Requiem For An Ice Cream Parlor.

I learned today that the Friendly’s ice cream shop, in the town where I grew up, has closed for ever. I know it sounds insignificant — just another business falling to tough times etc., but Friendly’s was the bookmark in the volume of my life, and in the lives of almost everyone in our small-town slice of the American pie.

When we were silly girls in junior high we would ride our bicycles to Friendly’s, and sit on the grass by the front of the parking lot, licking dripping ice cream cones, or getting brain freeze from Fribbles, and giggling. The boys would sit on the split rail fence and watch the girls.

Friendly’s was where my mom would take me for regular Wednesday summer and school vacation lunches, and often my Aunt Barbara or Mrs. C would join us. I felt so grown-up and special to be included in their chit chat. We still periodically went there for lunch when I was a grown, married lady — right up until my parents moved down to Florida. I miss those days just like I miss those great women.

I remember going to Friendly’s with my dad after my sister got married and moved a thousand miles away. I was twelve. He thought ice cream would help. It didn’t, but I still remember that special visit and the mammoth Jim Dandy sundae he bought me, and then helped me finish. I miss him, too.

Once when my parents and I went to Friendly’s the light was out behind the Y in the sign. From that point on my dad always called it Friendls.

For many of us Friendly’s was the site of our first date, of our first kiss… Our first whispered words of love… Our first break up.

Sports victories, birthdays, honor rolls, and other small events of life were celebrated there.

I raised my kids two towns away from Pompton Plains. Conveniently nearby, we spent many a Thursday night having dinner at Friendly’s. It was a break for me, a tradition carried forward, and an opportunity to teach good restaurant behavior. We would play a coloring game on the backs of the paper placemats while we waited for food. “Who can draw a shark… A squirrel… A giraffe.” Often times my sweet boys would give their drawings to the waitress. I would echo those words spoken by my parents: “You won’t have ice cream unless you finish your dinner.” And then they (as did we) would get ice cream anyway.

So yes, I will miss the Friendly’s in Pompton Plains. It will be difficult driving past and seeing the it gone. What would ever fill our lives’ pages quite the same?


Image courtesy of Friendly’s, c. 2015.

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Quotable Sunday.

The river with its mask of trees cut a twisting path down through the valley. Two miles away he could see, beside a gigantic lonely oak, the white speck of his tent pitched and left while he went to record his homestead. A long time he sat there. As he looked into the valley, Joseph felt his body flushing with a hot fluid of love. “This is mine,” he said simply, and his eyes sparkled with tears and his brain was filled with wonder that this should be his. There was pity in him for the grass and the flowers; he felt that the trees were his children and the land his child. For a moment he seemed to float high in the air and to look down upon it. “It’s mine,” he said again, “and I must take care of it.”

– John Steinbeck from “To a God Unknown”

Fog rolls in as the sun sets over Silver Spring Farm.

Fog rolls in as the sun sets over Silver Spring Farm.

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Chicks Three. Chicks No More.

Hen.  Buff Orpington.  (and yours truly)

Hen. Buff Orpington. (and yours truly)

It’s been a long while since a chicken update – long enough, in fact, for my flock to grow to 35, and for one of them to be snatched up by a fox.

The quick story – I “inherited” three more hens from friends of mine who were increasing the amount of time they were away from home and didn’t want to neglect their pets (yes, the were named). The hens are also buff orpingtons, quite healthy, and are about a month older than my chickens. Two of them have recently begun laying. The third is the rebel of the group – she leads them into areas of the farm that we usually find unique and sometimes surprising: the other side of the barn, the mailbox, out into the fields, onto the front porch, etc. She may also be laying and I haven’t discovered her hiding spot yet! The two that are laying are utilizing our porch – one sets her eggs underneath the porch but conveniently within reach, and the other sets her eggs using a coil of green plastic-coated dog run wire as her “nest.” It’s the perfect size.

This weekend I will be installing some newfangled nesting boxes into the coop. None of the chickens like using the old wooden ones – I think they may be too small for the buffs.

The others should be laying soon. They all are being horribly harrassed by the current overabundance of roosters, a situation which will be resolved in the near future when the lads are dispatched to the local slaughterhouse. Yes, 9 or 10 of the fellas will be headed off to Freezer Camp. The hens will thank me!

Regarding Mr. Fox: The rifle is loaded and waiting. I will have my revenge. Meanwhile the perimeter fencing is 80% complete. That will also be finished this weekend when one of my sons comes to visit.

Rooster - Black Astralorp

Rooster – Black Astralorp

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One Year Gone.

Exactly one year ago today, in the cool stillness of a pre-dawn summer’s morning, I drove my youngest son to the US Marine Recruiting Station Bloomingdale. We parked in front of the building, illuminated only by the headlights of my car and those of the government-issued Ford idling in the driveway. My son didn’t get out of the car right away. Instead, we sat in the silence for a few minutes, enjoying each other’s company for the last time in what would be a long time.

It was 5:22 a.m. “I love you mom,” he said. I replied that I loved him too, and that I hoped he did well. With that, he picked up his bag, opened the car door, and swung his feet out onto the sidewalk and into his new life. I watched him take those last steps across the sidewalk, and disappear into the darkened building as the door swung shut behind him.

And he was gone.

He loves his life as a United States Marine, and what he’s achieved. He is good at what he does. He is happy. And I am so proud of him that it leaks out of my eyes when I think of him.

I haven’t seen him since January 4th.

When you read this, all I ask is that you think of him. No need to reply, or sing his praises. He’s a quiet man, my son. Not a fan of howdies or hoopla. Think about what he and the others with him train and fight and do to ensure your safety, and protect democracy around the world. Lift him up in your thoughts and in your prayers, if that’s how you believe. I would appreciate that.

Many of our young fighting men don’t get the opportunity to celebrate even one year in the service. Their lives, or their limbs, are blown away in an instant, or their souls are forever torn into tatters. Think about them, and their families, too. In fact, they need your thoughts and prayers more than we do.

To all of you other Marine Moms and Dads, and other military parents and siblings – we are all in this together. I appreciate every one of you who has ever taken the time to talk to me about our kids, or offer a kind word – I genuinely appreciate the fact that you have my six. Don’t worry – I’ve got yours.

Semper fidelis.


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Quotable Sunday.

“And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.”

Jonathan Swift
Gulliver’s Travels. Part ii. Chap. vii. Voyage to Brobdingnag.

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Chicks Too.

Chicks 2 weeks 1

Chicks 2 weeks 2

Chicks 2 weeks 3

Tracking the progress of the chickies. At two weeks old the chicks already have wing feathers, and are learning to use them by fluttering up and perching on the edges of their universe – two big plastic tubs. After retrieving the ones that flew out and were huddled together in a corner of the mud room, I added a giant corrugated cardboard wall across the front of the tubs.

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20140411-164838.jpgChicks are so cool. They are eating, pooping machines. They run around chirping up a storm in their plastic tub, then fall down asleep, flopped into all kinds of ridiculous positions, as if they dropped dead.

This is how the chicken story begins, here at the farm. With adorable fluffballs.

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The Seeds of a New Generation – New York Times Article.

Here is an excellent article from the New York Times, discussing watershed changes in the farming community.

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More Snow. (Wordless Wednesday.)

snow cardinal tree

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The Darkness.

When I was a kid, I remembering it getting pretty dark at night. Dark enough for my sleepover friends and I to sneak out of the house and walk around in the middle of the night – as long as one avoided the streetlights. Someone that I dated used to complain about that darkness; he lived in an urban area where darkness and shadows were hiding places for muggers and such, and he never did get used to a black sky. The night sky by his home was a sort of glowing red color. You could see your shadow at night.

In my old town today there is “light pollution” – that same, pervasive sort of red glow that fills the sky. Its source is the multitude of strip malls, highway shopping centers, big-box retail parking lots, and ever-present landscape lighting (why does one need to shine lights up into trees, anyway?), etc. At the old house I could stand on my back deck and see stars, but really just the very big ones.

Now that we’ve moved further west and away from the city, it is a nice feeling to have darkness at night. While we do have a street light in the front yard to light the driveway, the minute you walk away from it’s light print you are again cloaked in the darkness. Because it is so much darker here in the country, one is afforded the opportunity to see thousands of stars twinkle in the night sky.

Whenever I look up at the winter sky, I try to find Orion. I’m not really well-versed in stargazeology, but I can find the belt of Orion and then work my way out from there to locate the Big Dipper. I know enough of mythology to know that Scorpio, Orion’s nemesis, was sent to the summer sky by the gods because he and Orion didn’t get along.

While looking at Orion, my eye catches the slow creep of a satellite working its way across the sky, low to the horizon, moving from south to north. We don’t see many jet planes at the farm because we most thankfully have moved away from the landing path of Newark Liberty Airport. (At the old house, a new jet would cross the horizon and work its way across the sky every 45 seconds. Clockwork.)

The other night I was standing quite still on the front porch, watching a couple of rabbits move across the yard, and listening to the tiny crunching sounds their paws made as they tentatively hopped through the snow. I glanced up to see a meteor streak across the sky, just over the barn. I was glad to be in that moment.

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