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.

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