Indian Summer

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch-hazel wither.
Robert Frost (1874–1963)

Autumn Landscape with a Flock of Turkeys

Jean-Francois Millet (October 4, 1814 - January 20, 1875) was a French painter and one of the founders of the Barbizon school in rural France. He is noted for his scenes of peasant farmers. He can be categorized as part of the movement termed "naturalism", but also as part of the movement of "realism".

St. Martin’s Day, November 11, is considered the beginning of Indian summer, a period of warm weather following a cold spell or hard frost.

Although there are differing dates for Indian summer, for more than 200 years The Old Farmer’s Almanac has adhered to the saying “If All Saints’ (November 1) brings out winter, St. Martin’s brings out Indian summer.” Indian summer can occur between St. Martin’s Day and November 20.

If we don’t have a spell of fine weather during that time, there’s no Indian summer. As for the origin of the term, some say that it comes from the early Native Americans, who believed that the condition was caused by a warm wind sent from the court of their southwestern god, Cautantowwit.

If the geese on St. Martin’s Day stand on ice, they will walk in mud at Christmas.



Autumn, the year's last,
loveliest smile.
~William Cullen Bryant~

©2010 Jan Boults Photography


Campbell Falls, Southfield, MA

"O hushed October morning mild,

Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;

Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,

Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;

Tomorrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,

Begin the hours of this day slow.

Make the day seem to us less brief.

Hearts not averse to being beguiled,

Beguile us in the way you know.

Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;

One from our trees, one far away."

[Robert Frost, October]

October Trees

How innocent were these Trees, that in

Mist-green May, blown by a prospering breeze,

Stood garlanded and gay;

Who now in sundown glow

Of serious color clad confront me with their show

As though resigned and sad,

Trees, who unwhispering stand umber, bronze, gold;

Pavilioning the land for one grown tired and old;

Elm, chestnut, aspen and pine, I am merged in you,

Who tell once more in tones of time,

Your foliaged farewell."

Siegfried Sassoon, October Trees



Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
Emily Brontë (1818–48)

Hail, old October, bright and chill,
First freedman from the summer sun!
Spice high the bowl, and drink your fill!
Thank heaven, at last the summer’s done!
Thomas Constable (1812–81)

©2010 Jan Boults Photography
"Autumn Light"
"Grasses in Autumn"


September Begins

The morrow was a bright September morn;

The earth was beautiful as if new-born;

There was that nameless splendor everywhere

That wild exhilaration in the air.

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–82)
"September Morning" by William Patterson

Tomorrow begins the seventh (septem) month in the old Roman calendar. When Julius Caesar decided to start the year with January instead of March, September kept its name but not its position. We love it right where it is.

Perhaps the only thing prettier than a September morn is the sight of the Full Harvest Moon rising, bathing the fields in golden light.  This year it will be full on September 23rd at 5:18 a.m.

In medieval Europe, harvest festivals started later this month, and the greatest of them was Michaelmas, on the 29th.

Amid the hustle and bustle of school starting, we take the first Monday of September off to honor workers.

Origin of Month Names

Named for the Roman god Janus, protector of gates and doorways. Janus is depicted with two faces, one looking into the past, the other into the future.

From the Latin word februa, "to cleanse." The Roman Februalia was a month of purification and atonement.

Named for the Roman god of war, Mars. This was the time of year to resume military campaigns that had been interrupted by winter.

From the Latin word aperio, "to open (bud)," because plants begin to grow in this month.

Named for the Roman goddess Maia, who oversaw the growth of plants. Also from the Latin word maiores, "elders," who were celebrated during this month.

Named for the Roman goddess Juno, patroness of marriage and the well-being of women. Also from the Latin word juvenis, "young people."

Named to honor Roman dictator Julius Caesar (100 B.C.– 44 B.C.). In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar made one of his greatest contributions to history: With the help of Sosigenes, he developed the Julian calendar, the precursor to the Gregorian calendar we use today.

Named to honor the first Roman emperor (and grandnephew of Julius Caesar), Augustus Caesar (63 B.C.– A.D. 14).

From the Latin word septem, "seven," because this had been the seventh month of the early Roman calendar.

From the Latin word octo, "eight," because this had been the eighth month of the early Roman calendar.

From the Latin word novem, "nine," because this had been the ninth month of the early Roman calendar.

From the Latin word decem, "ten," because this had been the tenth month of the early Roman calendar.

[Information from The Farmer's Almanac]


Here and yonder, high and low,
Goldenrod and sunflowers glow.

Robert Kelley Weeks 1840-76

August Stargazing

Astronomers sometimes use mnemonic devices (simple memory aids) to help in remembering the names of celestial objects.

One of the best known astronomy mnemonics is "Arc to Arcturus, then drive a spike to Spica."

Begin by finding the Big Dipper, one of the sky’s most prominent asterisms (star patterns). If you extend the arc formed by the Dipper’s handle, you'll soon find yourself at the bright star Arcturus, in the constellation Boötes.

From there, it’s a straight line to Spica, the brightest star in Virgo. Can you see the color difference between yellowish Arcturus and blue-white Spica?


U.S. Bats Flying Toward Extinction
At least one species of bat could go extinct in the United States within the next 20 years as white-nose syndrome spreads.

A fungal disease is killing millions of bats and may lead to regional extinctions in the United States and Canada within 20 years.

There is no known cure for the disease, called white-nose syndrome, which kills all affected individuals.

Scientists are hopeful that research can save the bats, which eat insect pests and pollinate crops.

     White-nose syndrome, an emerging fungal disease, is causing such massive die-offs of bats that some species could become regionally extinct in the United States within just two decades, according to a paper by some of the nation's leading experts on these flying mammals.
     The disease, discovered only four years ago, currently affects nine species of hibernating bats in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the United States as well as in the Ontario and Quebec provinces of Canada. Up to a half million bats can die within a single cave, their thin bodies littering the floor.
     "The fungus invades the dermis (skin) layer, hair follicles and sebaceous glands," said Winifred Frick, lead author of the study published in this week's issue of Science. "The immune system of bats is compromised as a consequence of the fungal infection."
There is no known cure for this disease, and all infected bats die, usually due to premature loss of fat reserves during hibernation, according to the researchers. Normally, bats rest soundly during their winter hibernation, but white-nose syndrome causes them to experience arousals and to engage in other aberrant behavior.
     Frick, a Boston University post-doctoral researcher, and her team focused their study on the little brown myotis, previously one of the most common bat species in North America. The scientists looked at data from the past 30 years to establish that regional populations of this bat were healthy and thriving before the fungal disease struck. Frick and her colleagues think the disease originated in Europe and was spread via human trade or travel.  "At this time, there is no evidence that bat populations in Europe are suffering declines comparable to what is happening here in North America," she said. "One possible explanation is that the fungus has been in Europe a very long time and the bats have evolved with it and are resistant, but it is too early to offer anything more than working hypotheses."
     She and her team next combined the 30-year data with current information on winter mortality of the little brown myotis. Their grim conclusions reveal that the population of this bat will drop to just 1 percent of what it was before the disease came to North America. They also say it's possible white-nose syndrome could spread further west and south, killing more and more bats.
     "Each of the bat species affected by white-nose syndrome are obligate insectivores -- many of which feed on insect pests of agriculture, garden crops, forests, and at times on insects that annoy or pose risks to human health," said Thomas Kunz, a Boston University biology professor, noted bat expert, and one of the co-authors. "The little brown myotis is known to consume up to 100 percent of its body weight in insects each night," he added. "This level of insect consumption provides an important ecosystem service to human kind, and to the balance of natural and human-altered ecosystems, which in turn can reduce the use of pesticides often used by humans to kill insect pests."
     Kunz and the other researchers say there are many challenges now in dealing with the disease, such as not knowing precisely how it is transmitted, whether it will mutate, whether caves serve as environmental reservoirs for the fungus, and more. Nevertheless, they are hopeful that research, supported by such organizations as Bat Conservation International and the Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, can help to eradicate the devastating disease.
     While bats themselves may be suffering, they are not major carriers of disease to humans, suggests a separate study in the same journal. Many people kill bats, thinking they are dangerous, but viruses like rabies sometimes carried by bats do not easily jump to humans, due to genetic constraints.
     In an accompanying "Perspectives" commentary within the journal, Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, wrote, "The two studies demonstrate the value and importance of monitoring wildlife diseases, which can have major impacts on both human health and ecosystems." 

Discovery News
By Jennifer Viegas
August 5, 2010


When the heat like a mist veil floats,
And poppies flame in the rye,
And the silver note in the streamlet's throat
Has softened almost to a sigh.
It is July.
–Susan Hartley Swett- (1860–1907)


In the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice begins on Jun 21 2010 at 7:28 AM EDT. Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning "sun" + "to stand still." As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.  As a major celestial event, the Summer Solstice results in the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The Northern Hemisphere celebrates in June, but the people on the Southern half of the earth have their longest summer day in December.

Today, the day is still celebrated around the world - most notably in England at Stonehenge and Avebury, where thousands gather to welcome the sunrise on the Summer Solstice. Pagan spirit gatherings or festivals are also common in June, when groups assemble to light a sacred fire, and stay up all night to welcome the dawn.  Pagans called the Midsummer moon the "Honey Moon" for the mead made from fermented honey that was part of wedding ceremonies performed at the Summer Solstice.  Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires, when couples would leap through the flames, believing their crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump.  Midsummer was thought to be a time of magic, when evil spirits were said to appear.  To thwart them, Pagans often wore protective garlands of herbs and flowers. One of the most powerful of them was a plant called 'chase-devil', which is known today as St. John's Wort and still used by modern herbalists as a mood stabilizer.

Perhaps the most enduring modern ties with Summer Solstice were the Druids' celebration of the day as the "wedding of Heaven and Earth", resulting in the present day belief of a "lucky" wedding in June.


Mother Nature Deals a Double Dose

One tree, takes out two vehicles!

A storm with a micro-brust of wind came through Tuesday afternoon,
and of all the trees in our yard, this healthy poplar just had to
 split in half and crash onto both our vehicles.



A Potentially Lethal House-Finch disease
Is Spreading to Other Bird Species

Last week, my neighbor Arlyn Hoberman found a small bird just standing in the road, unable to fly. On closer examination, it was evident that the bird had impaired vision, as it had crusty growths around the eyes. Arlyn rescued the bird and brought it to a wildlife rehabilitator in Falls Village, who informed her that the bird was suffering from Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, a contagious bacterial disease commonly known as house-finch eye disease. (see sidebar: “Injured Animals – and the Law”) This disease is caused by a pathogen common in turkeys and chickens, and it has killed millions of birds in North America.

Initially reported only in house-finch populations in the early 1990s, the disease has spread to other members of the finch (Fringillidae) family, such as goldfinches, purple finches, evening grosbeaks, pine grosbeaks, dark-eyed juncos, and house sparrows, and some non-finch species, such as blue jays, and black-capped chickadees. The most noticeable symptom of Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis is red, swollen eyes that may be runny or crusted over. The bird may be so infected that it is totally blind and unable to care for itself. Bird watchers may also notice that infected birds seem lethargic, do not fly off with the flock, and do not feed. Diseased birds are often seen repeatedly wiping their faces on branches and feeders. The bacteria are spread between finches gathered at bird feeders, especially when large numbers congregate during cold weather. It is recommended that all feeders be disinfected on a regular basis.

The Cornell website provides interesting background to this story, noting that house finches are not native to eastern North America, but until the 1940s were found only in western states, and were sold in pet stores in the east as “Hollywood finches.” Because today’s eastern house finch populations originated from a small number of released birds, the website notes, “they are highly inbred, exhibit low genetic diversity and, may therefore be more susceptible to disease than other bird species native to the East.”

Reported by Janice Boults
New Marlborough 5 Village News
September, 2009

Injured Animals – and the Law

The Environmental Police are the enforcement arm of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. In a recent interview, Melissa Hamm, a twenty-two-year veteran of the environmental police, told me that her colleagues are not interested in prosecuting anyone who is simply trying to help. They have a more important task --- putting a stop to poachers and those who are killing bears for their gall bladders, which can be sold for a very high price and is often used as a means to support a poacher’s drug habit.

Meanwhile, those who come to the aid of an injured animal should bear in mind that it is both a federal and a state offense for a citizen to keep any wildlife animal in their possession, except for the time required to deliver the animal to a qualified veterinarian or rehabilitation specialist – with this important qualification: the animal must not be transported over the state line.

Hamm assured me that no state official is going to object to a person’s caring briefly for a bird that is stunned by flying against a windowpane, for example; all the bird is likely to need is a bit of dark and quiet to recover. Nor will an officer object to a person removing an injured bird from the road or other dangerous spot, or taking it to a vet.

Two South Berkshire clinics listed on the Fisheries and Wildlife web site as qualified to treat injured wildlife are All Caring Animal Center, at 413-528-8020; and Bilmar Veterinary Services, at 413-528-1291.

Special care, however, must be exercised in the case of raptors -- owls, hawks, falcons, eagles. They are very susceptible to bonding to human caregivers, making rehabilitation and a return to the wild difficult. Furthermore, they do not have the ability to process food in the same manner as songbirds; as a result, many are killed by improper feeding. Only a rehab specialist will know what to feed the raptor and how to help it return to the wild.

A final note: any dead or sick or injured animals – particularly migratory species of birds -- should be reported to the Fish and Wildlife center as soon as possible. This is because there is a very important monitoring program for the study of endemic diseases. Help or advice can be obtained by calling 800-632-8075. I received much additional help from Marion Larson at the head office in Boston: 617-626-1809. Ms. Larson is the education and communication director of the State Department of Fish and Wildlife, and a former member of the Environmental Police.

Reported by Charlie Parton
New Marlborough 5 Village News
September, 2009


The Dying Pines

Driving the back roads of New Marlborough is a favorite past time for many of our residents. When I go out, it is with camera in hand and an eye out for wildlife. Last January, as I have for years and in every season, I dropped down to York Lake to savor a moment of winter stillness. I was greeted instead by the deafening roar of logging equipment in full cry: Log trucks, chippers, and chain saws were chugging and puffing smoke. More shocking still was what I saw: The once stately copses of red pines on either side of the beach had been toppled. The tree-shaded areas equipped with barbecue grills and stone fire pits were now bare. It was only last fall that I walked under those trees and took photographs; little did I know it would be the last time.

Saddened and distressed, I was determined to find out why loggers were permitted to wreak such havoc on the beauty of York Lake. Since no part of the Sandisfield State Forest is under the jurisdiction of New Marlborough (or Sandisfield for that matter), I consulted the website of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the state agency that runs the York Lake recreation area. There, the reason for the devastation became immediately clear:

“… all red pine, the website stated, “is severely infested with red pine scale and expected to be dead within a year. The alternative of leaving the trees would result in an unacceptable public safety situation which would probably require closing the day use areas.” Red pine scale is a tiny insect that deposits its eggs under the bark of red pines. The inner bark is then eaten by the larvae as they hatch, leading to the death of the tree in about five years.

According to Conrad Ohman, Management Forester for Southern Berkshire County, notices went out with dates posted, and a public information day took place at the lake prior to the harvesting. Some 180 trees were cut down around the lake. In part to pay for their removal, nearly 1,700 trees, some of them infested red pine, others non-native Norway spruce, white pine and oak, were taken from two lots on East Hill. The Town of New Marlborough will receive $2,800, or 8 percent of the $35,000 being paid to the state by the loggers.

Over seventy-five years ago, after the excavation of York Lake, dug out by hand by the men of the CCC Camp (Civilian Conservation Corps), many of the towering pines were saplings. While it is sad that they were dying and had to come down, the logging does result in large open spaces that create more sunny areas around the beach. The removal of the Norway spruce plantation on East Hill restores the area to native trees and promotes the growth of young trees. Mr. Ohman said that, “this vegetation stage of brush, seedling, and sapling size trees is greatly under represented in our forests and serves as habitat for a great variety of birds and other wildlife.”

Many folks have fond memories from the early sixties, like mine, of fun filled summer days in New Marlborough, unencumbered by high tech distractions and busy roadways - just quiet nature. For me, the lake is one such place. At least three or four days a week, my family and any neighborhood children around, would all pile into the car and head for the lake. There would be little blanket room left on the beach if you did not arrive early. Loaded down with picnic baskets and coolers, everyone gathered to spend the day. We all knew each other, and the children would go off on explorations while the adults would pull tables together under the tall pines and set up for lunch. That grove of trees offered cooling shade from the hot sun, a place to play, eat, and rest, before returning to swim or hunt polliwogs.

The lake is a special treasure in our town, and walking out to the point to sit on the big rock with the strength of those magnificent trees surrounding you was very peaceful. Changes are inevitable, and we will become accustomed to the new look of the lake, but some of us will never forget the way it used to be.

Previously published May, 2008
New Marlborough 5 Village News.
All Photographs ©2007 Janice Stiles-Boults
"Left Behind at the Lake"
Tells the sad tale indeed.


God's Creatures

Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.
~Dr. Albert Schweitzer~

All photographs courtesy of Google images.


Winter Lingers...

What a lovely, brilliant sun-filled day! Temperatures were near sixty degrees, but I still found winter lingering at York Lake. This lake, at the Sandisfield State Park, is half in New Marlborough and half in Sandisfield, Massachusetts.
There is this warning if you go to York Lake:

Be Bear Aware:
Don't forget you are in Black Bear country. Never physically confront, feed, torment or throw anything at bears. Take appropriate precautions with food so as not to attract bears.

"March is a tomboy with tousled hair, a mischievous smile, mud on her shoes
and a laugh in her voice."
- Hal Borland


The Bears are Back!

~We had our first Black Bear visitor last night, March 18th!~

Lumbering through the yard at dusk, was a black bear, a male with a large round head, (females have a pointed, narrower head), about 400 pounds or more! He was huge, healthy looking with a beautiful shiny coat, and he was hungry. Sitting under the birdfeeders, he wasn't leaving, even with all the yelling and bell clanging. I have an old ship's bell on my porch, which I ring with gusto when the bears show up - it is the 'neighborhood bear alert' bell. This bear wasn't scared; he would run a few yards, then come right back. Time now, to take in all the birdfeeders folks, unless you want these visitors on a daily basis.

It was too dark for me to get a photo of last night's visitor, all that you can see are two glowing spots in the dark. Below are pictures of past bear visitors.


Goodbye Winter...

Hello Spring!

March 20, 2010
Vernal Equinox

Equinox Means "Equal Night," because the sun is positioned above the equator, day and night are about equal in length all over the world during the equinoxes. On March 20, 2010, at precisely 1:32 P.M. EDT, the Sun will cross directly over the Earth's equator. This moment is known as the vernal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. For the Southern Hemisphere, this is the moment of the autumnal equinox.

"Snow Crossing" & "Spring Signs" ©Jan Boults Photography, Inc.
Equinox Image and Info courtesy of Google & Infoplease.com