this moment

naked Lijah smiling bihind a chickenwire gate

lots of nudie time these days

A moment from the week.

morning with Lijah

looking north along the Concord River, early morning

dawn on the Concord

Tuesday I took Lijah out of the house early so Leah could have some quiet time after a rough night. We biked down to the river.

Lijah standing on the dock at the boat launch

in? wawa?

It was a beautiful morning, and the mist was still rising. Of course Lijah only cared about one thing.

Lijah's bare feet in the shallow water

satisfaction

I enjoy sharing moments with that little boy. As nice as it was experiencing the scene in that first picture, it was even better with him.

Lijah playing in the river, with morning mist

worth waking up early for

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elderflowers

As I mentioned the other day, two years ago we planted two little elderberry bushes. They were just little things their first year, in real danger of being destroyed by kids playing ball, but the next year they shot up wonderfully, and produced lots of flowers and then berries; only I didn't know what to do with them. This year the yield looks to be double what it was a year ago, and even though I still don't know what I'm doing I went ahead and cut the latecomers among the blossoms for elderflower syrup.

an almost-full quart of elderflower syrup

finished product

We followed (roughly) the recipe on this page. The first step was pulling all the flowers off their stems, and Harvey and Lijah set to the task with a will.

Harvey and Elijah stripping elderflower clusters

one more helpful than the other

(OK, so Lijah was more interested in eating the flowers, but he was still totally part of the process.)

I'm not clear what I'm going to do with the syrup, besides give it away (two half-pints already gone!), but I tried some in some soda water and it was pleasantly refreshing. We'll make more next year.

Naturally, the flowers we picked means that many fewer berries from the plants. But there's no shortage, so in a month or so there will also be elderberry syrup and jelly available for interested parties.

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a tale of two outings

On Friday the boys and I took a walk in the woods and marshes across the street.

Zion walking through tall brush

pushing his way through

The cranberry bogs we slid on last winter are all dried out now—for the summer or forever remains to be seen—so we thought we'd have an easy time of it, and maybe even be able to cross the brook for the first time ever. There were certainly some pretty sights along the way.

a pink flower

I should know what it's called

But there was also hot sun and bugs and, worst of all, vast stands of grass with tiny barbs all over its leaves. It's growing everywhere that in another summer would be wet, and pushing through it with the day camp group on Thursday we ended up with cuts all over our legs. Friday we had long pants, but Zion and sometimes even Harvey had to watch out for wounds to the arms. So when we reached the brook we called a halt for a snack and headed back, defeated.

the boys standing on the meadowy bank of Hartwell brook

as far as we could get

Still, it was a beautiful hike and we all enjoyed most of it.

Saturday we ventured into downtown Boston, against Leah's much better judgement, to take in a little bit of very loud music at the Copley Arts Festival.

Harvey eating an apple in front of the Copley Arts Festival stage

with snacks of course

Despite the crowds we were able to meet up with some friends who, settling in for the long haul towards the start of the day-long proceedings, had texted us where they were hanging out (sadly, we missed a different group of friends who were there at the same time). Being country mice, we didn't spend much time in front of the stage, instead seeking out some slightly quieter spaces with a little more room to play.

Leah and Lijah sitting on the steps of the empty fountain

not so crowded there

And of course, we also took in the sights of the big city.

Harvey standing on a pedestal, with Trinity Church and the Prudential Tower behind him

he's almost as tall as it

Half of the reason I wanted to go was to give the boys another trip on the train, the first since our adventure back in November. They were appropriately appreciative, even when tired out at the end of the day.

Harvey and Zion on the Red Line platform

the way home

Lijah turns out to be a big fan as well: he was shining with excitement and delight all the way there. That the same excitement kept him from falling asleep on the way home—despite a great and obvious need—until just before our last stop was unfortunate but maybe predictable. We'll give him another chance in a couple months.

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the art of knowing

I had a chance to do some weeding yesterday. As I hand-weed I enjoy noticing what I'm pulling up: some weeds are old adversaries that I've been struggling with for years, others are easy to get rid of, and some are pretty or interesting enough that I wish I could leave them to grow—and sometimes do. Yesterday I noticed a weed that I remembered from our "community garden" plot last year, but which I hadn't ever seen in the yard before. But even with all that observation, I really don't know much about most of my weeds—most notably, I couldn't give you a name for hardly a one.

I wish that weren't so. Knowing a thing's name helps me remember it, categorize it—really notice it in a different way. Take plantain—not the banana looking thing, but the broadleaf weed that you probably work to keep out of your yard. It's everywhere, and it can help treat ailments from diarrhea to poison ivy rash, but for a long time I only noticed it when I was trying to pull it out of my lawn until I learned about it on a historical nature walk with a third-grade class (I've long since given up caring about even non-medicinal lawn weeds, by the way). Now I notice it all the time. Or black walnut: there are several trees around the center of town, but it wasn't until I learned what they were that I even noticed the hundreds of nuts! And what about elderberries? When you learn what they are and what you can make with the flowers and berries, you'll suddenly notice that they're everywhere, free for the foraging! (I noticed after I bought two plants for our yard.)

Even when there's no immediate advantage to knowing something's name, it's nice to have a label to hang your noticings on. I discovered that bird I wrote about the other day is a gray catbird, and just knowing the name and a few facts has let me pay much better attention to the pair in our yard. It was a site called whatbird.com that clued me in: it lets you put in what you know about the bird—color, size, head shape, and location in my case—and gives you a list of possibilities to look at. Now I just need to find something similar for weeds.

Of course, even better would be the chance to hang out with someone who actually knows this stuff. Can you imagine what life must have been like before we got all our learning from the internet? I'm amazed birds or weeds even have names any more... that the knowledge hasn't just disappeared in the last 50 years, leaving each individual to make up their own descriptive names: "spiky grass weed", "lawn cabbage", "lemon hearts". Although sometimes that works: I totally would have gone with "gray cat bird" if I had to come up with something myself. But it's nice to have confirmation!

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