dancing over the interstate, picking up water from the Connecticut River and dumping it wherever it wanted. One minute those rotating cells were visible, the next they showed up only on meteorologists’ Doppler-radar scanners.

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When the tornado warnings were issued, many people seemed more curious than anything, at least until they saw their neighbor’s roof flying toward their head. Some ran outside to photograph the twister on cell phones. Others saved their lives under staircases and in cellars. One woman heeded the warning by climbing into her bathtub, then got out to retrieve her pet fish and barely made it back in time. Plenty of people sat in their cars to watch funnel clouds cross the road in front of them. Some ended up upside down. At least one ended up dead.  Since it hit at the end of a school day and shift change, many people were on the road, hurrying home to safety. What they didn't know was, there was no safe place. 
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I guess we were due a major hit in this part of the country. I mean, New England is one of the safest places to live if you want to avoid natural disasters. We rarely have earthquakes, and when we do, they’re small. Forest fires could be a problem, but we plenty of rain to curb that possibility. We’re too far inland for hurricanes to hit with full force, although they sometimes sneak in through Connecticut. I suppose our biggest natural threat is the much-hated Black Fly. 

At last count, there are at least four people dead, many left homeless, streets blocked, businesses and schools closed, cars, trucks and buses totaled, power out in many areas, hundreds injured.  Whole forests were reduced to rubble. Road surfaces were ripped off, leaving some neighborhoods unrecognizable.
Aside from Springfield, this is a sparsely populated area. Four is a big number here. True, this tornado did not kill as many people as did the one in Joplin, but it was a very big wake-up call to a state that’s usually on the giving -- and not the asking -- end of disaster relief. Gov. Patrick was out here in a flash last night, promising search and rescue teams and other emergency services. Sen. Kerry promises federal aid, and I don’t expect a poor city like Springfield to be too proud to accept it. Nor will the dozens of small towns throughout western Massachusetts and southern Vermont that saw damage. 
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Tornadoes in Massachusetts? Never say never, 

Strangely, what happened yesterday in our state tied us in a new way to the other 49. I just hope that storm buys us another 100 years of peace and quiet around here. Let’s not stir up the flies any more than necessary.    

 
 
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Fall in New England is generally short, but this year the show has gone on and on. Maybe it was the tropical weather pushed forward by a few hurricanes. Or maybe, the weather gods just went on vacation and forgot to flick the switch. Whatever, thanks!

Color up here starts out slow in mid- to late-August and picks up steam in September. One week, you’re swimming in the lake; the next, night temps hover slightly over freezing. That water cools down nicely.

Peak color was in late September in southern Vermont, but it is just now peaking in parts of western Massachusetts. Last week, we had our first few nights of hard frost in VT, ending the color show for good and warning of what’s ahead. One night, we got more than frost on the pumpkin (or truck). 

Massachusetts is enjoying a brief reprieve, but it’ll catch up to Vermont real soon.

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Pickles, fruit, veggies, quilts, sheep, cows (one getting a shower), fried dough, food stands, bees, milk bottles (remember them?), a 781-pound white pumpkin AND the Flying Wallendas!

 
 
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September 1 has come and gone, marking the unofficial end of summer. It could go on, but somebody flicked the switch! Night temperatures have dipped down into low 40s, cooling off water and land, if not the inhabitants.

Blessed rain came just in time, but nothing dampens the spirit of those determined to wring out everything they can from what’s left of the warm days of the year.

Now is a good time to catch an afternoon on the road or on the water. Take the kids to a downtown street fair, a ballgame or out for a hot dog at the drive-in that soon will shut down for winter.

Fruit growers have started bringing in their crops and cleaning them up for town and county fairs that go on, rain or shine.

Here are some shots taken in southern Vermont, western Massachusetts, Boston, Washington DC, Lake George and Long Island, NY.

 

 
 

I think the photos in Greetings from New England (below, down 2 posts) deserve some caption information. Sorry about that.  

If you look carefully, you'll find:

John F. Kennedy's sailboat, outside of the Kennedy Museum on Boston Harbor
Quincy Market, Boston
Fenway Park (home of the Red Sox), Boston
City dock, Burlington, Vermont
A replica ship under construction in Gloucester, Massachusetts
A view of Lake Spofford, New Hampshire, from a rear deck
The French King Bridge over the Connecticut River
Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts
Several buildings at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont
The Heath Fair in Heath, Massachusetts
Newport Harbor, Newport, Rhode Island
Downtown Wilmington, Vermont
Lake Whitingham in Wilmington, Vermont
A view of Greenfield, Massachusets, from Poet's Seat Tower
A family of geese crossing the Green River, in Greenfield, Massachusetts
Our cabin in Wilmington, Vermont
Mountains in southern and central Vermont



 
 
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Downtown Wilminigton VT
 


Dear Reader,

Summer's finally here, and as soon as the rain clears (if ever), it'll be time to get out on the lake, the ocean, the hiking trail or at the cabin to enjoy what summer has to offer.

Here are a few photos I've taken of the New England I know and love. Some are recent, others are a year or two old. Click on the photo to enlarge. Most pictures were taken on a cell phone, so please excuse the fuzzy focus.

Scenes are in and around Gloucester, Cape Cod, Boston, Greenfield, Colrain, Shelburne Falls and Heath, Massachusetts; Wilmington, Burlington and Shelburne, Vermont; and Newport, Rhode Island. 

I hope you like them. Have a wonderful summer!

Wish you were here!

Paula