Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Category: Medium Length Essays (Page 1 of 4)

Lunch – Babylon Overlook Beach

It only took about ten seconds for a herring gull to snap up a crust from my sandwich. Ten seconds later, two more gulls winged in. Things are tough for sea gulls. The alpha gull chased the other always and waited. I tossed another peace. Bingo! In less than a second, the gull grabbed and swallowed. There’s no time to wait. This is survival. The bird was ultra patient. It hung around for a half hour before it left. No more bread I’m outta here. Looking head on, gulls have huge mouths. They are swallowing machines.

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Nancats Third Sail : September 24th, 2017

I had been waiting for such a day like this. The wind was right. I prepared the boat to sail. This time I learned about kinks.

While hoisting the sail, a kink in the halyard stopped the process. I found a knot, which I am calling a “kink” that stopped the line from sliding through the block.  I removed the kink, with the line free, I can continue hauling the sail. I tie down the halyard line. Loosen bow and stern line’s and am free of the dock. The wind is light yet enough to carry us south on Sampawams Creek.

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Lewisburg – Princeton Getaway: September 8-10, 2017


We visited a huge mill operation in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. It was turned into an antique business with 350 consignment booths. As my wife went happily on her way, I stumbled from booth to booth, overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material. I began out trying to be mindful of item after item.  I began gulping whole booths with occasional stops to actually look at a few items like a old pair of wood skis. I remember how I used a pair to ski down the slide in Como County Park.

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Lakeland County Park: Part 2

Honeysuckle Pond  is the main attraction of Lakeland County Park. Visitors have to follow a complex of board walks to reach it. I first caught sight of it through an opening in the forest. When I first sighted the Pond, I was surprised. It is much smaller than what I remember thirty years ago. I expected to see water like I did back in the 1980’s when it looked more like a small lake than now. I saw a large. pure grassy area where the pond used to be. I soon found out why. The pond level is three vertical feet lower. As a result, the wildlife living there has greatly reduced. I saw turtles and slender silver fish, possibly minnows. What left is kidney-shaped. The boardwalks were built decades ago to prevent visitors from slogging in mud and protecting fragile plants. Drought is the main cause over the past two years. Not enough rain water has fallen to soak into earth to keep the water table higher

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Shake Down Sail – September, 2017

After a two year break, I stepped aboard NANCAT once  again. The name comes from Nancy Catherine Keating, my wife. I have a small thirteen foot wood wood catboat. The boat is the smallest of a class of boats known as catboats. They are suited to shallow bays because they have shallow drafts. Cat boats have their masts far forward and are not noted for speed. They were the boats that plied the Great South Bay early in the 20th century. Fishermen and clammers liked them because their broad beams and stability made it easy for their work.

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Tomato Sauce

The art of making tomato sauce lies in meditation. I stood over a large pot, a seething cauldron of watery, bubbling red. This short essay will guide the reader through the process.

These tomatoes were two weeks late due to a late spring. Tomatoes thrive in hot sunshine and water. Their stalks are weak and must be staked.

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Trip Report to Millerton, Dutchess County New York

The New York State Delorme Atlas shows Millerton way up in the northeast corner of Dutchess County. Nancy heard about it from Jayne Anne at Homecomng Farm. “It’s a little historic village with not many tourists.” We have a few other destinations in mind…the New York State Fair in Syracuse and Rhode Island. A ferry ride across the sound and a two hour ride sounded better.

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FIELD and Track; World Championships – London 2017

I love the ten athletic field events. Track events are exciting, but their sport is competition with others. Field athletes compete to improve their best result  and to try to break a world record, and win the gold.Track runners run. Field athletes have to master several skills.

I thrill over the high jump and pole vault.  Although it only takes a few seconds to complete the event, I obsess over seeing an athlete fly through the air, arch their back, then flip their legs and pass over the bar. It’s like gravity weakens slightly for their ascent. They chose their event based on strength and skill. They practice, train, and enter events all to reach the pinnacle at the World Championships. It is inspirational to watch the results of sacrifice and determination.

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Manorville Hills Spring Hike

To describe our most recent hike in Manorville Hills County Park, a single word will suffice. FRESH.  Moments after we exited the parking lot and headed toward Trail #5.

Early June, no one in the park but Mark and me. Along with sunshine, we entered the renewal of this Pine Barrens Forest. Fresh new ferns, grasses , mosses, blueberry shrubs,  and the oaks. Gypsy moths were at work. There was evidence on the trails. I found pieces of partially chewed leaves, as well as caterpillars because leaves are fresh and tender.

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A Festival For A Weed – A Spring Tonic

The second annual dandelion festival comes at a time when dandelions are popping. The KK Farm in Southold elevated the lowly dandelion to adoration level. Booths, lectures, music, and signs, and lots of yellow were on hand. The 8 acre farm is only a few miles from Orient Point, a 90 minute drive for me from Babylon.

The farm is 100 years old and 8 acres, not what I’d call agribusiness. It is enclosed by deer fencing and grows on raised beds. Huge piles of leaves in various states of decomposition lay on the eastern edge. The barn is the centerpiece structure surrounded by a scattering of outbuildings. One outbuilding held large equipment, another small. There are greenhouses, a farm house, and a processing building. I found a charming “office” with small wood burning stove attached to a greenhouse. The farm has character and a small world feel. This is the second festival. I was invited by Suzanne Ruggles, who calls herself The Barefoot Gardiner.

I arrived early to set up my booth – dandelion flipping Olympics.

Informative signs were placed near the barn. Two signs had the following words: “Plants (like dandelions) that you need for your physical, emotional, and spiritual healing to gravitate to you”

“ leaves are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A B C and D, potassium, iron, calcium, and phosphorous. They are an exceptional spring tonic.”

At one booth, a woman served samples of dandelion juice. “First I roasted the taproot, blended it with water, let leaves soak then filter. Here, try some.” It tasted like dandelions! I had my “spring tonic” in a small paper cup…wonderful!

Children were plentiful, in fact the festival was intergenerational and full of energy. Kids played with hula hoops,  dipped dandelion heads into paint and onto paper, and bounced around free to investigate on their own.

I hosted the dandelion flipping booth. I had a sign DANDELION FLIPPING OLYMPICS, set out a flipping court, and had little flags to mark were flipped dandelions landed. I didn’t promote my event and chose a poor location out of the mainstream. Nevertheless, four women came by to ask “What is dandelion flipping all about”.  I asked them to find a dandelion, and demonstrated to move. All four women flipped. The farthest flipper was invited back for the “finals.” While I had no other interested parties, I did have three wonderful adults who came by and sat down for conversation.

I attended three of the six lectures in the old post and beam barn.  Susan Ruggles gave a power point presentation of gardening with native wild flowers as a substitute for maintaining a lawn.  Her Westhampton home is a certified wildlife habitat.  She loves what she does. I called her an “apostle of the plants she loves.” She brought a display of photographs of many of the plants she uses. She helps people change their lawns into flower meadows.

Louise Harrison was there representing the SAVE PLUM ISLAND organization. Two booths featured native bees and their conservation. The seed-saving group promoted saving heritage and heirloom seeds native to Long Island including the Cheese Pumpkin

One of the most unusual displays were quail eggs. This couple raises quails and harvests their eggs for sale. I sketched and egg and breast feather.

I liked the whole affair because it wasn’t high tech and crowded. Here. Practically on the tip of the north fork, I found a great many of people whom I’d label out of the box.  This experience was refreshing. I’ll be back with a bigger and better dandelion flipping event next year.

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