It’s been such beautifully warm weather this week, I’m half-expecting leaves to suddenly show up on branches and flowers to spring from the ground. The fact is, there isn’t much to see on the North Fork in these very-early-days of spring- save for some daffodils in pots and a few feeble pansies. But I’ve been looking for it everywhere … especially since I got my bike back from the shop. (I finally had it repaired when the winter accumulation of grit and sand had grown so great that I could barely move my pedals or even change gears).
I’ve been riding my bike all around-searching and searching for some nascent sign of spring. Just yesterday, I found something that I think qualifies: this metal dog in a field. Actually I found a pack of three, all standing watch over a large patch of sod. Some might argue a metal dog in a field isn’t exactly a springlike harbinger, but I’d argue it it- if only because it wasn’t there in the winter months.
But what exactly were those metal dogs doing there? I called to ask my friend and neighbor Paula, who grew up on the North Fork and is a true farmer’s daughter. Paula knew exactly what metal dogs I meant and said she thought they were put there to scare off Canada geese. Canada geese can make a real mess of sod. “The dogs spin in the wind and scare the geese away,” she explained. But this dog and his friends never moved, I replied. I think they might have gotten stuck in the ground. “That’s too bad,” Paula said in a tone that clearly conveyed she was through with the topic. But I can’t stop thinking about those three metal dogs. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll ride back to free them. The winds of spring are blowing, after all.
The weathermen are calling this past weekend’s storm The Hurricane With No Name (perhaps they ran out of monikers when it was snowing?) But with near-70-mile an hour winds sweeping over and across the North Fork and throughout New York, it sure felt like a hurricane to me, nameless or not. It started Saturday afternoon and lasted well into Sunday morning. The damage was considerable – though mostly away from the Fork. For example, I have a friend in Connecticut who was powerless for more than 24 hours and was told not to leave her house in New Canaan on account of all the downed power lines and another friend in Stamford who thinks he may not have power until possibly Wednesday.
I was sheltered for a time by my friends Jane and David, who took a break from bailing water out of their basement (they live near a creek) to take in Rudy the dog and me. Several hours later, just as we were about to give up and drive to New York, two men in a white truck from LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) showed up. It was midday on Sunday and by two o’clock they’d restored life to my street – aka water, heat and lights. I was so grateful, I gave them a couple bottles of wine, including (fittingly) a North Fork Merlot.
My friends all say “This never happens anymore” (the part of about losing power that is) but all the same, I’ll have plenty of water on hand for the future- and plenty of wine too, of course.
Rudy is sick of all the snow
Have there ever been as many nouns applied to the arrival of snow as there is this winter? So far we’ve had snowpocalypse and snowicane and snowmaggedon and of course – the bland but accurate ‘snowstorm.” Actually, no one ever uses that last noun anymore. Too straightforward, too simple- and definitely lacking the dramatic wordsmithing required of meteorologists these days. And the snow-exaggeration does not seem to be confined to the weathermen on television… I had dinner with some friends on the North Fork the other night who proclaimed (about our most recent winter dusting), “We got hit pretty hard- we must have gotten four or five inches of snow.” (The North Fork, admittedly, got a lot less of the stuff than Manhattan) But the consensus is clear: Everyone – including and perhaps the corgi (above) is sick of the snow. I wonder if there could be as many ways to describe snow-disgust as there are to express snow-excess. Stay tuned.
The Beauty of a North Fork sunset
This is what the setting sun looks like from my house- it’s actually almost six pm… the fact of the sun setting just-that-much-later is something all my friends on the North Fork mention as one of their reasons to be hopeful – and certain that spring, once again, is just around the corner. The weather this weekend offered that much more reason to believe. It was a beautifully sunny pair of days and wherever I traveled on bike or on foot, I ran into friends proclaiming their plans to be out of doors. Expressing such a desire was akin to a wish to be alive- again- or at least it seemed that way to me.
Yesterday, on the first of these two beautiful days, I took a walk on the beach with my friend Paula whose every comment seemed to be accompanied by the disclaimer “This is off the record!” … in case I was thinking to record, say, the fact that she did not (unlike me) pick up a few dozen scallop shells. There are lots of scallop shells on North Fork beaches. They’re like pennies on a Manhattan sidewalk- no one bothers to pick them up. Except me of course.
Today, my friend Jackie came over from the fashionable South Fork (aka the Hamptons) for the day. We went out to lunch (though I did have on hand the ingredients for a certain chicken and bok choy dish that sounded good- on paper at least). But I decided we should have lunch at Love Lane Kitchen- knowing it would have a crowd every bit as fashionable and good looking as can be mustered on any February weekend in the Hamptons. Then we went for a long walk on the beach with our dogs. “This is beautiful,” Jackie kept saying. Then she went home.
One hour later, while I was home typing on my computer- the power went out. The lights, the computer, the internet. The heat. I called Paula, who lives down the street. She’d lost power too. “I think there was an accident- someone probably ran into a pole or something,” Paula said, as if this should be comforting. “But don’t worry; we have a generator. You can always come to my house,” Paula added. About an hour or so later, the power came back on – but the batteries in my various detectors (smoke, carbon monixide etc.) wouldn’t stop beeping. I phoned Paula- who came over with her son Marcus, armed with detector-bashing equipment (tweezers and a piece of cloth). Rudy the dog was quite happy to see them (a buzzing alarm is like a siren to a dog’s ears) and soon enough Paula and Marcus worked their magic- the alarm was silenced- and Team P & M retreated into the night. A Perfect fix by perfect neighbors. Off the Record, of course.
As students of Roman mythology realize – and probably plenty of calendar readers as well- the month of January derives its name from the two-faced Roman god, Janus. As the god of gates and doors, Janus seems like a better moniker for a building supply company than the bleakest month of the year. Or at least that’s always been what January is to me- though my friends on the North Fork keep saying “March” is truly the month to be dreaded. Some several snow storms later, I have to say I don’t like the look of January so far. But back to Janus. Who is not only the god of various portals but also, beginnings and endings.
So I will try to think of January less as a month to be endured and more of one that could be the start of something exciting and new. Now, I just have to figure out what that should be. A friend of mine has embarked on a Total Global Makeover (of herself) which sounds as terrifying to me as it does ambitious. I thought I’d start with something a bit smaller- like, say, learning how to chop vegetables properly. My friend and neighbor (and amazing cooking instructor and winery owner) Paula Croteau runs a Farmhouse cooking school out of her wonderful Farmhouse and I think (and hope) Knife Skills is one of the courses she will be offering. “People are calling me up and asking when the next class will be,” Paula said, “Things get pretty desperate in January.” To which I replied, “What about March?”
I was in Chicago over the weekend that was The East End Blizzard. But I got back in plenty of time for all the snow. Two and a half feet of it, in fact. And the size of the snow wall in front of my driveway was about twice as high. I’d called and emailed my neighbors before I got home; I found my friend Joan addressing Christmas cards, including a few to her old beaux. (She even slipped in some pages from an old diary that mentioned him into the envelope.) What an interesting Christmas HE would have, I thought, particularly if his wife was opening the holiday cards.
I found my friend Paula making gingerbread with her family. She offered to send over her strong nephews later in the week or suggested calling a landscaper named Chris. “Maybe he can plow you out.” So, along with 200 other callers (according to Chris’ secretary) I petitioned Chris to come dig me out. “He can’t get to you today- but maybe tomorrow,” Linda said. Please, please, I begged. “Everyone’s begging,” said Linda, unimpressed. Finally she said he’d come the next day. For $150. “But my driveway is the size of a postage stamp,” I replied, regretting the cliche. “It will take two hours,” she said. Two hours? Was he removing it by hand? I’m sure it won’t, I replied. “$150” Linda said.
So I got busy shoveling. And shoveling and shoveling until my back – and my will – both gave out. And then I got out again before it was light this morning and shoveled some more. It was like breaking concrete. “Call my friend David,” Joan advised.” He will give you a good price.” (She and I had shoveled up a piece of her yard so I could park my car.)
I left David a message and figured that was that (I was probably his Caller 198, after all). Then, as I was out shoveling- again- David drove by. “I can plow you out,” he said. How much would it cost? I asked. “How about $25?” he replied, adding. “Joan is a friend of mine.” Half an hour later David was back – and my driveway was clear. I gave him $40. And the number of greedy -to- good men I know is exactly even right now.
This past holiday weekend was one of wild weather, good wine and music. In exactly that order. The first part came with the Nor’easter that blew in. (Why doesn’t anyone ever spell it out properly with all of its letters intact- “NorTHeaster” ?) The winds reputedly reached 50 miles an hour – which meant a pretty sleepless night for me and Rudy the dog. It also kicked up quite a big surf – the picture below is what the Long Island Sound looked like afterwards…
Long Island Sound (and some rough surf) photos by Bruce Jaffe
If this was what November is like, what is like in January? I asked, Tom, a guest at the same dinner party I attended Saturday night. “The winds are about as bad as they’re going to be any time of the year.” Tom replied. (He and his wife Sue have had a house on the North Fork for many years.) I wasn’t sure if that was a comforting piece of information or not. But the dinner party itself, hosted by the lovely Peggy Lauber and her charming husband Paul was enough to drive all thoughts of bad weather away. There was great food and wine- including wines from the North and South Forks (Wolffer Estate Chardonnay- the winery where Peggy works- and Pellegrini Petite Verdot. But the true highlight of the evening for me (aside from the great wine, food and company) was when Peggy sat down at her harp. It was like something out of a Merchant and Ivory movie.
Peggy plays the harp beautifully