posts tagged with 'ice'

icecapades

What is our fascination with ice? It seems like every time we head out on a winter adventure we make it a point to find some ice to explore or play on. Especially this winter, where the snow cover is definitely sub-par. We're thankful for the cold weather the last couple weeks that's let us have some fantastic icy excursions.

Zion and Harvey running on the dark ice of Spy Pond

out on the pond

The children are not fans of ice skating. I can't understand it; to me, there's nothing finer! Maybe they'll work up to it later. For now, there's plenty of fun to be had in just running and sliding. On feet, on knees, on stomachs—the boys have tried it all. They've had plenty of falls too, this and other years, but so far no head injuries. Last week the ice on Spy Pond (pictured above) was as slick as can be, and it was super satisfying to get a good run up and slide for 20 or 30 feet.

We've also been enjoying the ice for exploring. Bedford is a swampy town, so there are lots of spots that are downright inaccessible through the summer. Winter is our time to explore the marshes by our house or the swampland on the edge of the Concord River.

Lijah crossing a patch of clear ice by a stream

carefully now...

And then there's the thrill of exploring on the ice itself. We enjoy being on the water in the summer, so it makes sense that we're excited to visit those same spots on foot in the winter. On Spy Pond Zion was very happy to get to check out, and stand on, a ball buoy he'd barely been able to touch when we canoed by it back in July. And of course, nothing can compare to standing the middle of the Concord River!

Harvey and Lijah on the frozen Concord River

wide open spaces

(OK, so we weren't totally in the middle. But we could have been! Probably. As much as I love the ice, I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.)

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solstice tide

On Thursday we spent lots of time outside, enjoying in the beautiful weather: clear, dry, seasonably bracing but not frigid. As the boys helped me split wood we talked about how much we would need for the Solstice fire, and about how much fun it would be. Then yesterday the temperature shot up into the mid 60s and it rained all day. No fire; we had to content ourselves with lighting candles at the dinner table and sharing thoughts about the turning of the year. This afternoon everyone was busy with their own things—and I needed some time to myself—so I headed out to do a fire myself. Everything was still pretty soaked, so it was good and smoky and an interesting challenge to get going. Then I watched it for a bit and thought about new beginnings.

We studied historical solstice celebrations some earlier this month (to the extent that we could; the library isn't exactly full of appropriate materials). The picture book we read talked about how midwinter was a scary time for the ancients, not knowing if the sun was ever going to return. We thought that was silly: wouldn't anyone old enough to formulate that question have lived through enough cycles to start to see a pattern?! Let's not sell our ancestors short. But there's no doubt that midwinter is magical moment, full of mystery and promise. All the more so when it coincides with a full moon, like it did this year. I've had a tough time of it over the past year. Watching the fire this evening I have hope that something might be changing.

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midsummer

We don't celebrate the summer solstice as much as we do some other astronomical moments, because Harvey's birthday is at the same time. But we're totally enjoying this midsummer thing nevertheless. The best part is of course all the evening light—so much to play outside for a couple hours after supper. The strawberries are good too. I'm hoping to get the jam done tomorrow. One disappointing thing though: today was the first weekday of summer vacation for the schoolkids here in town, and our boys were really looking forward to playing with their friends all day. But none of them were around—two families on vacation already, and one all jammed up with activities. We didn't do any activities; just read books, rode bikes, weeded, and went to the library.

No, that's not quite true... there was a little more than that. Last summer our complete formlessness was a little trying at times, so I'm trying to hold on to a bit of a schedule even as the weather calls us to wild outdoor adventures (and to lying around on the hammock...). After breakfast we spent some time thinking about how stories are structured, and then Harvey and Zion did some writing/dictating of their own accounts of playing in the rain yesterday. It was fun, and it made the rest of the delightfully relaxing day all the sweeter. A good start to the season; let's keep it going tomorrow!

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experiencing winter's ice

With the snow mostly melted and some stings of warm days, sometimes it's hard to remember that it's still winter around here. But so deep was December's chill that all the ponds are still well-covered with thick ice, so when Friday dawned cold and clear we thought it would be the perfect day for an icy expedition.

Harvey and Zion on the ice of Fawn Lake, Lijah looking on

icecapades

Since we wanted to expunge the memory of the last time any of us were out on the ice, we made sure to prepare properly. That meant that the bicycle was well full of anything we might need. Including a blanket, of course!

Zion the full cargo bike bucket

Lijah is there too, under the blanket

The crushed stone bike path was in good shape as we started out, but closer to the pond conditions really deteriorated, and for the last mile we spent half the time pushing the bikes over long stretches where the slush had frozen into a solid—and lumpy!—covering. Not the kind of ice we were looking for!

Harvey walking his bike over the icy icy path

ice road biker

But we persevered, and eventually made it to Fawn Lake, which was covered in just the right sort of beautifully smooth ice. (The thaws do an amazing job of melting all the snow without really touching the depth of ice coverage—this year is the first time I've ever seen that happen, and it's happened twice already.) We set off to cross right away, but some disturbing cracking noises sent us scurrying back before we made it a third of the way. Never mind, there was lots of fun to be had climbing on rocks and running around the field.

Lijah in hat and mittens

keeping cozy

After lunch we recovered our bravery enough to venture a little way onto the ice to investigate a trio of ice blocks some previous explorers had cut out and set on end. The holes they had come from were long frozen over, so we didn't worry about falling in; and they made fine, if chilly seats. Not that we sat for long, since the warm sun shining on the ice made it wonderfully slick. I found I could run and slide on my front for, oh, ten feet or so. Of course, then everyone else had to try it.

the boys sliding on the ice on their stomachs

playing penguins

Even Lijah overcame most of his nervousness about the curious noises that the ice produced from time to time to be able to take some good slides. Yes, we love ice! Not the kind on the path, though—we went home on the road to avoid that nonsense.

Zion sitting on an ice block

cool on the ice

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a story which must be told

A bit over a week ago, at the tail end of the previous thaw (we're in another one now) the boys and I were on a walk with Rascal. When we found ourselves close to Bedford's newest pond* the bigger boys naturally wanted to check out the ice.

Harvey and Zion inching across the ice on the pond

carefully now...

Even after 5 days of mild weather it still took their weight without a problem—that's what comes of the thaw following two solid weeks of well below freezing. Unfortunately, we find that frozen mud thaws faster than frozen water, and when they reached the far bank and foolishly stepped off the ice they sank ankle deep in oozing quicksand. Harvey managed to escape, but in trying to turn around Zion tripped and fell onto his hand and knees. It took lots of help from Harvey to get him up, and then more help to get his boot out of the mire—his foot had come up without it and it was pretty much submerged. Then, because his love for his brother leads him to provide support emotional as well as practical, Harvey took off one of his own boots to make Zion feel better as they crossed back to me and Elijah. Better, but not completely happy.

Zion crying, covered with mud

oops.

After we dumped maybe a pint of water out of the boot I told Zion to put it back on: the thaw was coming to a dramatic end even as we walked, and with temperatures dipping below freezing I figured a wet boot would be lots better than no boot for our nearly mile-long walk home. Zion's hands were also giving trouble: there was no way we could wipe that mud off them, and we didn't want to ruin his coat sticking all that muck through the sleeves. But he was in danger of freezing to death. So I had him wrap his hands up in the front of his shirt, and then I zipped his coat up around him.

Which I suppose would have been fine if he could walk, but he couldn't; and with the state his boots (and feet) were in I couldn't blame him. I was pushing Lijah in the stroller, so I had Zion stand on his scooter and pushed that along too (Harvey took the dog). That was fine until the little scooter wheels hit a stick and Zion fell on his face. At that point Lijah was evicted so Zion could be brought home alive (though he did take a brief ride on Zion's lap; a mile is a long way for his little legs, especially when someone else is riding).

By the time we got home Zion had recovered a bit, but of course when we saw Mama just getting home as we turned onto the street he had to cry a little for her too. Luckily she knows how to take care of cold boys, and also where the boot dryer is, because we sure needed it. It turns out that pond mud dries as hard as the finest clay!

Harvey and Zion's snow boots completely encased in mud

thaw: the aftermath

*I call it "Bedford's newest pond" because it is: DPW folks dug it in the summer when to replace another area of wetland lost to ball fields. So far, apparently, no one but me has used that phrase in the history of Google, which is something.

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welcome yule

After years of failing to get organized, we finally managed to celebrate the solstice in proper style today. Not that we have any connection to traditional observations... but we're sure that to do the thing properly you need greenery and fire.

the boys posing behind our

solstice bonfire

We started out by making some wreaths using the evergreens in our yard. We ended up with two, one I made myself to try out the theory, and one that Harvey helped me on.

Harvey standing by the wreath-making tables

wreath factory

Don't let Harvey's outfit fool you—it was actually pretty cold out this afternoon! Our hands were numb with the mitten-less fine work required. Maybe I should have set up inside; but since I'd never done this before I wanted to be close to the supply of greenery so we could cut as needed. We used mostly hemlock, with some holly and andromeda for decoration, and held together with wire and ribbon. I'm pretty pleased with how they came out!

our second wreath, with Lijah's feet for scale

the finished product

After studying candles pretty intensively on Monday the boys were pretty blasé about lighting our wreath, and we didn't know any songs to sing... but it was still pretty cheery looking on a winter afternoon (and it had plenty of room on our new giant kitchen table!).

the boys making unethusiastic faces with our lit solstice wreath

lit up

Then we went back outside to light the "bonfire" with one of the candles. We had to go out just after dark, so we couldn't make it too big, and we weren't able to wait til sunset like I would have liked. But we had all the time we needed to sit around the blaze, listen to the firework sounds from fresh hemlock boughs burning, and hope the sun would come back this year. A good solstice... now on to Christmas!

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our police visit

Yesterday morning we walked the dog, like we do. As we were coming home at about 9:30 Zion was a little upset, and lagged behind on the sidewalk so he could be by himself. No problem; by the time we got home he was recovered and we were all ready to jump into school work together. Right in the middle of our drawing lesson, though, we were interrupted by a knock on the door. It was a cop!

It turns out someone had seen Zion walking "alone" along Hartwell Road, and when they reached the police detail at the permanent construction site around the corner they stopped to tell the officer there. I don't know what standard procedure is, but in this case whoever was in charge cared enough about it to send someone our way to check it out.

And even better, they figured out the address to look up—I suppose our neighbors on the force offered some information about our alternative schooling arrangements. Once he finally found our house—we don't have a number up any more—the cop was very kind and polite. He described what had happened, and I told him we had all been out for a walk, and he said he figured somebody had just been worried because it was after the start of the school day. Wanting to get things clear, I asked him what he thought of our sending Harvey down the street—the same street in question—to his friend's house by himself, like we do; he said he saw no problem in that at all. As far as I could tell, he was totally fine with the whole situation, and just checking on us to close the report or whatever.

Considering our lifestyle and looking to preclude future difficulties, I told him that we like to encourage our kids towards freedom and responsibility. He was fine with that. Then I invited him to let us know if anything we did ever made anyone important nervous. It could have been much worse, and once again it made me glad to live in a relatively human-friendly place like Bedford. For Eastern Massachusetts, at least, I think we're doing pretty good.

Here's hoping that's all our interaction with the police for the next year, at least!

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seizing the warmth

The boys spent most of the warm spell outside, naturally, but to really take advantage of the weather we needed to go for a hike. We did that on Friday, and we got to bring Zion's good friend Nathan along with us. The Archibald boys were in full warm-weather gear. I did make them bring sweatshirts along, just in case; that was totally unnecessary. But as I mentioned in the other post there was enough snow that they weren't entirely thrilled to be wearing sandals. Not that anyone complained!

Harvey, Zion, and Nathan hiking in the snow--Harvey and Zion in shorts and sandals

sandals in the snow

And there were also long stretches with no snow at all. Even though he was wearing his snow boots (incidentally the only footwear he owns at this point) Lijah was happiest to be able to walk on dry dirt: his footing wasn't so good on the icy snow. Even there, though, he was happy to hold my hand, and I didn't need to carry him at all.

Lijah looking cute in a snowless forest-scape

the littlest hiker

When we reached the old reservoir we noticed two things: the ice cover was still just about complete, and there was a giant white pine that had fallen onto—into—the ice.

Zion and Nathan testing the slushy ice

do you think it'll bear?

Actually, the first thing the boys noticed was the bench where I had told them we could eat lunch—we've been there before—but it was still too early so I told them to run and play for a while first. Naturally they had to try the ice, and when Zion didn't hear cracking he announced it was safe. What he didn't notice was that he was slowly sinking in what was, really, just a layer of dense slush. Nathan actually stood still long enough that water started welling up around his feet. It was pretty cool.

After lunch I couldn't resist venturing out onto the fallen tree trunk; after he saw me neither could Zion. He went farther than me, too. I suppose he was determined to get out into the middle of the pond somehow.

Zion walking out on a giant fallen tree over the ice

no hesitation

Nathan and Harvey were more cautious, but they did get out a little ways too. I wonder what will happen to the tree in the summer? How long will it be laying there before it decays? The wood is totally sound—it was just the roots that gave up, as the dirt around them at the edge of the pond washed away. Clearly more expedition will be necessary in months to come. We stand ready to undertake them.

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a recent outing

The last couple days it seems inappropriate to post anything not related to the ongoing disaster that is our new presidential administration. I've been staying up late reading news and analysis and getting myself too worked up to sleep; we're going to have to start protesting so I can work of some of the rage. And also get out in the woods.

Zion and Harvey running down a trail

runnning to the woods

On Saturday the whole family snuck a way for a short hike up by the old reservoir. We were a little late for the morning's sunshine, but even under clouds it was lovely to be out all together. Lijah especially appreciated having Mama along.

Leah carrying Lijah across a little bridge

this is how he hikes with Mama

I was surprised to see that, despite the crazy warm weather, the pond was still completely iced over. Unfortunately the ice was thin and totally rotten around the edges, leaving no way for us to get out on it. The boys still tried out every possible spot just to be sure.

the boys testing the ice on the pond

testing the ice

Rascal is less cautious; he found a couple spots to "swim", and as we reached the end of our circumnavigation finally discovered a solid-enough spot to get onto the ice. Any thoughts we might of had about following him were dashed when he broke through on his way back to shore. We laughed; I don't think he minded.

Rascal out on the ice

he has better weight distribution that we do

It was lovely to be out getting fresh air and exercise. We'll have to do it again soon; when we're not downtown holding signs.

Zion jumping over a stream, Harvey waiting his turn

practical broad-jumping

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ice and ice cream

Harvey and Zion walking to a hockey goal far away across frozen Fawn Lake

ice outing

The forecast yesterday morning called for rain starting in the afternoon and continuing through the next day, but the sky outside was shining blue and the air mild. Just the weather you want for a winter cycling adventure! So after a nominal amount of schoolwork the boys and I headed out into the wide world. Our ultimate goals were to visit friends' almost-new-house (pending inspection) and buy some Bedford Farms ice cream for a celebratory almost-new-house dinner. Of course there were lots of adventurous stops on the way—and, as is our habit, a picnic lunch.

the boys eating a picnic in the woods

picnic bench

That was at Fawn Lake, our first destination, which we reached after two and a half miles of riding on the sticky-mud-over-frozen-gravel surface of the Narrow Gauge Rail Trail. After lunch we explored along the shore, with Harvey and Zion mostly interested in finding a place to get out onto the ice. We don't need the news to tell us about the dangers of possible thin ice: it was plenty apparent most spots along the shore, with water spurting up from cracks if you so much as touched it. Of course, the danger there was only wet feet—still, something we wanted to avoid with miles to go before our journey was through.

With Harvey leading the charge we headed along a narrow path fringed by beaver-downed trees (all the remaining trees have collars of hardware cloth to keep them unchewed and upright). Towards the south end of the pond, in the shadow of the trees, we found an area where the ice was solid right up to the shore. There was even a hockey goal out there as a testament to the solidity of the surface. Harvey and Zion were delighted and headed right out to it; I stayed closer to shore with Lijah who, since our skating trip in December, wants nothing at all to do with ice.

Harvey and Zion walking on the ice

an essential part of any winter adventure

The bigger boys could have stayed all day, but after promising them a return trip another day I got everyone packed up to head back out on the road. Well, not the road, exactly, since the next part of our expedition was to pioneer a route through the woods in the direction of our friends' house (almost-new). There were plenty of paths, all visible on the map; the only questions were a) which one would actually get us where we wanted to go and b) which one were we currently on. Neither was ever really clear. But the exploring was delightful all by itself, with twisty singletrack up and down hills that challenged Harvey and I on both ascents and descents.

Harvey pushing his bike up some steep singletrack in the woods, brothers following

pathfinding

Our cargo bike is wonderful, but it's not the most sure-footed off-road ride; and worst of all it has terrible ground clearance. Luckily Zion and Lijah were happy to run in the woods for those segments where I had to lift it over logs every twenty feet. We had maybe a half mile of that, and then just a little more on the road til we reached the house. The boys were disappointed we couldn't go in—not even in the yard—so we had a little discussion about what it takes to close a home sale. And we sure hope the closing goes well! It's always nice to have more friends in town, and nice for friends to go from 10 miles away to 3 1/2, especially when we can do three of those miles off-road (though to be honest, where they live now we can do 9 3/4 of the ten miles off-road, thanks to fortunate siting of the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway... but that's just a coincidence!).

After gazing at the house from the side of the street, we turned towards home—now riding along the not-entirely-comfortable shoulder of Rt 4. But the car noises and exhaust was bearable knowing that where the road gets into town a prize awaited!

three boys enjoying cones in front of Bedford Farms

winter's snow and ice cream

All in all it was a wonderful outing, and we were more than ready to get home, right on schedule for nap time.

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