Back to the cold

We rode the bus back to Nogales, Mexico, then crossed the border and picked up a rental car and got a really lousy motel in Nogales, AZ.  Fortunately it was only for one night!  We were in time to meet our friends Judy and Don at Wisdoms for dinner.  If you’re ever near Tubac, AZ,  check it out.  They are famous for their fruit burros (burritos) and the rest of their food is great, too.  Had a great visit with Judy and Don to boot.

Next morning we went to Tubac for the regular Tuesday morning bird walk and to see all our friends from that area.  I guess most all of them were there, too, as 45 people showed up and we only found 43 birds! It was still fun to see everyone.  Sue Emerson had Sally Hills visiting, both from back home and we went out to lunch with them after the walk.  Then we ran a few errands and went up to Tucson where we had a nice Airbnb reserved for our time in Tucson.

We hadn’t gotten much sleep the last few days so we were beat and Wednesday was a day to do laundry and shop and recoup.  We did end up at Ft. Lowell Park for a walk to see some birds but basically crashed early.  Ft. Lowell is a city park that has a pond where they have some domestic Peking ducks mixing with the wild ones.  You can see the evidence of their promiscuity in the strange colors on the Mallards in particular.

pond ft lowell

The next day we went back to the Green Valley area (the rental wasn’t that far away) to have a picnic at Madera Canyon–one of our favorite places.

Judy and her friend Carol who was visiting met us there.  The birding was kind of slow but we did get nice looks at Red-naped Sapsucker and Rufous Hummingbird and 29 other birds.  After a beautiful day we went back to Judy and Don’s house for dinner and root beer floats!  They are from Iowa but moved permanently to Green Valley two years ago.  Their house is on a golf course with a patio facing it.  With lots of feeders around they have great birding in their backyard.  We saw 21 birds just sitting there having appetizers.

The next day we spent in Tucson going to Agua Caliente Park and picnicking at Saguaro East National Park. “Agua Caliente, literally meaning hot water, is a unique 101-acre park that features a perennial warm spring and pond that is home to an exceptionally rich mix of plants and animals. Agua Caliente Park has a long and interesting history with evidence of human habitation dating back about 5,500 years. In 1873, a ranch and health resort was developed to promote the curative properties of the warm springs.”  There were lots of ducks and turtles on the water and nice birds in the trees.  Our picnic at Saguaro East was somewhat bereft of birds as we only saw 6 while we were there.  Still a lovely place to picnic and have a hike.

The weekend was all Tucson Festival of Books and it was fabulous.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this event it happens at U of A and they take over the whole campus. There are hundreds of authors and other exhibits.  If you follow the above link you can get a sense of what is offered.  They usually have over 100,000 people attending it. We were fortunate to get into quite a few of our first choices.  We started off with a program on Memoir with Amy Tan and Mary Karr.


They were great together, each one trying to one up the other with whose mother was worse!  If you’ve read their books you’ll understand why.  After this panel we grabbed some lunch and went to get in line for the next presentation.  We were early enough to get there in time to see almost half of the panel which was with 3 sports writers — Scott Simon, who just wrote a book on the Cubs winning the pennant, Leigh Montville and Erica Westly. Next came a mystery panel with J. A. Jance, T. Jefferson Parker, and James Rollins.



These 3 authors had an interesting discussion which included the point that none of them likes to outline.  They were quite adamant about it.  In the next panel of 2 mystery writers, Sophie Hannah (who has been conscripted by the Christie family to write more Agatha Christie books)  and Craig Johnson (author of the Longmire series),

craig johnson

both talked about how they couldn’t imagine how anyone could write a mystery without an outline.  In fact Hannah (who is British) said that when authors say they start out with a few characters and let them take them where they will it was a bit “twee”! It was all entertaining and gave us new ideas for books to read.

After the day’s presentations were over there was a free concert of the Rock Bottom Remainders.


This is a rock band made up of authors that changes depending on who happens to be nearby for an event.  This time it included: Dave Barry, Sam Barry, Amy Tan, Mary Karr, Ridley Pearson, Mitch Album, Alan Zweibel, Scott Turow and a few more we didn’t catch the names of.  They are really fun and do a lot of fun things; Amy Tan dresses up in leather, boots and a whip and sings “These Boots are Made for Walking”; Scott Turow wore at least 3 different wigs, one Rasta, one Elvis and one looked like a head of tinsel when he sang “Wild Thing”.  Dave Barry wrote a song about being in love with a proofreader who would never be caught saying “between you and I” and Mary Karr did her ‘slut’ song about the ‘me too’ movement. All very fun.

Sunday we only saw 2 presentations but they were good ones.  First was Billy Collins and Juan Felipe Herrera who were both poet laureates of the US.

Herrera and Collins

We found Collins somewhat disappointing as we had heard him many times on Prairie Home Companion and Fresh Air and really enjoyed him but he didn’t seem like he was really into the presentation.  Herrera on the other hand was terrific and very enthusiastic.  In the afternoon we saw a solo presentation from Scott Simon.


He is such a charming man and so compassionate I love to hear him talk.  If you haven’t tuned into Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR to hear him and his morning essay you are missing a treat.  He always brings along his lovely French wife and his 2 adopted Chinese daughters and this time their dog, Daisy.  He also brought his cousin Pam Simon who worked for Gabby Gifford when she was shot.  Scott and his wife are friends of Gabby and her husband also and he teared up talking about it.  His presentation was a sweet way to finish off the festival.

The next day we volunteered to help organize and clean up the thousands of signs that were taken down, throwing out those that were damaged or dated and entering the others in a data base for next year.

Our last day in AZ we went on another Tubac bird walk.  This time there were 34 birders and we found only 32 birds.  It’s migration time for Common Black Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk so we spent some time at the Hawk watch site and saw a bunch of them.  Then we went out to lunch with some more friends at a lovely restaurant in Amado called Firefly. We sat on the porch overlooking a beautiful pond and garden and view of the Santa Rita Mountains. It got up to 85 degrees that day.

Next day we left the beautiful weather and sunshine and came back to Massachusetts where it was cold and snowing when we arrived.  It isn’t springtime here yet but it’s coming.  Next weekend we’re off to Stamford, CT, for another fun weekend of helping with judging at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Until our next adventure,


Nancy & Denny









Last weeks in Rocky Point

We leave for Arizona tomorrow so I wanted to wrap up our time here.  The weather got somewhat warmer and definitely sunnier but not what you’d call hot until 2 days ago.  It’s still cool in the mornings and evenings but during the day we get to 70.  The unfortunate thing about the weather is that we never did get to go on the boat to Bird Island.  We did a lot of other things and when it wasn’t so great out I got to paint.  I started a series of warblers (along with one Kestrel).

American Kestrel, Cerulean Warbler, Yellow Warblers

Black throated Gray Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler

While looking through the options for birding hot spots we found a water treatment plant here that we took a taxi to see.  Raul, our rental owner, called it the “stinky place” which it only partly was but there were lots of birds there.

Loggerhead Shrike, Snowy and Cattle Egrets, Bonaparte’s Gull

The citizens of Rocky Point don’t seem to care much about litter and many tend to just dump their trash wherever they are.  The water treatment was no exception.

The next day Raul and his wife Erica asked us to join them for a ride around the area that we hadn’t seen yet.  We drove to Hermosa Beach

hermosa beach

and up above the Malecon past some of the more posh resorts and then out to Cholla Bay which is way out on the end of a peninsula.

Cholla Bay doesn’t have much more than a few restaurants and a bar and since it is far from town and basic shopping it has a limited population.  There are some really beautiful homes and quite a few not too great but is really a beautiful spot.

One of the things we went by on our travels was the golf course which we noticed had a few ponds with birds on them so the next day we got on our bikes and rode over there.  As we walked through the desert next to the golf course we spotted a Coyote.  There were a few birds there and on the pond which were new for the trip– Orange-crowned Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, and Bufflehead.

The next day we went on the Estuary trip with CEDO. It was chilly and windy so we weren’t able to get in the water and do the tide pools but it was an interesting place with an Oyster farm run by women.

There were some nice birds there including Curve-billed Curlew, Marbled Godwit, American Oystercatcher, another Bufflehead and a Red-breasted Merganser.

Alejandra, our guide, said she was once again going the next afternoon to the tidal pools and we were welcome to join her.  So after taking a long walk over to Rodeo Drive where all the artisan shops are we went back down to the tidal pools.  The people who said they were coming didn’t show but there was a couple there who were writing an article about CEDO for the Mexican version of Lonely Planet who did come.  This time we got pictures of some of the more interesting things there:

We have gotten into taking very long walks to different parts of Puerto Penasco and 2 days ago we decided to walk to one of the beaches that we had stopped at with Raul.  We ended up walking about 9 kilometers stopping a few times for a cold drink.  The following are pictures we took along the way.

As we approached our casita we could see smoke from a huge fire in the distance.  We never found out what that was.

This is our neighborhood, a combination of very nice houses and a lot of empty lots and half-finished or half-destroyed houses and lots of very noisy dogs.

Yesterday we took our last trip to the Malecon walking most of the way.  We had a lovely lunch at a restaurant on the sea wall.


view from the restaurant

Heerman’s Gull, Red-breasted Merganser


At 4:00 the parade was supposed to start downtown for Carnaval so we decided to go watch it.  We got to a place on the street by a park where people were lined up to see the parade at about 4:30 but the parade was very slow in coming and it was at least 5:30 before they got to us.  Each group had to stop and perform a number at every corner.  Anyway, when it did come it was fun to watch.

It has been fun here but would have been better if we had a car.  We are not in a neighborhood that has lent to meeting our neighbors so it’s somewhat lonesome but tomorrow we go to Nogales and will have dinner with friends from Green Valley.  On Tuesday we will bird with our old bird group from Tubac and see lots of folks we know again.  Then we go to Tucson until the 14th.  The weather is getting a lot warmer which is very nice.  Hope that trend continues when we go home.

Mexico II

After the last post our weather changed.  It got cloudy, windy and cooler (low to mid 60’s).  We even had what passes for rain around here which isn’t much.  The wind stopped us from riding our bikes but we either walked or taxied instead.

We visited a place called CEDO – Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans.   They gave a talk about what they do and had an exhibit of different creatures from the ocean including a skeleton of a juvenile Fin Whale.

Nancy and Fin Whale, view from CEDO, Cholla Cactus on the trail around CEDO

 They also offer a few expeditions.  We signed up for two of those –  Exploring tidal pools and visiting an estuary.

On our drive down to CEDO we discovered a whole street that had artisan shops on it.  This was in biking distance so on a fairly decent and partly sunny day we visited it and wandered through the shops.

Shop lined streets, Giraffe, Interesting moth

Lots of murals in this area

Last Thursday the owner of our rental, Raul, offered to take us to El Pinacate for the day. He brought his 23 year old son, Eric, with him.

El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve
The 714,566 hectare site comprises two distinct parts: the dormant volcanic Pinacate Shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east, and, in the west, the Gran Altar Desert with its ever changing and varied sand dunes that can reach a height of 200 metres. This landscape of dramatic contrast notably features linear, star and dome dunes as well as several arid granite massifs, some as high as 650 metres. The dunes emerge like islands from the sea of sand and harbor distinct and highly diverse plant and wildlife communities, including endemic freshwater fish species and the endemic Sonoran Pronghorn, which is only to be found in northwestern Sonora and in southwestern Arizona (USA). Ten enormous, deep and almost perfectly circular craters, believed to have been formed by a combination of eruptions and collapses, also contribute to the dramatic beauty of the site whose exceptional combination of features is of great scientific interest. The site is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

This was a fascinating place.  We were immediately greeted by a Golden Eagle that seems to have become somewhat of a pet as he is always around.

Golden Eagle

We got to walk around three different craters – Elegante, Tecolote, and Colorado.  Elegante is the largest with a diameter of about a mile and is about 800 ft. deep.

Colorado is less than half that diameter and only 328 ft. deep. There is a very primitive campground at Tecolote which is the smallest of the three craters.  We climbed around on the rocks to get good views of the area.  The first picture below is looking down at the campground where you see a few cars.  The second picture shows Eric at the top of rock and the third is of Denny next to some cactus and a Palo Verde.

The landscapes were beautiful with all the lava around.

Colorado is a tuff formation made of clay and volcanic ash has a reddish color, hence its name.

There was a new visitor’s center that we visited that had very informative exhibits and a movie.  It was a great day despite the spitting rain and chill. Here is the view from the visitor’s center.

view from vc

The next morning we went on the Tidal Pools exploration with CEDO.  We discovered all kinds of creatures that we never would have found on our own or known what they were.  We saw Brittle Starfish, Sea Stars, Volcanic Sponge, Fiery Worms, a bunch of different Anemones, some fish including Bleni, Turban Snails and other snails, Turkey wing Clams and lots of shore birds.  Unfortunately we didn’t bring our cameras for fear of getting them wet so we didn’t get pictures but yesterday we rode our bikes down there and took some pictures. The weather has gotten better- sunnier and a little warmer but we haven’t gotten back to the 70’s yet.  As long as the sun is out and it’s in the 60’s we’re happy.

Beach, tide pools and incoming tide

Cheerios Anemone, Sand Anemone, Coral

Snowy Egret, Ring-billed Gull, Semi-palmated Plover

We have 2 more weeks here and have plans for the estuary visit on the 27th and are still trying to arrange a trip to Bird Island.  More later.


Puerto Peñasco

This winter we are spending a little over a month in Puerto Peñasco or Rocky Point, Mexico.  We got here Feb. 1st and are staying at an Airbnb casita.  It is not too far from grocery shopping but a bit of a distance from the Malecon (seawall) and lots of other touristy places.  We do not have a car but after a few days we decided to buy a couple of used bikes from a place that said they would buy them back when we leave.  Unfortunately the streets right around us are sand and don’t make riding easy but once we get to the paved street we can do it.  Neither of us are big bikers so it’s a bit of a challenge to ride in Mexican traffic so we’re into taking taxis now for some places we go.  We are considering renting a car but so far haven’t found anything that isn’t totally outrageous price wise.  We probably should have done it on-line before we left but we thought we could walk everywhere.  Oh well, maybe something will turn up.  In the meantime we are biking locally, walking or taking taxis.

We’ve been to the Malecon twice and enjoyed walking along the seawall, watching the many birds there and enjoying some great food.

There are a few boat rides we’re looking into that we hope to do before we leave.  One is a sunset cruise and the other is a trip to Isla San Jorge or the Bird Islands. That latter is an all day trip so we’re trying to figure how to get down to the dock by 6:30 am.

Today we went to an area called the Reef which is a beach just west of all the fancy resorts and condos.  Had a great walk long the beach and got to see a bunch of shorebirds we haven’t seen yet.

Then we have a wonderful meal on the beach at a restaurant called Wrecked at the Reef.


We certainly can’t complain about the weather here.  It has been in the mid to upper 70’s most days with lots of sun and down to low 50’s at night.  We’re here until the 5th of March and would love for anyone to come down and hang out with us (especially if you have a car. “-))



If you don’t think about the loss of so much and so many we care about in this so-called democracy it has been a busy and enjoyable year for us.  But it is hard to ignore a daily reminder that our country’s leadership(?) has gone seriously awry.  We try to do our part to call, write, march and donate to those who are fighting this insanity and hope that things can change in the coming year. The good part of all this is that it has activated the electorate to speak out as we haven’t done probably since the 60’s.  KEEP IT UP!

elizabeth warren

Elizabeth Warren speaking at Greenfield Middle School

Back to the enjoyable year.  We were fortunate to spend time with our son and his girlfriend, our grandson, and our granddaughters all in separate special times.  I’ve written about our time with Sam (g-son) in Florida in February, Tessa and Leila in July but I don’t know if I mentioned our visit from David and Cindy in October.  They came in during the time my show was running at the Greenfield Gallery which I was really happy they could see there.  Cindy had never been to New England so they tried their best to squeeze in as much as possible.  They flew into Boston where we picked them up and spent the day walking around enjoying the great architecture and history of the city.

David & Cindy in the financial district, David with Red Auerbach and Larry Bird’s shoes

David, Denny and Cindy along the harbor

They came back to Greenfield where Cindy got to spend a few days seeing some of the area high points and visiting with some of David’s old friends who live around here.  Then we took them back to Boston the day before their flight and went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

gardner museum

Atrium at the museum

Then we walked around Copley Square and had a lovely meal at Legal Sea Food.

copley square

Copley Square

In November I participated in our annual Mary Lyon Spelling Bee.  Sadly, Denny was sick with a bad cold and couldn’t do it so we got a friend, Mike Fleck, to fill in with Cheryl Denton and me.  This is a charitable event that benefits a scholarship fund for students. There are teams of 3 people sponsored by different business in the area and there is a trophy for the best dressed (which we have won 3 times), and for each round and of course the final round.  This year we won our round but were beaten out of the best dressed by a team covered in LED lights and wearing tutus.

spelling bee

Mike and Cheryl are 2 bees and I am NOT 2 bees!

December brings us to the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count which we do each year with the Northampton area.  It’s always fun albeit cold but interesting to see how many birds we can count in a 24 hour period.  There are 34 different areas within our larger count area and our area found 39 species including a beautiful pair of Bald Eagles, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Cooper’s Hawks and a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  We also found 1 of only 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches in the whole count.  The group as a whole found 85 species with a few record numbers including 108 Eastern Screech Owls!

Our count area includes Skinner State Park and Mt Holyoke and some big fields next to a tree line along the Connecticut River.  Also, within our area is Barstow’s Farm, store and restaurant where we go to get warm and have lunch.  The day before the count I hung a small show of bird collages there which will be on exhibit until mid March.  Here are a few of them:

Eastern Towhee, Barn Swallow, Common Redpoll, Northern Shrike, and Pileated Chicks

The end of December brought our 53rd wedding anniversary.  We celebrated with our friends Cyndie and Andy Rothschild with a lovely dinner out.

anniversary pic

D anniversary

We opened the new year with a fun potluck and Mexican train dominoes game at the Solar Store in Greenfield with our regular dominoes friends, Claire Chang (owner of the store), Nancy Hazard and Clarita Shaffer. Good food, good friends, good fun to start the year.

In February we will be in Puerto Penasco, Mexico from the 1st to March 5th.  Then we go to Tucson until the 14th.  We seemed to have picked the wrong time to get away from the cold as it continues to be in the single numbers around here.  Hopefully that will end soon.

May the new year bring only good things to all of us.  Keep healthy, stay happy, fill your lives with love and kindness and keep fighting for all that in this difficult time.


Nancy & Denny

Out of Africa exhibit

opening night

Since many of you were unable to make it to my exhibit I thought I’d bring it to you.  This picture is from opening night.

tuning up

This is an overview of part of the wall with my friend and musician Hal Bosco.

the band

The whole band: ‘Uncle Hal and his Crabgrass Band”

We had a great opening night with wonderful music and lots of people–many old friends we haven’t seen in a long time.

2017-10-06 18.53.17-1

This is a picture of the gallery window at night.

The following are pictures of all of the work:

Triptych of the Cranes of South Africa

Wattled Crane   Grey-crowned Crane   Blue Crane (this one is the national bird of So. Africa)

2′ X 4′ each, Acrylic collage


The Pride

Acrylic/ collage  30″ x 40″


At the Waterhole

4’x 2′  Acrylic/collage

jacaranda and friends

Jacaranda and Friends

16″ x 20″ Acrylic/collage

Penguins on the Rocks copy

Penguins on the Rocks

16″ x 20″  Acrylic/collage

The little animals below the Penguins are Rock Hyraxes.  We saw quite a few of these where we saw the Penguins.

kruger new


16″ x 20″  Acrylic/collage

Kruger was the place that we saw the most large mammals like the Elephants here.  The bird painted here is a Malachite Kingfisher and I don’t remember what kind of beetle that is.


Pale Chanting Goshawks

14″ x 18″ Acrylic/collage

Bathtime for Flamingo

Bathtime for Flamingo

14″ x 18″ Mixed Media

Lilac breasted Roller

Lilac-breasted Roller

11″ x 14″  Acrylic/collage

The last 10 paintings are all 5″x 7″ watercolor or watercolor collage:

A Ramification of Impala

A Ramification of Impala

Aren't I Gorgeous?

Aren’t I Gorgeous?  (This bird is actually named ‘Gorgeous Bush-shrike’)


Bateleur (one of many Eagles we saw)

cape rockjumper copy

Cape Rockjumper

Could you Kudu? copy

Would You, Kudo?


I’m Horny!

hippo copy

Hip, Hippo, Hooray!

lesser bush baby copy

Lesser Bush Baby

Southern White-fronted Owl

Southern White-fronted Owl

zebras copy

It’s Not All Black and White


Where has summer gone?

Haven’t posted in a while as I’ve been crazy busy.  When we got home from Florida in mid-March we went as usual to the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament where we got to judge again.  Very fun. Then it was time to get down to work.  I was hoping to get a large enough body of work (paintings) to have a solo exhibit at the Greenfield Gallery.  This is a relatively new gallery in town and it is a beautiful space with some great owners–Kate and Rachel.  My plan was to put together work from our trip to South Africa.  I did enough to convince them to give me a show in October.  This took a lot of work and kept me busy until mid-July when our granddaughters came to visit.

We did have a short trip in June to visit our dear friends Jane and Hsein Hsin Chang

Jane and I at Botanical Gardens

in Minneapolis.  Jane and I were co-presidents of our arts co-op for 2 or 3 years.  They moved back to Jane’s hometown area several years ago and we finally got to visit her new place.  We got the grand tour of the area including the Minneapolis Art Institute, the Botanical Garden and Minnehaha Falls.

Hsein-Hsin and Denny
Hsein Hsin and Denny at Minnehaha Falls
minnehaha falls 2
Minnehaha Falls

In mid-July our 2 granddaughters came to visit.   Tessa (17) was only able to spend a week with us but we packed it full.  We had a fun night of Mexican train dominoes, they went to the Y with me and played pickle ball, we had a neighborhood ice cream social, hiked the High Ledges,

high ledges

went to the new Dr. Seuss Museum in Springfield

4 of us


at seuss

and briefly to the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst and we volunteered at and saw a Mohawk Trail Concert of chamber music.  Had a fun time.  Leila (13) stayed another 2 weeks which was really great.  Leila is very interested in Marine Biology so we took her to Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute on the Cape and got a wonderful tour of the whole spectrum of what they do.  It was quite fascinating  to see all that they do and Leila seemed to really enjoy it.

woods hole

We camped for 2 nights nearby and went to the beach and visited the Edward Gorey House which was also fun.  I’ve been a fan of his illustrations since art school and have a lot of his books.  Many of you may know him from the opening titles of Mystery on PBS.

When we got back home we did the usual summer things, swimming, playing games, going for walks. Denny took her swimming at the pumping station a few times so I could work on more paintings for my show.  We also went to another Mohawk Trail Concert.  This one featured a comedian/clarinetist along with the house quartet of 2 violins, a viola and a cello.  It was a really fun concert.  At one point he mentioned that the thing about chamber music was that there isn’t a conductor and thought it would be fun to have a conductor.  He asked for volunteers and no one put up their hands so he picked someone and that was Leila!  She was terrific and got lots of complements at intermission.  The woman in the seat behind us tapped me on the shoulder and said “you can tell me the truth, she really rehearsed that, didn’t she?’  We assured her it was a surprise to all of us. I think Leila’s ego was boosted quite a bit that night.

Leila also really loves little kids and I connected her with a friend who has 19 month old twin boys who needed a little help.  She got to play with them a few times and they loved her and wished that she could stay longer.

After Leila left it was time to start repainting a very large mural in downtown Greenfield that I had helped with 27 years ago.  It was started as a cultural exchange with our sister city in the Ukraine and designed by a NY woman who had gone with a group to the Ukraine where they painted a bus.  They decided to have them come to Greenfield to paint a mural here.  Unfortunately there were complications and delays and when they came we hadn’t started painting.  Then Janet, the artist/designer, had to return to NYC to teach at which point I stepped in to coordinate the painting and make a few necessary changes due to window placements.  Anyway, that was 27 years ago and it had faded considerably so Bekki Tippens (the original instigator of the mural) and I decided it was time to refurbish.  Bekki got us a grant from the local cultural council and a lot of donations.  We put a box in the library asking for suggestions of changes from the community and got lots of them.  Between the 2 of us we figured out how to incorporate most of the suggestions and I proceeded to draw all the pictures.  I think there were 28 to 30 new or altered designs.  The mural is meant to be a historical depiction of our community with faux postcards of old Greenfield landmarks surrounded by a sort of sampler of small pictures of important things in the area.  We updated a lot of the smaller pictures and added things that are currently important to our community from the suggestions.  On August 2nd we started painting.  We had many volunteer helpers but it mainly depended on us being there from 9 to 6 everyday (with the exception of a few rain days) for a month!  Sometimes I’d have to go home and rework a picture  or draw a different one. Bekki would continue to work on donations and PR.   It was exhausting.  We did get a lot of pictures in the local paper and were on the local TV news.

The following is an article from the local paper published when we were almost done. 
recorder image
Refurbished mural puts county’s best face forward
Celebration concert set for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Hawks and Reed


Recorder Staff

GREENFIELD — After a month of work by 100 volunteers, the mural overlooking Veterans Memorial Mall has been refurbished and updated to reflect how Franklin County has grown over the last 27 years.

To celebrate the completion of the project and raise money for additional expenses, Rebecca Tippens of Colrain, who produced the original mural, has organized an event at the Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center on Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. The celebration will feature musicians, storytellers and more.

“We invite all to come and celebrate this beautification in town, but also what the mural means and will mean for us all,” Tippens said, adding, “this has truly been a community effort that has not only given brightness to the county, but will also be an important historical record of our county.”

The mural, which features images of Franklin County landmarks, including Poet’s Seat Tower and the Eunice Williams Covered Bridge, was originally painted in 1990.

looking at mural

New images

Several new images were added during the refurbishment in an effort to reflect recent happenings in Greenfield, including images of alternative energy sources and Wi-Fi; artistry, including easels, palettes, brushes and musical instruments; fruit; cross country skis; contra dancers; the rag shag parade and people advocating for freedoms.

Nancy Baker worked alongside Tippens to gather ideas for the mural, which Baker then created.

Tippens said the mural is nearly completed, except for a layer of acrylic protective coating and UV varnish that is scheduled to be applied this weekend. The more than 50 volunteers who gave at least six hours of work or contributed more than $100 to help meet mural expenses had their names added to the wall, but Tippens said many others also contributed.

“It was kind of extraordinary to me because there were so many people involved — it felt like it was truly a community- created project,” she said.

Montague WebWorks also organized a team to put together a brochure and website about the mural, which Tippens hopes will be completed in September or early October.

“This will be an important educational tool in describing the history and meaning of the images,” she said.

Visitors will also be able to add their own stories through the website, once completed.

Wednesday’s event at the Hawks and Reed at Main Street and Court Square will feature at least eight performers, including storyteller Peter Kozinski, musicians Molly Scott, Russ Thomas, John O’Connor, Pat and Tex LaMountain, and more. There is a $10 suggested donation.


At the end of it all we had a celebration (and fundraiser) at Hawks and Reed, a local venue for music and performances.  There were 8 acts from singers to storytellers all relating to our wonderful community and the mural.  One of them even wrote us a song!

A Yodel to Our Mural
A parody of Hank Williams’s “Lovesick Blues,”
honoring the volunteers who revived Greenfield’s downtown mural,
inspired by Rebecca Tippins and Nancy Baker

The wall was beat up with dis-use! Oh, Lord!–
Years of weather and some dings.
It sure was looking kind of shabby–
Bumper scrapes and scratchy things. Oh, Lord!
But Bekk and Nancy spoke up loud,
Inspired our neighborly crowd:
Come paint here, come paint there—come volunteer some labor!
You can climb a scaffold if you’re free of acro-
Or just paint from the ground.
Come resuscitate our mural,
And make it whole and sound!
They spread the word, and folks said yes!
Let’s bring it back from a beat-up mess!
Let’s do this,
And beat the beat-up blues!
There is love! There is love in this beautiful town!
There’s nothing wrong with our heart!
There is love! There is love in our beautiful town!
Check out this work of art!
Sure, there’s wear and tear, just like anywhere,
But we can build a team.
So now if something’s shabby,
We can make it gleam!
Using yellow, green, and blue–oh, Lord!–
Not to mention red and white,
A super-dedicated crew
Has fixed the mural so it’s right (oh, Lord!)!
They slapped on paint day after day
Without one penny of pay:
A dab here, a dab there—they really got it shining!
Lord, we love to witness how they polished up this
What a sweet tour de force–
Inspired by Bekki and Nancy
Who kept the volunteers on course!
So now behold this work of art,
A gift of love from Greenfield’s heart,
Revived now,
With no more beat-up blues!
Thank you, Bekki!
Thank you, Nancy!
And everybody!

Copyright 2017 Russell Thomas, Free Lunch Music, BMI

Here is a picture a friend took with her IPhone.

Small Edited Best

Last weekend the final varnish was put on and it is finally be done.  We are having a brochure made that explains all the pictures and there will be a website also.

On Labor Day we went on our annual trip to the Adirondacks.  There were 11 of us camping there.  While we usually canoe the weather reports were not looking good so we opted not to bring our boat.  One of our friends had an RV that he let us stay in so we didn’t even take our pop-up trailer.  As it turned out it was a good decision.  His RV was warm and protected us from all the cold and wind and rain that we had.  Unfortunately that was not the case for everyone as 3 couples were in tents.  One day they did get a window to paddle for a few hours.  We walked the 3 miles around the lake when it wasn’t raining and one time we started that and got halfway before it started to rain.  We still had a great time, playing games, sitting around the campfire that wouldn’t start because the wood was too wet and doing a lot of cooking and eating.  As for me it was just what I needed after such an exhausting summer.  I got a lot of sleep and didn’t think about any of the responsibilities I had back home.

Now I’m re-energized to finish what I need to for my show in October.  I may even get to work in my garden and clean my house!

Heading Home II

We finally made our way to Ed and Pam’s house in Englewood.  We had left the skeeters behind and in fact weren’t bothered again once we got to Corkscrew.  Ed has a boat and we were going to go out the next day on it but it was really windy so we went to a nice little rookery in Venice.

Next to the rookery was a small pond with about 50 Black-bellied Whistling Ducks and another 20 Glossy Ibis along with a few other wading birds.

1 black bellied

6 n & ed

After the rookery we went to the beach and walked along looking for shark’s teeth.  We found some to save and send to the grandkids along with some pretty shells.

The next day we did go out on the boat before we left.

It was still a bit windy and we had trouble getting the boat back on the trailer but it was an otherwise beautiful day and enjoyable trip.

We then made our way up to Homosassa to camp for two nights at a park on the Homosassa River.

11 camp n water

Our friends Pliney and Judy, who used to live in Northfield but now live in Littleton, NH,, spend their winters in Ocala which is about an hour and a half away from where we were. Since we got there a bit late we made plans to meet the next day.

We had originally thought we’d do a ‘swim with Manatees’ thing but that didn’t work out so we all decided to spend the day at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.  This is a 210 acre park home to native Florida wildlife where you can always see Manatees.  We saw about 30 in the river which is in a protected area.

The park used to be privately owned by people who collected all sorts of exotic animals and when the State took it over they only wanted to have native animals so they sent the exotics to zoos but had a Hippopotamus that they couldn’t find a home for right away.  The Floridians really liked Lu the Hippo and petitioned the State to keep him there.  Eventually the State declared Lu a Florida native and he stayed.  He is now 57 years old.

There were lots of other native animals, reptiles and birds, many of which were there because they had been injured and couldn’t be put back in the wild.

Black Vulture, Otter, Bobcat and Florida Panther eating a bird

There are also birds that just happen to be on the river or come in to avail themselves of the food.

18 wood duck

Wood Duck

The large birds of prey looked particularly wounded, some with no wing or a blind eye.

Red tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle

The water comes from a deep spring and there is an underwater viewing area where you can see schools of about 10 different kinds of fish and even a Blue Stone Crab.

There were also nesting birds up in the trees.

And lots of other birds and animals.

Squirrel, Green Heron

White and Brown Pelicans

Black crowned Night Heron, adults and juvenile

24 wood stork

Wood Stork

21 flamingo

American Flamingo

We finished our day with Judy and Pliney at a great seafood restaurant. The next day we headed north and got past Savannah where we spent the night.  Then we went to Rudy and  Audrey’s again just south of Charlotte, NC.  We spent two nights there so the next day we had time to visit another friend nearby – Dot.  Dot worked with me back in the late 80’s in Brattleboro, VT.  She and her late husband became friends and in fact we had visited them after they moved down to Deland, Fl.  They even took us to the same rookery that Ed did and we walked along the same Shark Beach!  Now Dot is in assisted living in a lovely continuing care place in Rock Hill.  She had recently fractured her back so we were expecting her to be in terrible pain.  She was looking much better than we thought and said the pain was now down to an ache and she was walking around quite well.  We had a very nice visit then headed back to Rudy and Audrey’s for lunch and a long walk on the Greenway.  This was a beautiful area with trails through horse and sheep farms along a creek with a suspension bridge.  There were a couple of historic cabins dating back to the Civil War.  The temperature was perfect and the sun was shining.  We ended the day with some South Carolina BBQ.

That was the last of our beautiful weather.  The next two days we just made our way home through colder and colder temps and lots of wind.  The temps at home were in the single digits and tomorrow we are expecting a nor’easter.  Still — “There’s No Place Like Home”.



Heading home

We went a lot of places on our way home and Denny took a ton of pictures so in order to not have too long of a blog I’m dividing it into two parts.

We spent two nights in Collier Seminole SP, home of a multitude of mosquitos.  I believe the description of the mosquito level was “donor”.  It’s really a nice park and they have a loyal crew of friends who have all kinds of activities set up.  Guess it was the wrong time of the season though.  We didn’t want to just sit in our camper so we covered ourselves in DEET and off we went.  Our first stop was Ten Thousand Islands Wildlife Refuge.  At the beginning of the path there were lots of Warblers flying around but the light was bad for pictures so we walked the trail to a tower and spied the following:

1 gbh

Great Blue Heron

2 ten thou

Another Friendly Gator

3 tri-colored

Tri-colored Heron

4 baby gator

Baby Gator

There were lots of ducks (mostly Blue-winged Teal) on the lakes and some pretty butterflies.

After a long walk in some pretty hot weather we got some lunch and went to Big Cypress Bend.  This had a small boardwalk then a trail though some shade we were grateful to see.  The trail ended at a small waterhole with some more nice birds.

Wood Stork and Juvenile White Ibis

There were also some nice air plants and Strangler Fig;

The next day we drove up to see another old paddling buddy, Ed, and his wife, Pam. We thought the drive was short so we stopped on the way at Corkscrew Swamp.  Since we spent about 4 hours there we arrived later than we thought but got there in time for dinner.

Corkscrew Swamp is an Audubon site of about 11,000 acres.  It has a 2 and a half mile boardwalk through a 500 year old Bald Cypress swamp which we walked.  Our first sighting was a Red shouldered Hawk sitting on a branch in the woods eating a very large snake.  He was taking his time eating and it looked like it he had enough to take him through the week.  You can see the snake hanging down a ways.  It’s black with red striped across its belly.  We never got a good ID on it.

12 corkscrew rsha

We walked on through fields with Iris in bloom and through swamps with lots of Cypress knees.

Then we came to a very wet area with water lettuce and lots of birds.


There were a lot of the same birds we had been seeing  but we found our first Limpkin of the trip along with a very striking Anhinga in mating plumage.

27 anhinga

There was a shortcut at this point so we decided to take it and get some lunch and come back the other way.  We came back to the other end of the water area with lots more birds.

Juvenile and Adult Black crowned Night Heron

Great Blue Heron and Gator

27a yc nite

Yellow crowned Night Heron

30 lotsa birds

The Gathering

We spoke with one of the volunteers about where to find the Painted Buntings and he said they come to the feeders and pointed us in the right direction.

31 painted

We found 4 males and 1 female.  Her picture didn’t come out but she’s kind of plain and just yellow.

On our way out we also saw a flock of Wild Turkeys.

32 wild turkey

Fun with Sam

Two days before we picked up Sam we did a little birding. We started off at a place reported to have a Buff-bellied Hummingbird, a Rufous Hummingbird and a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. We went there and found all three! We met a couple of people there, one who told us where to find a bunch of different new birds and the other who decided to join us. The directions were confusing and we never really found what we expected but at one spot we did find Mitred Parakeets which were lifers for us. We tried the right part of Matheson Park again where the last time, we found out, we were in the wrong place. There are supposed to be lots of parrots there and we didn’t find a single one. We did find some other things though.


There was a place of reputed great birding in Ft. Lauderdale where we had to go to the airport to pick up Sam at 5:20 pm so we thought we’d go there that morning but the next day it rained all day and it was raining the morning we picked him up so we didn’t go. We just got him and took him to dinner on the way back to the campground. He was tired out from the flight anyway.

The next day we took him to the Everglades. We started out at the Anhinga trail where the young Anhingas had gotten a lot bigger since the last time we saw them. We also saw some new chicks

and lots gators, (45 in one spot),

and a few Purple Gallinules.

There were other birds,fish, epiphytes and turtles, too.

Then we went down to Flamingo and got good looks of the Crocodiles. One swam right next to the dock we were on and Sam got his picture. Saw a few more things like gulls, lizards and Florida Bay.

Sam had asked to fish so we borrowed some equipment from another camper and went to Biscayne Bay NP. We had hoped to take the boat ride to Boca Chica Key but they were full so we reserved a spot for Sunday instead. Sam fished for a while not catching anything but it was a nice day and when we walked to the end of the jetty our friend the Great White Heron was there. Couldn’t resist lots of pictures of him.

On Saturday we went to John Pennekamp SP on the Keys where Sam could fish some more.


It was quite hot and being a Saturday was very crowded. There was a swimming beach with lots of people near where Sam was fishing and as we got there a Manatee poked his head up right near the swimmers. He came up several times right near people which surprised us.

Some people got very excited and others didn’t seem to care. That struck us as weird but maybe they see them all the time. We thought it was pretty cool.

On Sunday we went back to Biscayne Bay for our 3 hour boat ride to Boca Chica Key. As we came into the Key we got good looks at a very large Green Sea Turtle. Once again a beautiful day and lots of people and boats. We had an hour on the key and could walk a nature trail and go up into the lighthouse and have a picnic lunch. Nice day.

On Sam’s last day we went to Shark Valley which is another area of the Everglades with a 15 mile loop road.

At about the half way point there is a big tower overlooking a bird roosting area and an alligator area. The last time we went there when you climbed up to the top of the tower you looked down on about 50 gators lying together. All along the trail there are birds and gators and turtles. There is a tram tour every hour and a bike rental if you’d like to do that instead. We arrived about 5 minutes after the tram tour started so we opted for the bikes. A big mistake! It was about 86 degrees, quite humid, and not much in the way of shade on the trail. We also were pedaling against the wind the whole way to the tower and the bikes were horrible! Denny and I’ve never been so uncomfortable on a bike. And, when we got to the tower there wasn’t really much to look at—a few birds and a few alligators. By the time we got back we were all exhausted and dripping sweat.



We feel bad that we put Sam through that on his last day here. Hope he remembers the good parts of the trip more.

March 1st we wheeled out of the Boardwalk RV Resort west to Collier Seminole SP for a couple of nights. We are slowly working out way back home. We drove along the Tamiami Trail which is always interesting with its slough next to the road with lots of birds and gators in it. There are several stops along the way at Big Cypress Swamp with boardwalks to view the wildlife. The park is right next to Naples, FL where had dinner with old friends Jerry and Barbara who we hadn’t seen in about 45 years. Nice catching up on all our lives.

We probably won’t have time for another blog until we get home.  Lots more pictures then.