Monday, January 31, 2011

Want To "Eat Lite?" Here's How

I've been a fan of all things miniature since childhood and my interest was revived recently when I discovered miniature food for sale on That's the online marketplace for handcrafters and artisans. It all began when I ordered, as a Christmas gift for my sister, a tiny cherry pie the size of a dime. It'd had a slice cut out of it which came on a separate saucer with an appropriately tiny fork. I found that so amazing that I then ordered a miniature platter of Christmas cookies and the craftsperson included bonus gingerbread men and candy canes. Well I was hooked, so recently decided to order a few for myself:

My own selections came from an artist in England and included a dinner for two of ham, eggs, french fries ("chips" in Britain), peas, tea and buttered bread. I ordered a platter of chocolate cake slices for dessert. Notice that I've included a dime, a penny and a ballpoint pen to give a reference for size:

Bread and butter on a tiny plate:

Cup of tea. This was so tiny that I dropped it while trying to photograph it and had to search under the furniture for the cup which rolled away:

The main meal which does remind me of the home cooked meals I had in England and Wales when I did a Bed-And-Breakfast tour there once with a friend:

The chocolate cake came complete with whipped cream and cherries on top. They were all loose on the platter and I am happy to report that I did NOT drop this one while photographing:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Final Chapter Of Our Winter Beebe Hill Hike

I'd hiked up to the fire tower on Beebe Hill with four of my dogs on a January day. We were on our way back downhill and the dogs were slowing down because the snow was hurting their paws. But everyone was still happy and the scenery was beautiful:

It had begun snowing, which overlaid the forest with a magical silence and beauty:

We'd encountered snowmobiles twice already and I heard them again in the distance. So I put all the dogs on leashes in case they'd come our way once again. They did not, but the leash was helpful to keep big Seamus moving. His paws were collecting snow between the toes and he kept stopping to try and clean them. But the snowmobiles drove off in another direction and I let the dogs off of their leashes once again. We continued on our way down through the quiet forest toward our parked car:

Extra-large soft white snowflakes were falling all around us and the only sounds were the jingling of the dog tags and the crunch of snow underfoot:

Even Daphne and Clover, the two Papillon puppies, began slowing down and acting as if their paws were sensitive:

We passed Barrett Pond at the foot of a small mountain. It had frozen over and then collected snow so that one might not even recognize it as a pond. I'm a frequent visitor in the warmer months, so I knew it was a pond and not a field:

Passing Barrett Pond was an indication to me that we were almost to our parked car. But around every bend I saw more trail, more snow, more forest:

When we finally reached the car I saw that two other vehicles had joined us. We were all tired and the dogs, especially Seamus, were quite happy to jump inside and lie down on the warm, carpeted surface. What luxury!:

And as we drove away towards home, I passed the sign designating Beebe Hill State Forest. Just outside the State Forest boundary was a logging header, the place where logging crews brought logs to be cut up and loaded onto trucks to be taken to sawmills, pulp mills or firewood centers:

Having worked for some years on a logging crew on top of mountains, this brought back many memories. I was particularly taken by their skidder, a much different type than the one I used to drive. But still it recalled to me those days alone in the middle of the wilderness driving a skidder between the header and the "choppers." Apparently this "skidder" didn't skid, but rather carried logs somewhat like a truck would do. The machines we used actually dragged the fallen trees back to the header:

These logs were not very big, so I supposed they were destined for a pulp mill or for the firewood trade. It also explained that new skidder design. Very large trees wouldn't have been loadable onto the back of that machine. But it would have kept mud and stones out of the bark of the logs it hauled, rendering them much more easily cut up by chainsaws. And so ended our hike to the fire tower on Beebe Hill. The dogs and I were all tired, but it had been a grand outing with lovely views and a real chance to commune with nature in spite of the snowmobiles. In fact, the snowmobiles had packed down the snow and made our hike possible. So we drove home and all of us took a nap:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hiking Downhill On Beebe Hill

We hiked to the Beebe Hill State Forest fire tower and I'd climbed to the top of it, leaving my four dogs on the ground below. The view was beautiful but the wind and cold were severe. I climbed back down to the ground and began the hike back to the trail head. Clover was still feeling quite energetic and happy to explore any path and any interesting smell. She is, after all, still a puppy:

Seamus, woolly giant that he is, went off the trail to check out the woods. Seeing her big buddy off on an adventure meant that Clover felt the need to follow (those are her big ears sticking up above the snow). I soon called them back to me so that we could continue on our way:

You might think, as I did at the beginning, that the descent would be much easier than the ascent. But Seamus' feet had begun to hurt and he was slowing down. And I was tired from slogging through the snow. Daphne and Clover, the two Papillon pups, still seemed to have lots of energy but our pace was slowing down:

And as is often the case, the trail seems much longer on the return trip. We walked mostly downhill, around bends, over crests. Three snowmobiles came by and politely stopped so that I could collect the dogs. This time, instead of leashing them, I simply trotted past the uphill traveling snowmobiles and the dogs followed. Then, with more smiles and waves, the snowmobilers continued on their way:

We continued downward through the quiet (now that the snowmobiles were gone) woods:

The puppies still had the energy to run and play, but by now Fergus was not joining them:

Seamus and I were plodding slowly down the trail:

Seamus began stopping and biting at his feet. I checked and found that snow was building up between his toes. Neither he nor I were able to remove it, so the only reasonable course of action was to keep descending Beebe hill toward our parked car. I put Seamus on a leash several times to prevent him from flopping down in the snow and refusing to follow us:

And then it began snowing - big, fluffy, silent snow flakes:

The falling snow was beautiful but we were tired. I'd just marveled at the energy which Fergus, Daphne and Clover still had when I began to notice that they were also slowing down and walking as if their feet might be getting sore:

Seamus continued to stop and try to "fix" his sore feet. He was no longer enjoying this. Well, there was nothing for it but to get ourselves back to the warm and carpeted car. I'll post the conclusion of our winter hike tomorrow:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

We Arrive At The Beebe Hill Fire Tower

I was hiking in Beebe Hill State Forest with my four youngest dogs on a snowy Sunday afternoon. I'd found walking in the snow to be surprisingly tiring even though snowmobiles had packed it down quite a bit. But we finally reached the crest of Beebe Hill and could see the former caretaker's cabin up ahead:

A few more steps and the fire tower came into view:

Surprisingly, there hadn't been much traffic at the very top, so the snow wasn't tamped down well from that point on. But we were almost there and I wasn't about to get that close to the fire tower only to turn back:

Even as I looked up toward the top of the fire tower I could feel the wind blowing. I knew it'd be quite a strong wind up there and very cold. But I wanted to see the view:

Instead of tying the dogs to prevent them following me up the fire tower, I found a piece of fence mesh and blocked the stairs. Then I began my ascent, the view broadening with every tier:

The view from the top was quite magnificent - not, perhaps, with the majesty of an Adirondack fire tower view, but altogether lovely nonetheless. The winds, however, seemed to be almost gale force and my hands were so cold that I could barely use them:

Looking off in another direction. These are the foothills of the Taconic Mountains, on the border of New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut:

I set the camera on self-timer and then put it on a step in front of me to snap my own picture. The winds were blowing so hard that the camera was rocking and I feared it might tumble off and fall to the ground far below:

The first photo didn't come out very well so I tried a second. But that was it! I was so cold and the camera was in such a precarious spot, rocking in the wind, that I decided it was high time to pocket the camera and descend the steps:

I took a video at the top of the fire tower, but with the high winds and brutal cold it's a miracle it came out at all. I had to keep it brief lest "my hands freeze and fall off":

I safely reached the bottom, greeted my worried dogs and set out back toward the former caretaker's cabin:

The grassy slope next to the cabin is a favorite resting spot in the summer, a place to luxuriate in the sun and snack on wild strawberries. On this cold winter day, it was a place for us to rest only briefly:

And then it was time to hike back down to our car. Seamus' feet were beginning to hurt him and he was becoming resistant to going anywhere. But I'll post more about that tomorrow:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Continuing Upwards Toward The Fire Tower

I'd taken my four youngest dogs hiking on a January Sunday to Beebe Hill State Forest in Columbia County, New York. I drove there hoping that the trail would be tamped down enough for me to walk over the snow. The trail was not, but snowmobiles had packed down the snow on the service road. So I found a place to park and began walking uphill toward the fire tower. Daphne and Clover, the two Papillon puppies, seemed to be having a wonderful time:

The trail up to the fire tower is only about 1.25 miles, but walking through the snow was quite difficult in spite of the packing down which had been done by the snowmobiles. A group of three snowmobiles passed us on the trail. They stopped and waited politely while I collected the dogs. Then, with smiles and waves, they were on their way again and the forest returned to being quiet and serene:

We passed signs pointing off in several directions pointing to trails and destinations I'd never noticed before. Maybe I'll try them in the summertime. But for a hiker without snow shoes or skis, they were pretty much impassable in the wintertime:

We continued uphill until we reached a junction with another service road. The dogs trotted back and forth, unsure which way we should go. They just had to wait for me to catch up:

But then we again proceeded with great joy and with flapping ears:

The forest was peaceful and silent:

I saw the tracks of snow shoes along the way:

We continued uphill until we crested a ridge:

And then down into a small, lovely valley:

We arrived at the site of a frog pond, a favorite place for the dogs to play in warmer weather. It's also filled with Wood Frogs in April. Wood frogs are amazing creatures, freezing solid in winter and thawing out in the spring. Seamus smelled something and plowed his way through the snow, sniffing all along the way. Clover followed him, but soon returned to join me. You can see Seamus' path through the snow in this video. At the end, I mention a "big hill" up ahead but it sure doesn't look like much of one in the video. I guess I was just tired and dreading any more uphill travel in the snow:

Though it had been packed down, both Seamus and I were heavy enough to break through the crusted surface and sink into the packed snow. We were definitely slowing down. I'll post more tomorrow: