Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Days, Snow Days

In honor of today's snow day, a picture I took of town center on a previous snow day. Pretty, isn't it?


Friday, January 23, 2009

Quaboag Valley

The Quaboag Valley Tourism Site serves a number of towns in the region, including our own: Belchertown. Instead of heading north and west, however, as this blog generally does, the Quaboag Valley site takes us east and south to towns like W. Brookfield, Brimfield, Wales, and Monson. It lists Things to Do (Outdoor Recreation, Arts & Museums, Historical Sites, and more), Food and Spirits (Restaurants, Pubs, and more), Accomodations, Visitor Resources, and the Brimfield Antique Shows. It also keeps a calendar of local events.

The Quaboag Chamber of Commerce shares the site and has a searchable listing of member businesses, as well as community profiles and elected officials.

These pages are a wonderful resource for getting to know Quaboag Valley area and for taking advantage of all its resources.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Watching the Inauguration

If you'd like to take part in the festivities for the inauguration of our new president on Tuesday, there are a number of places in the Valley where you will be able to view it. Check out the following links for more information.

Northampton Academy of Music Theatre
Northampton Senior Center
UMass Amherst, Cape Cod Lounge
Elmer's Country Store (Ashfield)
MassMutual Center, Springfield
Greenfield Public Library
Amherst College, Keefe Campus Center Theater (students only?)
Hampshire College, Main Lecture Hall
Amherst Cinema (? -- one article did mention the cinema showing the inauguration, but you'll probably need to call for details -- I couldn't find it posted on their site)

For more information on inaugural activities, see these two articles:

For information on how to watch the inauguration online, see this CNN article.
NPR is also going to be covering it.

(The inauguration done in legos can be found here.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Bunny-Hop

Another short bird commentary....
Sitting at the breakfast table the other morning, my husband and I watched the dark-eyed juncos dance the "bunny-hop" in the snow, scratching about for fallen seeds and bits of corn.
We have taken great pleasure in our wild birds this winter, and this pleasure has only increased since the purchase of our new bird feeder -- which has also increased the kinds of birds on our deck by 2. Originally, with our seed bell, we were getting titmice, juncos, and chickadees. Now we have added white-throated sparrows (see picture) and cardinals into the mix.

Despite information that the cardinal is a platform feeder and will not perch to feed, the brilliant red and terribly shy cardinal perched on our feeder for 11 minutes Saturday afternoon happily pecking his way through the sunflower seeds. I hope to get a picture of him one of these days. (The female came and fed Friday night from the deck.)

Picture and "bunny hop" term compliments of my husband.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Natural History

When first we moved to Belchertown, I purchased The Natural History of Western Massachusetts by Stan Freeman and Mike Nasuti at Amherst Books. Being the librarian and information gatherer that I am, I read the green paperback straight through that same weekend on a trip to Vermont and have referred to it time and time again since then.

The book is a slender 112 pages, crammed full of pictures and interesting information. It includes maps, wildlife (birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, fish, and more), flowers and trees, ecosystems, geology, dinosaurs, ice age, early humans, water, weather, and a nature calendar for Western Massachusetts and the Connecticut River Valley Region. Wonderful photographs of spiders, wolves, bears, eagles, waterfalls, dragonflies, mountains, and dinosaur footprints, and identification guides for trees, birds, flowers, and butterflies enhance the informative text.

TNHoWM has been a great resource for me as I have been acquainting myself with my new home. I have used it to identify birds (we have a new bird at our feeder) and trees and to find places to visit. I track the seasons with the wildlife calendar, compare snowfall to years past, and dream about meeting my first moose. I contemplate mountains to hike and waterfalls to get sprayed by. And often, I will simply flip the book open to a random page to reread something I've forgotten.
If you live in the Western MA area and have an interest in the local natural wonders, I highly recommend picking up this book for reference -- it's a good choice for all ages and is a worthy coffeetable book or family discussion book.

For more Natural History, visit this post.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Belchertown CAN: Jan 24

Mark your calendars and get ready for a community give in (aka food drive) on January 24. A new organization in town, the Belchertown Community Aid Network, or Belchertown CAN, has formed in response to a call for public service and with the purpose of providing assistance with heating fuel and food to vulnerable citizens during these difficult economic times.
On Jan 24, nonperishable items will be collected from 9-4 at town hall, and can also be dropped at Stop and Shop, Checkers, or the Belchertown Family Center. If you can't make it to any of these locations that day, items can also be left at various other drop locations during the month (see the site). Donations will be distributed through the three community food pantries and the Amherst Survival Center.

If you want to get more involved, you can attend a meeting, become a volunteer, and/or provide suggestions -- information is on their website.

Visit the Belchertown CAN website

Read the article from MassLive

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

For the Birds

To get the new year started off right, my husband and I took a trip to Granby Country Grain to pick out a new birdfeeder for our wild birds. We had previously been feeding the chickadees and woodpeckers and titmice and juncos and cardinals with an inexpensive Kaytee Songbird Bird Seed Bell from the local grocery, and they enjoyed it immensely. However, so did the squirrels -- one of which actually busted the frame of our most recent bell and absconded with it -- down the stairs of the deck and almost all the way to the tree line! Squirrels are tricky little devils.

So we went to get a birdfeeder. And we didn't find just one -- we found at least thirty. As you can see from previous pictures in a previous post, Granby Country Grain has quite a variety of feeders -- as well as birdhouses, squirrel feeders, and seed and grain. Enough to make the decision a bit difficult. There were tube feeders and cedar feeders and mesh feeders and metal feeders and plastic feeders and house-shaped feeders and squirrel-proof feeders and platform feeders. We hemmed. We hawed. We considered. And we consulted. Finally we selected a feeder with a squirrel baffle and a weight lever so that any bird or creature too heavy would shut off the supply of food. We felt very clever.

Next, we had to pick out the feed we wanted to supply. This part was easier. I had scoped out the food in a previous visit and knew what I wanted -- the Granby Mix. The Granby Mix, we were told by the cashier, is a bird seed mix created through a customer survey -- the store managers asked their customers what feeds worked well and then created a special seed mix for the local birds. We bought 7 pounds.

And now we wait for the birds to arrive. The change was a bit shocking for them, but slowly they are starting to figure out this new contraption, and they flit one at a time to the feeder to grab a sunflower or millet seed. Any day now I expect a veritable cloud of birds to descend upon our tiny little deck, bullying their way to the feeder, which is filled with their favourite treats.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Sledding in Western MA, According to MassLive

The snow has been falling, prompting people to dig out there sleds and head to the hills. I mentioned in an earlier post seeing people sledding on the corner of Hamilton and George Hannum. A few days later, MassLive published this article about sledding in the Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties. It lists a few sledding hills in
Amherst (Crocker Farm Elementary School, Amherst Regional Middle School and Wildwood Elementary School),
South Hadley (behind South Hadley High School),
Monson (Flynt Park's Dr. Roger's Field off High Street, Quarry Hill Community School by the softball diamond, Granite Valley Middle School near the track ),
and other nearby towns and cities.

Do you have a favourite sledding location in Belchertown or one of the surrounding towns? Here's your chance to share what you know and let us know about it! Leave a comment below.

Day-after Update:
On Saturday I went cross-country skiing at Cherry Hill Golf Course in north Amherst -- and there were a bunch of people sledding on part of the course, as well -- it looked like a fun sledding hill -- long and rolling with no roads or cars in sight -- I may have to give it a try, as soon as I get some kind of sled....

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