Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Grudging Respect Awards…

I have to admit to having a grudging respect for squirrels.  They are devilishly cute and fiendishly clever little buggers.  And apparently, they have a lot of power over me.  They drove me so nuts for years cleaning out our bird feeders in spite of state of the art baffles that I gave up in defeat and quit feeding the precious little songbirds that flit around our parts.
But the other night while I was sleeping, I had a brainstorm.  I thought of a spot on our front porch where I didn’t think the squirrels could reach.  So far, in the four days the feeder has been up, the squirrels have not figured out how to breech the feeder that’s hanging there.  They sit on the ground underneath and catch the droppings from the birds.  I’m sure this is beneath their squirrelly dignity, but it works for me.  If they haven’t figured it out in another month, I will feel that I have won and they will have to admit to having a grudging respect for me for a change.  But in my imagination, I can see the bunch of them back at their nest with their protractors and compasses out, doing calculus, trigonometry and other high forms of math I never understood.  It’s only a matter of time, I’m sure, and they will have triumphed over me one more time.

The bird feeder is right above this guy.

I also have to admit to having a grudging respect for the sock that stopped my washing machine.  Who knew a sock could do that?  I didn’t.  Our handy-dandy repairman Michael came out in the afternoon, took the front of the machine off and said, “There’s the culprit.”  And he held up a mangled sock. The fact that it was one of my “No Nonsense” socks makes it all the more remarkable and like it was meant to be.  I guess when a No Nonsense sock wants to stop a washer, it just goes ahead and does it in a No Nonsense sort of way.  Well, the good news is that the machine is working and should be with us for another ten years, according to Michael.  The bad news is that I have to go and finish the laundry.

Oh, yeah…and one more thing.  Before you admit to having a grudging respect for us because we were the first people in our neighborhood to have our holiday lights up, just know that we never bothered to take them down and half of them don’t work anyhow.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Brown season…

I went down into the deep, dark recesses of our basement to do my least favorite chore this morning…laundry.  I put a load in a couple days ago but had forgotten about it with the kids being around for Thanksgiving and all.  I was not a happy camper when I opened the lid to the machine.  The clothes were still pretty wet.  Apparently, the spin cycle didn’t do its thing.  Thinking that it was just unbalanced…sort of like me, I tried it again.  Now it smelled a bit like burning rubber.  Yikes!
Not knowing how to handle the situation and with sinister visions of laundromats dancing in my head, I stuffed the pretty wet clothes into the drier and turned it on.  It refused to turn.  #%^#*!!  Curses!  Washers and dryers never go bad at the same time.  That’s one of those Laws of Life.  That’s why you always have a mis-matched pair.

Well, I was wrong about the dryer apparently.  Greg, having a cooler head when it comes to laundry based appliances, decided it was just that I overstuffed the damn thing and when he unstuffed it, it worked.  So Michael, our local appliance repairman, will be here this afternoon to fix the washer, I hope, because I don’t want a new washing machine.  He thinks he’s coming to fix the dryer, too.  I wonder if he’ll be happy or sad to find out that only one of those machines needs his attention.  I’ll let you know if I remember to.

This wasn’t what I had intended to write about today.  I was going to post pictures of brown things and come up with some “words of wisdom” concerning the changing of the seasons, philosopher that I am.  But now, all I have on my mind is that damn laundry.  I’ll post the pictures I have ready, but I have no words of wisdom, they are awaiting a repaired spin cycle.

Friday, November 25, 2011

My heart’s a-clickin’…

“O, it sets my heart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock, when the frost is on the punkin
 and the fodder’s in the shock.”   ~James Whitcomb Riley

When I got up this morning to take my pooch Olive out for her walk, I noticed that there was frost on the pumpkin.  Well, not literally “on the pumpkin” since we don’t have any pumpkins around, but there was frost on the leaves and grass.  On a glorious, bright morning like we had today, I think the frost must just be the most beautiful thing going.  It’s nature’s version of spangles and sparkles.  Everything looks like it has been dipped in sugar.  But it is also a reminder of what is to come…soon.

We got an early and unwelcome taste of winter this fall and the damage from that is still visible almost everywhere one looks.  I will be glad to wake up some morning and not hear the now familiar sound of chainsaws being used in our neighborhood with folks still clearing fallen branches and trees.  But even with that rude awakening, I am looking forward to enjoying a “normal” winter.  This is my time of year.  The cold, clear mornings rev me up and make me feel lucid and alive.  So like James Whitcomb Riley, my heart’s a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock ‘cause the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock
 (whatever that means...)


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cape Cod Thanksgiving…

I decided to reach into my archives for Thanksgiving this year and try to illustrate my favorite Thanksgiving poem.  It is Cape Cod Thanksgiving by Amy Belding Brown.  I came across it a few years ago while surfing around on the internet and printed it out.  It hangs on a bulletin board next to my desk in my office and I read it frequently not just at this time of the year. It reminds me of all the things in nature that I love and am grateful for.  I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and safe travels  and if you are somewhere that doesn’t observe the US holiday, I hope you have many people and things to be grateful for.

Cape Cod Thanksgiving
by Amy Belding Brown

Thanks for the blue jay’s raucous wake-up call,
for wing-flit that recalls the August light,
for low cloud’s graceful, melancholy pall,

for beggar wind which hammers through the night.
Thanks for bittersweet’s bright ornament,

and rain which presses down the yellow quilt
of leaves upon earth’s winter discontent,

and for the rhythm of the marsh’s salt and silt.

Thanks for maroon silence of the bog,
for each cranberry’s ripe expectancy,
for yielding curtains of the pewter fog

and most, for the fierce spectacle of the sea –
its energy so savage and spume-flung –
and all the flashing life beneath its tongue.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Apple pie, cheddar cheese and remembering...

The other day on facebook, my Uncle Jerry reminded me how much my father loved apple pie and how on a fishing trip to Vermont with my father, Daddy taught him to eat my Grandma Ginny’s apple pie with cheddar cheese.  That’s the way they did it in Vermont.  There the pie did not get eaten with ice cream like in Ohio.  My uncle has been hooked on the cheese thing ever since but has not been able to quite duplicate that first experience.  Even so, he said, a slice of apple pie and cheddar brings back memories to him of his brother-in-law, my father, and of the generosity he showed my uncle when he was a kid.  Things like taking him on his first train ride and teaching him how to develop photos.

Daddy was, indeed, a very sociable and generous person.  I can remember when I was a kid, if someone would drop over in the evening, while my mother was getting the coffee ready to boil on the stove, Daddy would run out to a ma & pa donut shop in Blue Ball, Ohio, and bring back a bag of fresh donuts.  The donuts would be piled high on a plate and my parents and the visitors would sit around the table yakking, eating donuts and drinking coffee.  How they ever slept after those nights is a mystery to me!
I don’t much care for donuts with a notable exception…say Breezeland Orchard’s Apple Cider Donut and I’m there!   But maybe because I can’t duplicate that experience of sitting at the table, eating a donut and listening in on the adult conversation, donuts just aren’t the same.

Still, I can make a reasonably good apple pie and there is good sharp Vermont cheddar available just a short drive from our house.  So to honor my father’s 90th birthday, which would be today, I made a pie and ate a piece with a slice of extra sharp cheddar…the kind that bites you back when you bite into it.  And, like my uncle, with every bite of the cheddar and the pie, I remembered my father and thought about
 how much I truly miss him.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Touching a hundred flowers…

Yesterday, I got together with my friend Donna S. and we went out to Northampton, Massachusetts to pick up my daughter Carrie.  After a nice lunch, we went to The Smith College Mum Show.
We’ve had a dull fall this year so it was a wonderful treat to walk into the Smith greenhouses and into a world of great fall color.  The mums are just gorgeous.  Of course, there are many more fantastic flowers there.  I am particularly in love with the orchids.  Donna actually suggested that I take up orchid growing as a hobby.  I think I will pass on that.  I just don't have what it takes to propagate plants of any kind.  But it’s a nice thing to think about.  Wouldn’t it be a great gift to bring
 a few of those happy flowers into the world?
Walking through the greenhouses yesterday brought a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay to my mind:

I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.

…Except with the SD card in my camera, of course.

This was one of the student's hybrids.  My favorite of all the mums.  What a fabulous color!

Who's more colorful...Carrie or that begonia?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An “aha” moment…

My daughter Carrie has a very real phobia of snakes.  But she likes most kinds of lizards.  So I got an email from her the week before the big storm asking me if I would like to take a field trip with her to the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  There was a gecko exhibit there that she didn’t want to miss.  I figured, what the heck, might as well.  So off we went a few days before the big storm
 to view the world of geckos.

Geckos are cool little creatures.  I had not been aware that there were so many varieties of them.  I also didn’t know that the way they stick to things is not by suction cups but by the millions of hairs on their toes.  Cool!  Hairy toes…who knew??

And the Berkshire Museum is a cool little museum.  I’m glad Carrie had the idea to go and we got to “discover” it together…a real “aha” moment.  Thanks, Carrie!

I apologize to my little gecko friends if I mislabeled them.  I tried to keep them straight.

Madagascar Day Gecko

Madagascar Day Gecko...ain't he cute??

Gold Dust Day Gecko, also from Madagascar

Skunk Gecko from Australia.  Love the tail!

Showing the different eyes, toes and skins.  Inspiration for a quilt??

Sure wish I have more of those!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Life and Times of Olive the Pug, continued…

My gardening friend Donna S. recently rescued a Sheltie named Lily who had been a breeder dog.  And though you can never really replace a beloved pet, Lily is the successor to Donna’s dog Cocoa who passed away earlier this year.  When Lily arrived in their household, Donna and her husband Don were a little unhappy to find out that she wasn’t acting like the housebroken dog they had been promised.  But they are both compassionate people and decided to do the research into housebreaking an adult dog rather than giving up on keeping Lily as a pet.

That’s where Olive comes into this story.  Donna thought it would be a good idea to have a dog come over and “model” the proper way to take it outside, so to speak.  So Olive and I embarked upon a mission.  I loaded Olive into the car and we drove over to meet Lily.  Walking through Donna’s garden is never a hardship, believe me.  And, as if Olive knew where her duty lay, she decided to poop right away.  And after a few more steps, she left her other mark.  Lily was watching and learning because soon after that, she did her thing properly and got the proper praise from her new master.   My understanding is that she has been doing the right thing ever since.

After the walk through the garden, Donna and I sat in the kitchen and had a cup of coffee while Lily retreated to the safety of her crate to watch our every move and Olive went around sniffing everything in sight.  Then I loaded Olive back into the car and we drove home.  On the way home, I told Olive that she did a good thing with Lily and she glanced over at me looking very smug and satisfied and then, having done her bit to save a small but important piece of the world of dogdom, she went to sleep.
  Her work that day was done.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tales from the Sidecar II….

This time of year, my husband Greg starts to get kind of antsy.  As the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter, he knows that his days on his motorcycle are numbered.  So yesterday, he decided we needed to take advantage of the extraordinary weather and take a ride in (on?) the Ural – his motorcycle with the sidecar – down to Connecticut to a favorite lunch spot of ours.

I am still getting used to riding along side on that contraption but it is getting easier and easier.  But taking photos from the sidecar has its own special challenges.  One challenge is the fact that I can’t seem to remember that I have a face shield on my helmet and I am constantly banging the camera into the shield.  Clicking away as we are speeding along makes for a lot of blur along the bottom edge of the photo.  I try to compensate for that when I am processing but am not always successful.  And now and then, I get smacked in the helmet by a stray leaf, which is kind of distracting.  But I suppose I will get used to those challenges, too, eventually and taking photos from the sidecar will get easier and easier.


On Main Street, Southbridge, Massachusetts

Somewhere in northern Connecticut.

Any place that has this as a logo can't be all bad!  Good coffee, good food.

On the road again....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Going toward the light, the heat and the water…

I think it will be quite a while before people around here stop talking about our Freak October Snowstorm.  We love comparing how long our electricity was out, our relative hardships and woes and how we managed to get rid of the trees blocking our paths.  One friend told me on Sunday that she got pretty sick of melting snow to wash her hair so she could go to work.  Now me…I would have gone dirty.
  But I sure wouldn’t have liked it.  I admire Laurie's pioneering spirit.

The power went out on Saturday, by Monday I had already had enough of it.  I was ok with scrounging around for food since most of our town’s restaurants were open by Monday evening.  I was ok with the cold.  Once I got wrapped in my blankets and settled the dog next to me, I wasn’t that uncomfortable.  I could even do without the light although I will admit that it was hard to read holding a flashlight.  But my bad…I should have picked a book that was a less heavy than “Harry Potter and Half-Blood Prince” to re-read.  It would have been easier.

I could have survived fine for the full six days if it were just the lack of hot food, the cold and the dark to contend with, but it was the water that put me over the edge.   You see, we have a well and a septic system out here.  So without power, there is no water pressure and only one to two flushes in each toilet.  It’s a royal pain in the you-know-what!  So now that we have our water back, I keep thinking what a luxury it is to be able to flush the toilet and then to wash my hands!  How utterly extravagant is that morning shower!  Even a drink of cool, fresh water seems lavish now.

Having no water was enough to send us to Syracuse to visit my son Evan who for once in his time there could say, “It’s OK, Mom, there’s no weather here.”  They were outside the weather system that brought us the snow.  So we picked up our daughter Carrie in Northampton, Massachusetts, and we all went out to Syracuse, New York, the seemingly perpetual winner of The Golden Snowball Award, to bask in the sun, the good weather and the electricity.  And, most importantly, to unwind under a nice hot shower.
  Sometimes irony is a good thing.

Two nights there were enough to shore us up for the cold, dark days ahead.  We were happy to see that Carrie’s lights were back on when we dropped her off in Northampton.  It took another 60 plus hours for us to get ours back…but then who’s counting??  We survived.  Still it was great to get that Syracuse break.

Cool bridge near Skaneateles, New York.

Good advice for all mankind.

Vineyard near Skaneateles, New York.

View of Skaneateles Lake.