Wednesday, December 31, 2008

First Night: Northampton/Amherst

Because of weather conditions and also because I've never attended, I'm not going to make a very big announcement about First Night: Northampton. (Wow, look at that snow, blowing and swirling about -- it's a veritable white out.) Nevertheless, if you're in Northampton today and looking for a festive way to welcome in the New Year, you may want to look into First Night. You can find all the details here.

PSA: Road Conditions

Once again, the snow falls. And today is falls steadily and with a breeze that could very well turn to wind. There are plows out and about in Belchertown (one just drove past my house), but the snow still covers the roads. I took Bay Road into Hadley this morning, and at 8:50 the roads were already covered; by 10:15 they were deep and mushy at intersections -- hills were also a bit of a problem, giving my car some difficulties.
So, in case you needed another warning, be careful on those roads. Drive slowly and with your lights on -- and give plenty of room to those driving in front of you.

Oh -- and watch for turkeys crossing the road -- one toddled right out in front of me on Bay today.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Eric Carle Picture Book Museum

If you enjoy museums and if you have ever in your life enjoyed looking at pictures in books, and especially if you have a fondness for picture books and children's literature, you should absolutely take a few hours to visit The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. My second visit was made not too long ago and I had the pleasure of going on a weekday afternoon when visitors were mostly adults and a few young children, not yet of school age. The exhibitions in three galleries were delightful and full of beautiful art, and yet not so crowded or plentiful to be overwhelming. What I saw were antique illustrations from Wind in the Willows, the Wizard of Oz books, and other familiars and unfamiliars by a large variety of artists. And from now through March 8, the main exhibit is entitled "Over Rainbows and Down Rabbit Holes: the Art of Children's Books." (I can't wait to see it!)

The museum does not only house and display exhibits, however. Also available is a library of picture books, occasional theatrical and musical performances, storytimes, movies, author/illustrator meet-and-greets, classes for professionals. There's also a make-and-take art studio for kids, a cafe, and a jam-packed gift shop of wonderful things (keep that in mind for future birthdays and holidays). If you're lucky, you might even see Eric Carle while you're there! And be sure to check out the decorative tiles in the bathrooms.

The entry fee is reasonable for a museum ($7/adults, $5/youth), but if you are running on a tight budget, check with your local library to see if it carries free passes to the museum. I know Belchertown's Clapp Memorial Library does, as do many others.

The Eric Carle Museum is fresh, clean, and child-friendly, and a very good place to visit regularly (the exhibits change a few times a year). The entire musuem can easily be toured in the space of a short afternoon, with plenty of time to grab a snack or peruse the gift shop. Be sure to take a little time to admire the spectacular view (especially if you visit in the autumn) -- the museum is set into the rolling hills of the area and is surrounded by trees and sky and mountains, and it is part of the local Museums 10.

Eric Carle Museum: 125 West Bay Road, Amherst; 413.658.1100
(Close to Atkins Market and Hampshire College)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blog News & Sledding...?

You may have noticed, if you have visited my blog before, that my banner has changed -- as have some of the colors and a bit of the design. It's the new winter look, and I quite fancy it. Let me know what you think.

Also, if you're a cyclist, or if you know someone who is, I'd like to direct you to the link in my sidebar to Velophoria -- the musings and writings of a road cyclist here in Belchertown (and beyond).

Meanwhile, it's Sunday afternoon, and it's still snowing. We had a respite of a few hours during the night, but the snow came back this morning. And now it's gusting and blustering about, blowing snow off of trees and pushing a white haze through the air.
I was out on a walk earlier this afternoon (thus the new pics on the page), and it was fun to dash through the snow that came up past my boots. There were a bunch of kids sledding on the hill on the corner of Hamilton and George Hannum. Where in the area do you sled?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Beauty of Snow

It can be hard to capture the beauty of snow with an old and inexpensive camera -- especially if taking shots from indoors. The lighting is never quite right and falling snow is difficult to capture in a still. Nevertheless, a pine tree frosted with snow is always a lovely winter sight.

The snow continues to fall today in light drifting flakes. The roads are being sanded and people are shoveling and plowing themselves out. Though I have cleared my car twice, it's already covered again with a fine white powdery dusting. More snow is expected tonight and tomorrow, with the possibility of freezing rain in the mix. Most unfortunate, the rain.

As I sit here and write, our red-capped downy woodpecker sits on the seed bell hanging over our deck, happily pecking out his breakfast in the snow. He's a beauty, and I wish I could get just a little closer to him without scaring him away.

There's a certain peacefulness in snow like today's. Enjoy it -- ski, build a snowman, sled, have a snowball fight, snowshoe, or just watch it fall. If you go out, drive with caution.
Happy snow day!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Where to Find School Closings

Most of you probably have cable television or local stations and can tune in to find out about school closings. Others of you may be on the phone-tree list and and will get a call on mornings when school is canceled or delayed. However, for the rest of you, and for anyone who would rather find the closings online and read through them more quickly than the scroll at the bottom of the news channel, check out these two websites for area school closings:

WWLP 22 News

And just in case you're wondering, school is closed today. It's going to be a winter wonderland!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


These are the stockings I made from fabric from Quabbin Quilts. Spiffy, no? Especially considering I had no pattern and no previous stocking-making experience!

Friday, December 12, 2008

PSA: Flooded Roads

Watch those roads while you're out driving today -- there are lots of stream and pond overflows causing hazardous conditions and flooding the roads. And I hear we're at a flood watch for the rest of the day.
Drive safely!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quabbin Quilts

Sewing Christmas stockings for the season? Piecing together a quilt to warm and be cherished for years to come? If you're looking for fabrics for either of these projects or something similar, make a visit to Quabbin Quilts on Rt 202 in the Swift River Commons.
I made my first visit to Quabbin Quilts a few weeks ago, scoping out fabric possibilities for Christmas stockings I was planning to make this year. I was pleased with what I found and returned a week or two later to make a few purchases. (Now I'm ankle-deep in thread clippings and fabric scraps....)

The Quabbin Quilts store is not large, but it has a nice variety of fabrics that come in bolts (cut by the yard), or in pre-cut packs of fat quarters and 1/2 yards; there is also a selection of battings and fusible fleeces. Sewing and quilting tools are available, as well -- needles, thread, measuring devices, scissors, quilt patterns. There are also quilts for sale and other quilted items, like place mats, handbags, wall decorations, and more.
Quabbin Quilts has a main fabric area and a quilting classroom, in which it offers classes and an open quilting time -- an opportunity to get out of the house and enjoy quilting with others. The store also offers a quilting service for after your quilt is pieced.

The store was relatively quiet both times I visited, giving me plenty of time to browse the fabrics and pick the brain of the owner/employee who was manning the store at the time -- she took a good amount of time to talk with me, and she was quite friendly and helpful.
The store has been there for almost four years, if memory serves, and hopes to be there for years to come. If you have an interest, I'd recommend making a visit.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Birds @ Our Bell

I have yet to purchase a real birdfeeder. However, last week I did manage to buy a seed bell, in the hopes of attracting some of the birds that live in the trees and wetland behind our house. The squirrels discovered the seeds early, and as I hadn't hung the bell low enough, they helped themselves to a nice portion of the seeds before I had the chance to rehang it. I finally did. And still I waited for the birds. And waited. It took five days for the birds to discover the seeds, but when they did, they brought their friends. Chickadees, downy woodpeckers, tufted titmice (titmouses?), dark-eyed juncos, and even a shy cardinal. It was like a winter festival on our deck all weekend. And now this morning, they're back. I see a woodpecker (red cap and all), a chicadee, a junco, and a tufted titimouse all out for their breakfast and a little drink of snow.

Oh, how I do love the birds. They are such a delight.

(These pictures taken on a snowy cold day by my husband.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Belchertown State School

Between Rt 202 and Jackson Street, there is a length of road lined with abandoned buildings and overgrown fields. Many of the buildings have asbestos warnings on them and "no trespassing" signs; some even have piles trash in front of them. Tunnel entrances rise above the ground with cautions that the tunnels are sealed off and have no exit, yet the tunnel openings are still accessible. Rundown and especially bleak on a cold November day, this stretch of road is what once was the Belchertown State School.

The Belchertown State School often appears in search results for the town; I came across mention of it many times while researching Belchertown. Last weekend on a walk and a whim, we stumbled upon its physical presence -- all its buildings, sidewalks, boarded windows, parking places, graffiti, garbage, fields, basketball courts, and more. It is an amazing stretch of under-utilized land in a prime location in town.

The BSS was a "school" for the mentally defective ("feeble-minded"), though with its history of abuses and overcrowding, it is not necessarily a bright mark on the town or the state. It opened in 1922 as the third such school in the Commonwealth. It closed in 1992, and since then has been left mostly to deteriorate, though plans for it are often being discussed.

The state school often hits the papers these days as officials try to determine what to do with the buildings and the land, which currently falls under the responsibilities of the Belchertown Economic Development and Industrial Corporation, though most of the construction plans listed on that webpage to begin in 2004 have not yet seen progress. On December 1, reported on a revised plan for the land that was approved by board members. There are a few businesses that have taken up residence near the Rt 202 side of the school.

For more information on the history and current status of the land and buildings, visit the links below.

The Wikipedia article, Belchertown State School
From State Hospitals of Massachusetts
From inside the walls, BSS YouTube vids
Rise & Fall of the State Hospital

Sunday, November 30, 2008

PSA: Night Driving

After two close calls this week, I thought it might be good to remind everyone out there to be careful when driving local roads at night. Take it slow, pay attention.
Tuesday evening, my husband was driving Rt 9 between Belchertown and Ware; a car was following him at a nice distance and there was another car approaching. As he came within about 20 feet of the oncoming car, a 6-point buck dashed in front of them and crossed the road.
Saturday night, as we were coming home from an evening in Northampton, driving down Bay Road, a car at the end of a line of oncoming traffic flashed its lights at us -- and we're thankful it did -- just over the rise, there was a large dog (possibly an American mastiff) hanging out in the middle of the road, oblivious to anything but what he was sniffing on the asphalt.
We also had another deer-crossing-in-front-of-car a few weeks ago.
So please, for your safety and the safety of those around you and with you, be alert and aware when driving these night roads. And don't worry about going just a little bit slow.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


In honor of our recently passed holiday, I thought I'd put up this picture I took at the Quabbin while hiking around one day in September. I was on a lonely trail and came across a flock of enormous turkeys. I took picture after picture after picture, and somehow, in the pictures, the turkeys all managed to disappear. I think you can see one or two in this photo, if you look very very carefully.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Postal Notes

Good news for kids! The Belchertown Post Office has their Christmas Mailbox -- with the attached letters-to-Santa box -- in the lobby! If you're writing a letter to Santa this year, be sure to get it into the holiday mailbox at the Post Office. (I can't wait to write one -- I'm pretty sure that none of my old letters to Santa ever got into the post.)

My next note carries just a point of confusion. I recently ordered some goods online and had them shipped via UPS. I followed my shipment on the UPS tracking page. Today I saw that the description "notice left," yet I had not received any notice about my package. When I called UPS to ask what happened, they told me that the package had been left at the Post Office -- the USPS. Indeed, my package was there, though I had been waiting for it at home, because I've only every had the UPS deliver to the intended address (this time, my home). However, the tracking label has USPS on it, not UPS. So, what's going on with the USPS and the UPS? Strange things...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mound Identification

I came across these mounds while walking through the woods one afternoon. They are definitely man-made, built up of logs and dirt, possibly even stones and cement. Any idea what they are? Click on the image to enlarge.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Community Theatrics

This weekend was a busy weekend, full of activity. On Saturday night I had the opportunity to attend some local theater. It's been a good many years since I've seen or participated in local theater, but when the announcement came that a colleague of my husband was directing How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, I knew that seeing the show was imminent.

I certainly wish that I had seen the show in the first weekend in order to recommend it to my readers in its second weekend, because the cast was a blast, and the show, of course, worth many laughs -- plus, it had that comfortable community feel to it. However, since the show closed yesterday, I will just have to recommend keeping your eye on the website for upcoming productions. The show was produced by Black Cat Theater (formerly South Hadley Theater), a community theater organization in its 23 season.

If you have an interest in theater -- perhaps you participated in school but have long since graduated, or you want to try a new hobby and explore new talents, or you use to act but got too busy with other things... -- I suggest that you remain on the lookout for local community theater and try your hand in it. Theater troops are always looking for people to act, sew, construct, run lights, play music, run the sound board, and other such things. Plus, it's a fabulous way to meet new people and keep busy and have fun. I admit, after Saturday I feel a renewed interest to get back into the theater groove, myself.

So in short, get involved with the local community -- if you aren't interested in joining the troop, at get out and see a show!
(I was going to suggest that you check out this link for theaters, auditions, shows, and more, but it seems very out of date....)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Point of Apple Curiosity

I don't believe I have ever seen this before -- an apple with a tan.
I picked this apple up from Atkins Market the other day, with the mark of the leaf tanned right into the lovely apple.
It's a Mutsu.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Previously Unseen

In the summer when the leaves are on the trees and the growth in fields and forests is deep, it's easy to miss things like unmarked trailheads. But when the leaves come down and the brush clears out, things begin to appear that haven't been noticeable before. And that's how I came to discover a walking trail entrance by the train tracks at Hamilton Street.

At the beginning of this end of the trail, it was the sign that caught my attention after I noticed a clearing in the trees. The sign, when I had the opportunity to read it yesterday, said something to the point of no off-road motorized vehicles permitted without permission. With that read, I began to walk the trail. I soon came to a branch in the trail, but I continued on straight, paralleling the train tracks. After a lovely bit of walking, the path veered to the left, leaving the tracks and heading into the trees. The path reached another fork, with a marked trail leading off to the right (those orange plastic diamonds nailed to the trees with an arrow and the number 1 -- I haven't figured those out yet). Continuing straight, the path reached yet another marked fork -- the trail veered right while the fork branched off to the left.

The trail eventually led to the playing fields off George Hannum. I didn't continue from there, but instead turned around and took one of the other trails on my way back -- and it led to the ridge above the farm at the corner of Geo Hannum and Hamilton.

So, in essence, some walking trails in the vicinity of Hamilton and George Hannum -- nice space, mostly flat (though sometimes rocky) with some small hills -- no heavy climbing -- a good walk through the woods.
I think it's part of the Belchertown Land Trust.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Shopping for Your Pets

Do you have pets? A cat or a dog, perhaps -- maybe a hamster or a goat or a horse -- or maybe you just like feeding the birds? If you do, make your way over to Granby Country Grain on Rt 202 in Granby.

I've passed that store a number of times while driving on 202 and have been wondering what it's all about, so last week I decided to take the opportunity to stop by. And what fun it is inside, if you're an animal lover or grew up in a veterinarian's office. Cat food, cat toys, dog food, dog toys, pet beds, scratching posts, bird cages, terrariums, catnip, leashes, litter, carriers, bird feeders, bulk bird seed, suet squares, rabbit pellets, cedar shavings, work books, horse leads, crickets, goat food, horse feed, shovels, and lots more that I haven't even mentioned here -- and there's even a little garden center in the back with rakes and hoses and fertilizer and such. It's got a lot going on.

And if you're looking for a pet, I did notice signs for rabbits and kittens on 202 while I was driving, and there's a bulletin board inside the store with ads (including an ad for 2 goldendoodle puppies -- very cute!).

Granby Country Grain: 467.3838

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Question 4

Congratulations, Belchertown! After passing Question #4 on yesterday's ballot, you're one step closer to a beautiful, expanded, and renovated library!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Free Things to Do -- Natural History Museum

Perhaps you already have discovered the secrets of finding free things to do in the valley -- events, museums, music. With all the colleges around, there are scads. Last Friday I finally took the opportunity to visit a museum I've been wanting to visit for a while -- the Amherst College Museum of Natural History.

On weekdays, there is no public parking on the campus, so I parked my car in the public parking at the square and walked my way down to the museum. It was a perfect day with a warm sun, so the short walk to the building was pleasant. (Walking from the square, head S/E on Rt 9. Take a right at the short street just before the purple and white Amtrak Station. Go past the campus police station on the left and head up the on the first right. The museum is red brick and has a bay of large windows looking directly out to the pathway.) There are some classrooms in the building, but as you enter, enter to the right.

I was greeting by a student who was suffering just a bit, perhaps, from the quiet unbusy-ness of the museum on a beautiful Friday afternoon, but friendly and helpful as a museum docent should be. He explained the layout of the museum, a bit of what exhibits were on each floor, and even gave me a free shark's tooth (after I filled out a short and simple survey). (Which is funny, because ever since I vacationed in Bar Harbor this past summer, I've been wanting a shark's tooth -- finally got it.)

The main floor of the museum is the most eye-catching, with large reconstructed skeletons of ice age animals -- a bear, a mammoth, a mastodon, a saber-tooth, and more -- fascinating and beautiful, set together on a raised platform display. (When I was there, they were preparing for a Halloween party that evening.)

The basement is dinosaur land -- a skeleton and some dino skulls greet you at the bottom of the stairs, as well as a marble bust of Edward Hithcock, who was the Professor of Natural History and Chemistry in 1825 and who collected hundreds of slabs of local shale to study the ancient bird tracks that fascinated him -- and that turned out to be dinosaur tracks. There is a whole room dedidcated to displaying his finds, where slabs of imprinted rock hang from walls. A very impressive display and a fun place to test your own print-discovery skills. For more info, visit the Hitchcock Ichnology Collection.
And for another place to visit where you can search out prints in the wild, head on over to Nash Dino Land.

The top floor of the museum has information on the local geologic history of the Connecticut River Valley and the areas surrounding Amherst, and I admittedly didn't spend quite as much time there -- though I did take the opportunity to visit the hallway rock displays. There is also a reading room on this floor and some tables and chairs very convenient for quiet study.

Each floor has a hallway with great glass wall displays of gems, minerals, and rock collected from around the world (which I loved looking at -- they are titled with the name of the mineral, the location it came from, and its chemical formula -- very cool).
There are also educational display drawers with fossilized specimen of fish, snails, eggs, and other smaller ancient creatures.
And if you're looking for a quiet place to study or read or daydream, the museum and building also has a number of comfortable-looking chairs, tables, and couches.
For accessibility there is an elevator, bathrooms, and a cubicle coat room.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Museum of Natural History -- it's not so big as to be overwhelming, but there's lots of stuff included inside. Open 11-4 Tuesday-Sunday (closed Mondays).

Looking for more free things to do? I will be highlighting more of them on this blog in future days, but in the meantime, visit the Five Colleges Calendar.

Get Thee to the Polls

Go vote right now -- or if at this very minute you can't, be sure to schedule it in.
And please, think before you vote -- there are important issues on this year's ballot.

(Here are those sample ballots for Belchertown.)
(Here is state election information.)

Post-vote update, 11.15am.
I just returned from the Belchertown High School -- and what a fun day to vote! I'm not sure I've ever voted in a place where there was such a feeling of excitement. The parking lots were busy -- cars were parked down the length of the entry, as well as in the lots. But despite this, the lines were short and people were jovial. The high school gym looked and felt patriotic with the red, white, and blue voting booths and the voting assistants dressed up. Parents were bringing their children into the gym and into the booths with them to teach them the importance of voting, and in the booth next to me I heard a boy telling his father what it would be like when he got to vote. It was quite the positive and fun community experience. (Plus, the weather is really nice today -- making it easy to get out!)
Also, Nathaniel Mouse from the Clapp Library was there with his sister and a large number of library supporters to urge a "yes" vote on question #4, and there was a bake sale.

Friday, October 31, 2008

All Hallow's

October 31, All Hallow's Eve, known to the majority of us as Halloween.
Be sure to watch for little ghouls and goblins, superheroes and princesses wandering the streets this afternoon and evening.
Happy Halloween!

(That's the jack o'lantern we carved from our Sapowsky's pumpking.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Ladies and gentlemen -- it is true -- today we had snow. And from the looks of those clouds, we may have more. Just small little flecks of icy snow that melted into a tiny drop of water upon contact with any surface, but nevertheless, snow did indeed fall from the sky.

And other notes:
Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days or less! National Novel Writing Month is only days away -- November 1 is the official start date, so if you've been procrastinating that novel, now's the time to get it started. Register, check the rules, and find local NaNoWriMo writers clubs at the NaNoWriMo website. It's great fun!

One of the trains that runs through Belchertown is moving agonizingly slow today. I'm not sure what the problem is, but it's been on the track by my house for about an hour now, moving at a speed I've only seen in turtles.

I went to the library today (surprise, surprise) and picked up a good pile of books and movies. I was kidding with the librarian that I've decided to single-handedly increase the library circulation exponentially -- so she looked up how many items I've checked out since I got my library card on Sept 8 (less than 2 months ago) -- and the total was 60 items -- wow! How many have you checked out?

Just a few more days until it's time to vote. Want to see a sample ballot? Belchertown Town Hall has them online. Check here. Also, for other voter information, visit http:://

And there it is -- more snow -- you can even see it just by looking out the window. Congratulations -- first snowfall of the season!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kristina's Kafe & Bakery

In the last few weeks, I have had a couple of sets of out-of-town visitors -- and each set I took to Kristina's Kafe for lunch, with great success. Kristina's is just off the town square and serves breakfast and lunch Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays) -- hours are 6am-2pm.

Kristina's has a warm and friendly atmosphere and just-right food options. For breakfasts they offer egg sandwiches, omelets, pancakes, a number of sides (such as cereal, pure maple syrup, bagels with cream cheese, homemade toast of the day), and at least 10 breakfast combos (with eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, homefries, pancakes, french toast, etcetera), and all at reasonable prices. The breakfast combos range from $2.29 (egg & toast) - &7.99 (the 3-eyed monster).
On Saturdays and Sundays, when breakfast is offered all day, there are also Weekend Wonders: Bakery Benedict, Homemade Quiche of the Day, Steve's Sensational Scramble, and Belgium Waffle Served with Butter and Powdered Sugar.

Lunch offerings mostly consist of sandwiches -- you can create your own or choose from one of Kristina's specialty sandwichs: the North Main, Firehouse Reuben, Quabbin Club, Stonehouse, Un-Commoner (which is quite tasty, by my own recommendation), and the Men in Blue. There are also hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled cheese, veggie burgers, chicken filets, and other such grilled sandwiches. Kristina's serves hot and hearty meals, as well, for those nasty-weather days (like today) -- things like pot pies, stuffed shells, stuffed peppers, and open-faced turkey sandwiches. There are salads, too, full-size and side. All the sandwiches come with chips and a pickle (at least, from the six examples I've been witness to).

You'll also find daily specials, bottomless cups of coffee -- and of course, the bakery! Donuts, croissants, pastries, fresh-baked breads, custom cakes, pies, and more grace the bakery cases, and though I've not had the opportunity to try many of them, they look quite delicious.

9 North Main Street (Rt 202), Belchertown: 413.323.5733
(Prices and specific menu items from KK&B take-out menu.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Flayvors of Pumpkins

If all these pumpkins hanging out on people's porches, at roadside stands, and in patches have you craving some delicious autumn pumpkinny flavour, get yourself over to Flayvors of Cook Farm on South Maple Street in Hadley. Flayvors is a restaurant and a dairy, and right now they have pumpkins -- and a delicious Pumpkin Mousse Parfait (cream, pumpkin, and spices -- what more could a fall dessert need?).

After having passed Flayvors of Cook Farm many times on my way to and from Hadley, but never visiting, I finally took the opportunity to stop by yesterday. And I'm glad I did, since I was able to get one of those parfaits and enjoy a never-before-tasted-by-me pumpkin treat.

Looks like a good place to get ice cream, too, and in the summer, you can pet the cows! (Open year-round.)

Short Sapowsky's Update

Last night was pick-a-pumpkin night at our house, so we headed to Sapowsky's Roadside Farm Stand where I knew they had tables and benches and tables of pumpkins (as did Dickinson's and Atkins Farms). Sapowsky's did indeed have lots of glorious orange pumpkins of various shapes and sizes (some are even super warty!). Generally they run at $.39/lb, but the bigger ones are priced -- I saw prices ranging from $5-10, so they may vary a bit more than that.
Sapowsky's is open until 6pm through October 31 (Halloween). Then they close for the season until May 1.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Seeing Stars

Last night was a night clear enough to see the striations on Jupiter and four of its moons -- if you were looking through the right telescope -- and luckily, I was. After a Mexican dinner "in town" (aka Amherst), we headed off to the Amherst College Wilder Observatory, where there was reportedly an open house for the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association. Unfortunately, the open house had been changed after the event had already been announced to the papers and such, but there was a member of the club there to greet any visitors who might show up -- like us. Woody, our greeter, had his 'scope set up in line with Jupiter and let us take a look -- and what a view! Later, we went into the observatory and, with a small class of students, heard the stories about its construction. And then, the ceiling opened.

Not dressed for an extended stay in the coldness of last evening, we didn't have the chance to look through the large 'scope of the observatory (just as cold inside as out), but I'm definitely planning on making another visit -- it was fascinating!

You can listen to a history of the observatory and see photos by visiting this page or by making the trip to the observatory on a clear Saturday evening, when it is open to the public -- it's hidden away on Snell Street -- look for a white sign on the south side of the road that says "A.C. Observatory". (You might want to check the AmAstro website first, however, to make sure they'll be there.)

In short, if you're a sky watcher or a star gazer and hoping to find like-minded friends, give the AmAstro Association a try. Take your telescope, if you have one, but don't worry if you don't. They'll happily show constellations and planets and anything else in the night skies worth seeing. Just be sure to dress warmly enough!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pictures of Autumn 2

I took a walk down an unpaved road that is crossed by a number of hiking trails (at first I thought it might be the M&M trail, but I was mistaken). The day was lovely and the nature was spectacular. That afternoon walk was a perfect way to enjoy the autumn sights, sounds, and smells that I love so much -- birds swept across my path, chipmunks skittered through the brush, leaves crackled beneath my feet and drifted down from nearby trees.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Book Sale: Final Note

Tomorrow, Saturday, is the last day of the Clapp Memorial Library Friends Book Sale. I finally made it in to the sale this morning, and it is quite amazing. If you're worried that at this late date the books are too picked over to make a visit worthwhile, you have nothing to worry about. There are still loads and loads of fabulous books to choose from -- some strikingly old and some like new. Classics, biographies, sports, mysteries, dictionaries, science fiction, children's books, magazines, recipe books, westerns, and more line shelf after shelf after shelf in multiple rooms -- it's just like a used bookstore -- and perfect for picking up that reading you've been putting off or gifts for those birthdays you have coming up. Don't miss it! Plus, to top it all off, tomorrow is 1/2 price day.
My picks of the day? Foundation Trilogy by Asimov and Dune by Herbert.

Blog: In the Valley

I was trolling around Google, using search terms to see where this blog would show up on the results lists, when I came across another local blog full of resources for getting to know the Pioneer Valley area through outdoor activities, restaurants, and other such things. It's loaded with pictures, movies, and random facts. It's called In the Valley. Take a look.

Nash's Dinosaur Tracks

If you have a budding archaeologist in your family, or take an interest in prehistoric life, or just want a quick interesting and inexpensive afternoon excursion for yourself or guests, make the short trek out to Nash Dino Land. It's a small roadside museum, gift shop, and quarry that's been around for over 50 years. The outside is fairly nondescript with peeling paint and a sign and a model dinosaur (apparently, it used to have other, bigger, brighter dinosaurs in front, but those have been taken away) -- and plenty of parking. Once inside (you may need to sound you car's horn to gain entry), there are a number of stones, dinosaur toys, and fossils for sale, as well as full and partial dinosaur tracks from the Nash quarry itself (up to $2000 for a set). Pay the minimal admission fee ($3 per adult as of my visit) and head out behind the building to the small quarry. At the quarry you can see dinosaur tracks that have been outlined in chalk, and once you know what you're looking for, you can try to spot some yourself. Muse a little at the life of the dinosaurs and enjoy feeling like a detective -- I'm sure you'll notice more and more prints, and even see the ones used as flagstones in front of the doorways.
On your way in or out, be sure to take time to talk to whoever happens to be manning the museum that day -- they have lots to say about the history of the quarry and the founding of the shop.

To get to Nash's, follow 116 until you see the road signs for Nash Dino Land, nestled away on the South Hadley/Granby border.
This is definitely a good-weather place to visit, so don't rush over during the next thunderstorm or snow shower.

Read more about Nash Dino Land at Roadside America.

Can you find the tracks in the picture below? (Clicking on the pic will expand it and make them easier to see.)


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Recipe: Simple Cabbage Soup

With the influx of local cabbages in the markets, it seemed only reasonable to purchase one to use. My only problem -- I had never used cabbage before. So my first recipe was a simple cabbage soup, using local produce. (My main recipe book didn't have a single cabbage soup recipe in it -- can you believe it?!)

3 T olive oil
1 carrot
1 onion
1 celery stalk
4 cups chopped/shredded green cabbage
salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add chopped carrot, onion, and celery. Heat until softened. Add cabbage. Stir occasionally until cabbage is tender. Add 6 cups of water, cover, and let simmer. Salt and pepper to taste.

(I've been reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and in the story the Bucket family survives on cabbage soup. Our house response? We don't understand the Bucket's complaints -- cabbage soup is pretty good!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Atkins Cider Donuts

Cider donuts are a popular autumn experience 'round these parts, and you'll find many markets and farm stands selling them. recently posted an article that includes Atkins Cider Donuts in their article "A Dozen Choice Doughnut Spots." If you haven't taken the opportunity to pick up a half dozen of these delights, be sure to do so soon -- and while you're at it, compare them to other donuts in the area and see if you agree with Saveur. I pretty much guarantee you won't regret the donut experience. (I had company this weekend, and we must have gone through nearly 2 dozen of these cider donuts -- delicious!)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Book Sale

The Clapp Memorial Library Book Sale opened to the public today. I have it on good report that it's well organized and has lots and lots of books. Don't miss this opportunity to pick up some great books you can keep and to support the library!

Pictures of Autumn

Just a few pictures I took while I was out and about this weekend -- it was definitely a beautiful weekend for foliage and the weather was perfect. My camera didn't quite do justice to the scenes, but at least some came through. Click on the pics for larger images. (Pictures come from the DAR State Forest in Goshen, Hamilton Orchards, and the Quabbin.)


Dickinson Farms & Farm Stand

I made another roadside farm stand visit last week, but haven't had time to post it until today because of long weekend company, so here it is, a few days later.

Dickinson Farms on 202 in Granby is a larger farm stand than Sapowsky's, but smaller than Atkins. They offer a variety of things from milk and local eggs and cider (not their own), to kettlecorn and granola and homemade preserves, fresh local fruits and vegetables, sausages and cheeses, breads and pies and cakes, and of course, their own apples and tomatoes. For someone who eats simply and naturally, they could be an entire market -- the only catch is that many of their vegetables are Green Giant, and not local.

Dickinson Farms also has a ton of pumpkins and squash available, as well as flowers (like chrysanthemums). They have large greenhouses set up, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of them as the year progresses.

Dickinson Farms has an orchard which provides the apples they sell (macouns, macs, cortlands, and empires at the moment), and they also do pick-your-own on the weekends.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


This is definitely peak foliage weekend -- trees range from brilliant burgundy to fiery scarlet, fierce orange, and glowing yellow. The hillsides are ablaze and amazing to see.

I'm afraid I have not yet been able to capture the glories of nature on electronic film yet this season, but I highly recommend that if you have not yet made it into the countryside for a little leaf-peeping, you do so soon -- these beauties won't last forever and will soon be followed by bare trees and snow!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Belchertown Antiques -- Grand Opening

On my way home from the library and the post office this afternoon, I decided to stop in at Rannsaka on 115 North Main Street. It advertises collectibles and "olde" stuff and wreaths and such things -- I'll do another post on that shop later.
Right next door to Rannsaka is a new antique store -- Belchertown Antiques. Belchertown Antiques doesn't officially open until tomorrow (Thursday), but when I went to peek in the window, the owner opened the shop up to me while she was cleaning and preparing for her grand opening weekend.

I didn't stay long in the shop this afternoon, realizing that Elizabeth had much still to do. But she was very kind to let me in a day early and to take some time to chat with me about her new venture. She had furniture (tables, sewing tables, desk, chairs), kitchen supplies (including some darling aprons), old hats and scarves, and jewelry. Jewelry is her passion, and she intends to have a dollar table for jewelry and more expensive pieces as well.

For Elizabeth, owner and operator of Belchertown Antiques (and buyer and seller), opening this shop has been a long-time dream -- so when the opportunity came for her to realize the dream, she took it. Now, after some of weeks cleaning her three rooms and repainting the walls and trim in preparation, bringing her antiques and collectibles into the store, and arranging and pricing them, she is nearly ready to open for business. She opens shop tomorrow and will be open through the weekend -- check with the store for regular hours.

Belchertown Antiques, 115 North Main Street (adjoining Rannsaka).

Kettle Corn Call

Every Tuesday May through October there's a farmers market in Springfield: The Farmers Market at the X. Normally I wouldn't trek all the way to Springfield for a farmers market, especially with all the markets and farmstands that are so local, but I was planning on meeting a friend I haven't seen in years and so I made the short journey south. This friend just happens to make the best kettle corn around, and she sells it at the Springfield Farmers Market and the Framingham Farmers Market (Thursdays on the Common through October).

It's an interesting setup they have going on -- large kettle popper, corn sifter, bag sealer, promotional magnets --I enjoyed watching them work their magic on the little yellow corn kernals that they to be constantly popping. People flock to thier tent to pick up their weekly fix of the sweet & salty corn, causing a sell-out every few minutes. Bags come in two sizes -- $4 & $6 -- and they'll even give free samples so you can get a taste before buying. If you can't make it to a market, they also sell it online (which is very handy for the winter when farmers markets are closed). So tasty, I came home with 3 large bags yesterday afternoon -- thanks Velma!

Velma's Wicked Delicious Kettle Corn


October in New England means glorious fall colours in the trees and bushes. I'm anticipating great things this season. Many leaves have already changed and fallen; there are roads that seem to glow golden because of the leaves that line the streets and fill the trees and blanket the yards.
Unfortunately, my little camera and I haven't yet been able to capture any truly stunning views -- it seems there is still plenty of green out and about, but even the small changes are beautiful.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sapowsky's Farm - or The Unknown Apple

I made a trip this week to a yet-unvisited farm stand -- Sapowsky Farms Roadside Stand on Rt 202. Rumour had it, and their roadside sign confirmed, that they had had Honeycrisp apples earlier in the season, and to date, Honeycrisp are my favourite eating apples.
Honeycrisps are out of season now -- they are an early apple. However, the farm stand did have 5-lb bags of "sauce apples" for $3 per bag. When I queried the manager about the kind of apple in the bag, she informed me that they were Zestar apples -- an apple I had never tried and had only once heard the name of. I asked her to elaborate -- what's the texture, the flavour -- in other words, why a good sauce apple?
Zestars, I was informed, are juicy and sweet with a firm flesh that softens easily, making them great cooking and canning apples. I bought 2 bags.

Friday, I finally canned applesauce, and this is what I learned this year -- 5 lbs of zestar apples makes 4 pints of sweet applesauce, no sugar needed. Zestars can get a little mealy, and when they do, they begin to peel themselves (very odd, I thought). But they still make a great applesauce, and I'm hoping Sapowsky's has another bag or two available when I get back there this week.
(Last year I loved Macouns for applesauce, and I intend on using them again this year when I find the right price, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try new apples, and I'm glad I did.)

Sapowsky's has more than just apples of course. As of mid-week, they had Cortlands & Macs for $1.29/lb and Macouns for $1.69/lb. They also had goldens, red delicious, and galas. Their own tomatoes ran at $1.99/lb, with a quart for $2.49. They also had bushels of decorative gourds for 2/$1, cabbage, lettuce, squash, pots and pots of mums, a few baked goods -- and a friendly little Corgi, who was not for sale.

Photographs and text copyrighted by Livin' In the Belch blog author, unless otherwise stated.