Sunday, February 19, 2012

Old Customs - I Want Them Back.

This beautiful picture that I found on Pinterest (love Pinterest) reminded me of when I was a child. On May Day, in my small home town, my mother and I would make up little bouquets of flowers and hang them on all the neighbors doorknobs. I would squeal with delight as I ran up to the door, hung up the flowers and ran away as fast as I could so that no one knew who did it. This is an old custom that should come back. It is such a friendly custom and one in which children learned to give to others but to not expect recognition. Being the secret giver was the fun part, as well as imagining your neighbor's face when they opened the door and saw the surprise.  I want to do this again and relive a childhood memory just for fun.  Maybe I will make these. They are so cute.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Connecticut Fairs, Festivals, and Special Events


One of my favorite events is coming up soon - March 10 and 11, 2012 - the Hebron Maple Festival. It is the 22nd Annual Maple Festival. First and foremost, there are four Hebron Sugar Houses to visit. They all demonstrate the sugaring process, sell their maple syrup and some have additional items for sale in their gift shops.  A map of the area and where events are placed is available at 

There is a very full agenda of events and is posted in the brochure also. Shuttle buses are available at RHAM High School and at Mercier Senior Center; however, I have never had any problem with parking at the farms or downtown. Besides visiting the farm, my favorite things are the Quilt Show, the Husky Sled Dogs, and the Blacksmith exhibit at Country Creations.  I also love seeing the miles and miles of plastic tubing traveling from tree to tree. There is a demonstration of a Revolutionary War Encampment, Birds of Prey and a Craft Show. 

The food is great and includes all kinds of goodies: chili, chili dogs, cheeseburgers, french fries, fried dough, grilled maple ham and egg sandwiches, and homemade soup.  There is maple popcorn, icy maple milk, maple ice cream, maple cookies and maple cotton candy. Girl Scout cookies, homemade brownies, and other goodies are available. Unique jewelry and gifts, bluebird houses, a pancake breakfast, a polish dinner and lots, lots more make the trip worthwhile. It is a relaxing and fun event where you can do as much or as little as you want. 

This festival and most events are FREE.  Fundraising does go on to raise money for the Andover, Hebron, Marlborough Youth And Family Services, Inc.  The four farms are reasonably close together and easy to find with the help of the map.  Everyone is friendly and helpful. 

The Hebron Maple Festival is one of those events I try to never miss.  I hope to see you there.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chongqing China

No, these are not pictures of New York City.
No, this is not a bridge in Boston.

These are pictures of Chongqing, China.

Chongqing (pronounced Chungking) is a major city in Southwest China. It is what is known in China as a “direct controlled” city and thus not under the governance of any province.  Neighboring provinces are Hubei (east), Hunan (southeast), Guizhou (south), Sichuan (west), Shaanxi (north) . Located at the northern end of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau and the eastern limits of the Sichuan Basin.

Chongqing is intersected by the Jialing River and the upper reaches of the Yangtze. It contains the Daba Mountains in the north, the Wu Mountains in the east, the Wuling Mountains in the southeast, and the Dalou Mountains in the south. The city is very hilly and as a result is unusual in China for its lack of significant numbers of bicycles. (Wikipedia)

It’s been Open to the world to the world for a long time.

In 1890, the Consulate General of UK was open in Chongqing

In 1891, Chongqing became the first inland commerce port open to foreigners.

In 1896, the French Consulate General was open in Chongqing

In 1896, the Japanese Consulate General was open in Chongqing

In 1896, the US Consulate General was open in Chongqing

In 1904, the German Consulate General was open in Chongqing

Chongqing has a monsoon-influenced humid subtropical climate, and for most of the year experiences very humid conditions. Known as one of the "Three Furnaces" of the Yangtze River, along with Wuhan and Nanjing, its summers are long and among the hottest and most humid in China, with highs of 91 to 93 °F in July and August in the urban area. Winters are short and somewhat mild, but damp and overcast. The city's location in the Sichuan Basin causes it to have one of the lowest sunshine totals annually in China, at only 1055 hours. Chongqing, with over 100 days of fog per year, is also known as the "Fog City", and a thick layer of fog shrouds it for 68 days per year during the spring and autumn.

The municipality has a population of 32.8 million, including 23.3 million farmers. Among them, 8.4 million farmers have become migrant workers, including 3.9 million working and living in urban areas of Chongqing. Chongqing has become urbanized and its industries have now diversified. Unlike eastern China, its export sector is small due to its inland location. Instead, Chongqing factories produce local-oriented consumer goods such as processed food, autos, chemicals, textiles, machinery and electronics are common. In fact, Chongqing is China's third largest centre for motor vehicle production and the largest for motorcycles.

Chongqing is a major transportation hub in southwestern China. The municipality now has 25 bridges across the Yangtze River including half a dozen in the city's urban core. It has a metro rail line and a monorail, as well as a bus system. There are two cable car rides across the Yangtze River.

Chongqing is the biggest inland river port in western China. Historically, most of its transportation, especially to eastern China, is via the Yangtze River. In recent years the amount of trading has increased because of the huge reservior created behind The Three Gorges Dam. Chongqing is also the launching point for scenic boat trips down the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges Dam.

The language is Mandarin.

The city has many historical sites and tourist attractions including:
  • The Dazu Rock Carvings, in Dazu county, are a series of Chinese religious sculptures and carvings, dating back as far as the 7th century A.D., depicting and influenced by Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist beliefs. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Dazu Rock Carvings are made up of 75 protected sites containing some 50,000 statues, with over 100,000 Chinese characters forming inscriptions and epigraphs
  • The Three Natural Bridges and Furong Cave in Wulong Karst National Geology Park, Wulong County are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Ciqikous is a 1000-year-old town in the Shapingba District of Chongqing. It is also known as Little Chongqing. The town was at one time an important source of chinawares. 

    • Fishing City, also called the “Oriental Mecca” and “the Place That Broke God's Whip”, is one of the three great ancient battlefields of China (1127–1279) and the location where the Mongol leader Mongke Khan died in 1259.
    • Xueyu Cave in Fengdu County is the only example of a pure-white, jade-like cave in China.
    • A modern and well stocked zoo exhibits many national and regional animals, including the Giant Panda and the extremely rare South China tiger.

The culinary specialty of Chongqing is Hotpot, and is its claim to fame.  All food is spicy, and there are noodle shops and fine restaurants that serve spicy fish, pork and beef dishes.  Chongqing also has Italian, Indian, and Sushi restaurants.  There are several Starbucks and even a Haagen Dazs Ice Cream.

There are hundreds of hotels as well hostels.

Crown Plaza

New Years in China is from January 22 to February 6 when basically everything is closed and everyone is on the move to go home and visit relatives. The Fireworks are so large and loud, as well as almost constant during the evening of January 22, that you would think you were in a war zone.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Scottish Side of the Family


My sister's and my grandmother was Mildred Christine MacDuffie, Birth 7 Nov 1898 in Geneva, New York, Death Jun 1978 in Albion, Orleans, New York. John McDuffee who moved in 1612 from Argyleshire, Scotland to Londonderry, Ireland is our 8th great grandfather. He is believed to be a direct descendant of King Kenneth McDuff of Scotland and of Duncan McDuff, Earl of Fife (born about AD1000). This fact may not be true because there are no genealogical records to support that and because the old Earldom of Fife became extinct in 1353 on the death of the 12th Earl. However, this fact cannot be dismissed because separate Duff, MacDuff, etc. families continued to figure prominently in Scottish history.

Shakespeare borrowed from the stories about King Kenneth and Earl Duncan, that were reported in Holinshed's Chronicles, Volume V: Scotland, when he wrote MacBeth. 
  • from page 233: King Duffe falls into a wasting disease, which prevents him from sleeping, and witches are found to be causing it.
  • page 234: The witches are discovered roasting a wax image of King Duffe over a fire and reciting enchantments. They confess that they meant to make the king waste away, and that the enchantments were to keep him from sleeping. The witches are burnt to death, and the king recovers his health. | Donwald tries to get the king to pardon certain rebellious kin and friends, but the king refuses. Donwald, at the urging of his wife plans the murder of the king.
  • page 235: In Donwald's castle (Forres), King Duffe rewards Donwald and others for their assistance in putting down a rebellion, then goes to bed. | Donwald and his wife feed the king's chamberlains plenty of meat and drink, making them fall fast asleep when they return to the king's chamber. | Donwald bribes four of his servants to cut the king's throat, then bury the body in the bed of a river, so that it would never be discovered. This was done because it was thought that a murder victim's body would bleed in the presence of the victim's murderer. | Meanwhile, Donwald stays up with the guards all night, then pretends great surprise when the king's bloody and empty bed is discovered. Donwald kills the king's chamberlains and blames the murder on them. | Donwald rushes about, pretending to be looking for other guilty parties, which raises suspicions about him, but no one dares say anything, because they're in his castle. | For six months after the murder neither the sun nor moon are seen, and great winds make people fear for their lives.
COLONSAY AND ORONSAY, Scottish Islands are the traditional homeland of our clan.  You can see a video of Colonsay, Scotland, on Youtube (just put in Colonsay, Scotland). As you will see our ancestors had a hard life making a go of things on Colonsay.

 Our branch of the MacDuffie's are a part of CLAN MACFIE, a "broken" clan. 

"Clan Macfie is one of the oldest Scottish Clans with a history going back before records were kept. The ancient name for our Clan is Macdubhsith. While literally meaning “dark man of peace”, sithe is also the term used for supernatural beings that populated the islands and the highlands and the term dubh (pronounced 'duff') or dark also had mystical and supernatural connotations. The ancestral homeland for the Macfies (MacDuffies) is the islands of Colonsay and Oronsay in the Western Isles of Scotland. 

In 1623, Malcolm, the last Chief of the Clan Macfie, was captured by the infamous Colla Ciotach MacDonald. He was tied to a Standing Stone, known as Carraig Mhic a’ Phi at Balaruminmore, on our ancestral island of Colonsay, and summarily shot. The Clan Macfie was dispossessed of its lands and dispersed as a “broken” Clan. 

That is, until 27th May 1981, when the Clan was reactivated and again formally recognised as an “active” Clan by the Lord Lyon. Macfies all over the world celebrate that date as Clan Macfie Day - a new ‘birthday’ for the Clan Macfie. As no hereditary Chief has been traced, a Ceann-Cath, or Clan Commander, was appointed to head the Clan. The current Clan Commander is Iain Morris McFie Esq. of Coulintyre, Kincraig, Kingussie, Scotland." (

Malcom's (the last chief of Clan Macfie) actual name was Malcom McDuffie. The Lord Lyon’s decision as to the Clan name may have reflected the fact that the first member of the Clan to register Arms with the Lyon court was a Macfie, in 1864.  The choice of Macfie instead of MacDuffee was a great disappointment to the MacDuffee Clan Society. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Love's Horizon

Len and I own the small farm, Summer Brook Valley Farm Alpacas. An adventure and challenge we started together about 6 years ago.  We have done many exciting things together (like starting the farm) during our marriage, have had many challenges and have had many tragedies, much like everyone else.  September 2, 2012 will be our 40th anniversary.  I share the following poem for its beauty and for the analogies that rang true for me.  It was written by Maurice Thompson and published in the 1892 Century Magazine. I hope you enjoy it.

Love's Horizon

The sky is like a woman's love
The ocean like a man's;
Oh, neither knows, below, above
The measure that it spans!

The ocean tumbles wild and free,
And rages round the world;
On reef and wreck eternally
Its ruthless waves are hurled.

The sky has many a gloomy cloud
And many a rainy dash;
Sometimes the storms are long and loud,
With wind and lightning-flash.

But ever somewhere, fair and sweet,
Low stoops the adoring blue, 
Where ocean heavenward leaps to greet
The sky so soft and true.

They meet and blend all round the rim;
Oh, who can half divine
What cups of fervid rapture brim
On the horizon line?

The sky is like a woman's love,
The ocean like a man's;
And neither dreams, below, above,
The measure that it spans.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What do you want out of life?

What do you want from life?  Many people struggle with this question.  Do you want to lead a happier and more meaningful life?  To have clarity of mind?  To feel closer to your real self?  To stop worrying about life and just live it?   Owning alpacas is a way of life,  a lifestyle,  a choice to spend your time doing what is important.  Somewhere along the way a lot of us got confused.  We were told and sold on what we thought we wanted, rather than what we really want and need.  We were told to ask "Where do you want to go today," rather than "What are you doing for the rest of your life?"

Summerbrook Shasha and Duffy

Random House defines aspiration as: • strong desire, longing, or aim; ambition: intellectual aspirations • a goal or objective desired.   It became increasingly clear that I wanted my life to be about making a difference in the quality of my family's life as measured by the qualities of loving and caring.   I did not want to look back in time and see only work.
Do you?

Consider building an alpaca lifestyle for yourself - where you will have a happier and meaningful life.  You learn something new every day about nature and our world.  You learn how intelligent alpacas are and how "humane" they are.  You will get in touch with how precious life is.  You will make wonderful friends - human and animal.  You will definitely get in touch with what is important in life. 

One day, a friend of mine came to visit and sat on a chair in the barn while I did chores. Honey Crystal went right over to her,   nosing her, and   blowing softly in her face.  Honey would not leave my friend's side.  Honey knew that my friend was sad and filled with worries. My friend was amazed at how much Honey Crystal empathized with her and tried to make her feel better.  She has never forgotten that experience.

Honey Crystal and Summerbrook Mateo

Keep your job but get a life. Visit an alpaca farm near you and fall in love.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Winning Iraqi Hearts and Minds – One Camel Rescue at a Time By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

I recently came across an interesting article by Michael Schmidt about American soldiers saving camels in Iraq. During the last days that the American troops were in Iraq, they spent their time "applying the gentler forms of military power". One group of American soldiers in the southern part of Iraq came across an Iraqi man trying to save his camel from the mud. 

"Sergeant Thomas, who was on his fifth deployment to Iraq since 2003, added: 'I felt that we won over the camel for the Americans. There is one less insurgent camel out there. It was the right thing to do. Camels are worth a whole lot of money, and the herdsman would have been in a whole world of hurt if he’d lost it'.”

Bactrian Camel

This one of my favorite pictures - a Mongolian girl and her camel laughing together. Her camel is a Bactrian camel. The Bactrian camel has 2 humps while the Dromedary has one hump. The Bactrian camel lives in Turkey, Mongolia, China, Russia, Iran and Afghanistan. The Bactrian camel is thought to have been domesticated (independently of the dromedary) sometime before 2500 BC probably in northern Iran, Northeast Afghanistan or southwestern Turkestan. 

In October 2002, the estimated 800 remaining in the wild in northwest China and Mongolia were classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is presently restricted in the wild to remote regions of the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts of Mongolia and Xinjiang. A small number of wild Bactrian camels still roam the Mangystau Province of southwest Kazakhstan.

As of the 1980s, a complete range of fossils suggests the first camelids appeared in North America about 30 million years ago, had a relatively small body mass and were adapted to warm climates. By the early Pleistocene (about 2 million years ago), they had already evolved into a form similar to the current Bactrian camel, and many individuals permanently migrated to the opposite end of the Bering Strait in an abrupt fashion, probably as a response to the advancing ice age. The remaining related types of American camelids are now only in South America. These include the Alpaca, Vicuna, LLama, and Guanaco.

Pure camel hair, frequently used for coats, is gathered when camels molt in warmer seasons. This undercoat is very soft, and is separated from the dense, coarse guard hair for cloth use.