Wednesday, March 31, 2010


At the moment, all of our tools are in a mobile storage unit while the garage is being cleaned. I got another rake last week and I found a shovel, a sharp shooter, and a couple of buckets that were not in the garage at the time of the fire.

I just want to get to work. I want to build a chicken coop and a compost bin. I want to plant things. I want to move stuff around with my garden cart.

What I am actually doing is raking leaves and needles to add to the compost pile. I'm salvaging rock to put around various garden beds. I'm putting more sheet mulch in other places we'll have beds.

Also, I'm waiting for the compost to be delivered. Really, it's a bit early to be fretting over this, except that I want to plant lettuce next week, and the bed I want to put it in would benefit from some compost. And the compost really ought to sit there awhile before I plant anything in it.

I'm not sure when the berries and trees will be delivered, but I'm anticipating that as well.

In the meantime, the parsley is up. The gaillardia is up. As are the peppers, a few tomatillos, the lavender, the feverfew, and the daisies and leeks. Just be patient....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Thing Is Working

When we moved here, there was no obvious place for a refrigerator. I thought this made an excellent time to try a cold box.

We have a defunct freezer in the entryway. It's pushed into the northern corner of the room in what used to be a closet.

We have two deep freezers that we would run with or without a refrigerator because of meat storage and other frozen foods, like berries and bone broth. We keep bottles of water in the deep freezer. In the summer, we take some of these frozen waters and put them in the cold box swapping them for the ones that were in there before. We do this two to three times a day.

In the winter, we had to be aware of whether certain foods were actually freezing out there. And now, in this in between time, I put bottles in there yesterday, and they are still quite frozen today.

We are careful to not let anything sit in there long and there has been some discussion of whether we should vent it somehow. So far, there is no odor except when something is missed.

It has also caused us to think carefully about what actually NEEDS refrigeration. Our eggs are only days from the hen that laid them, so we do not keep them in the cool box. Ketchup and mustard are full of vinegar, and we have had no spoilage with keeping them in a cupboard. Butter also just stays in a cupboard for the most part; we do pay close attention to be sure it isn't rancid.

We consider these things, because it is easier to keep track of more fragile food when there is not a lot of clutter in the cold box. I think this particular experiment is a success. Now, we want to figure out ways of keeping food that skip the freezer entirely; Jason is casting an eye at the spring for that.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Nico for short. Although with his strong preference for the hearth or even under the stove, Cinderella might have been more appropriate.

A bit of Excitement

On Saturday, we had chicken broth simmering on the woodstove. I often leave it there for hours at a time once I've brought it to boiling on the regular stovetop.

The children were in bed and Jason and I were playing a game with some friends who were spending the night when there was a sudden exploding sound and clang from the living room. We jumped up to see just what it was and in our mad dash, Jason slipped in the chicken broth that now covered the wall, hearth, stove, and floor. The pot for some reason had developed a seal and pressure built leading to a chicken broth volcano of sorts.

Jason was fine. The stove was cleaned and fine. The wall looks none the worse for wear. But we did laugh ourselves silly.

The other news is our newest addition- Nicodemus! Pictures to come...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Miracle Worked Again

I put seeds into soil and less than a week later, little, tiny plants are poking out their wee heads.
These are peppers that I planted last Saturday. They are sitting on a warming mat close to the woodstove. I put plastic over them, too, to help keep them warm. Peppers like that.

This is the setup in the front window. There are starts for celeriac, leeks, broccoli, daisies, parsley, feverfew, lavender, and some other flowers.
And these are the little broccolis and there are little leeks, too.
Outside, when we got home last week, these were poking out of the snow. Phaedra took this picture yesterday. These are snowdrops, the first flowers of spring, as far as I know. They are very exciting.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Way Through a Day

When I left my sister's last week, I was very sad. I love her and my brother and his wife and my father and his wife and my aunt and my uncle and my cousins and Jason's family. I was struck this visit by our mortality and that each of these visits is all we have together. We made that choice and we're happy with it, but right at the moment of parting, it was very painful.

I was crying and unable to talk really when Sylvie asked what we were having for breakfast and Phaedra said she needed the bathroom and Ezra asked how far we were driving that day and Jason was looking for the coffee cups. I let go of my grief, and slipped into the everyday-ness of our family. That's the way I make it through the day. There is always the bad news, but there is also always the laundry.

"Before enlightenment, the laundry; after enlightenment, the laundry."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

We're Home

I looked through my pictures to pick a few for this post, but none seem quite right. I'll put some at the end, but they're not exactly related to this.

The drive home was uneventful. We drove. And drove. We stayed at a Days Inn for $45 that seemed pretty clean at 11:00 when we went to sleep and at 7:00 when we woke up; really, we were awake for under one hour in the room. (Here would be a good place for a picture I know Jason has. C'est la vie.)

Our visit went really well. There's something nice about seeing my children playing with so many of my family's children. Our quirkiness stood out at times, but the things I actually worry about (temper, boundaries, selective deafness) all seemed to blend right in with the things the other children were doing.

We saw Ray and Stacey in a play. I talked to my aunt for hours. The children got to swim and wade. I helped start a little garden. I saw just about everyone I hoped to see for almost long enough.

Now we're home. And we slipped right back into this place I love so much that lacks my dear family but abounds in people I hold dear. We started our first day back in a perfect way- we went to a pie breakfast at Woodbury elementary. I wished I had a camera, as it so typified my feelings about where I live. We were in a cafeteria that had a wooden floor with basketball boundaries painted on it. There were so many people in that little room having pie for breakfast (proceeds benefit the local library). Outside, the sun was shining, promising spring, and inside, everyone chatted and drank coffee and waited their turn and made room for the newcomers. It was a great welcome home.
More Cousins

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Good Tool

I've been trying to figure out how to praise all the tools I really appreciate, but I have not come up with a truly satisfactory way. So, I'll try an occasional post when I am feeling particularly pleased.

This post is about my shoes.

As the children and I were heading out to the car for our trek to Texas, I was quickly putting on a very functional, completely unloved pair of sport shoes. Jason pointed out there might be snow for awhile and that I should wear boots if I did not want to drive with wet feet. So, I grabbed my much-loved, fleece-lined boots and off I went.

I realized in Cincinnati that I did not actually pack those very functional shoes. I realized in Texas that I did not even pack my Birkenstocks. Indeed, the only shoes I have in Texas are the winter boots and these:

Since I've been here, these shoes have proved their worth. I've walked for hours around the Botanic Garden in them; I've dug a flowerbed; I've fetched and shoveled compost; I've walk a mile in a park; and I've felt pretty cute the whole time. My feet are not as happy as they would be if I had my Keen sandals with me, but nothing aches and the shoes look surprisingly good.

So, I'm raising a glass to my Dansko clogs.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

An interesting thing

(to me, at least)

As we go from place to place, seeing these people we know and love, I find myself sitting quietly and knitting.

One person on the first leg of our trip asked if I was excited to show people my most magnificent and perfect children (that's not a direct quote). I said I liked letting my children show themselves and excusing myself from so much interaction. And that's just what has happened.

I like listening to the stories the children tell, the pretend ones as well as the child versions of my own stories. I like the way they seem so confident as they engage these loved ones we see so rarely. I feel like I am able to keep up over the 2000 miles with long phone calls and occasional letters but the children do much better in person. Sylvie now knows the difference between Aunt G and Aunt Stacey; she knows Honey and Poppy are not both girls. Phaedra knows how Poppy is related to Aunt Caitlin. And Ezra just feels more certain of how he stands in the eyes of these important people. That's not my business.

I'm just facilitating. I want everyone to get a chance to spend time together, long enough to carry memories over the next stretch of time. So I'll quietly knit while the children get to know their family.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Treat

We had a lovely day outside. We went to the Amon Carter Museum and then to the Botanic Garden.

I really like the Amon Carter Museum; the permanent collection always surprises me. Today, my favorite painting was one of ships near a sandy coast as a storm is blowing in. I think it was a painting of Narragansett  Bay. I like the light in that painting. The children seemed to unanimously prefer the more "real" looking paintings over the more abstract, modern ones.

At the Botanic Garden, we saw some signs of spring, like the saucer magnolia had blooms beginning to open. We also found the hollow tree sort of like the house in My Side of the Mountain. There was a surprising amount of snow damage; some pathways were even obstructed.

Then, Grammy and Pops were willing to have the children spend the night.

And here's the treat-

I went out to dinner all by myself and I had Mexican food. There was an enchilada and half a taco and some rice with nice spicy salsa over the top and a few beans and some guacamole. That's definitely one thing I miss about Texas. But as I sat there, savoring my solitary meal, I was thinking about Vermont and wondering how well our plan will work and whether we'll get even half through it this year. I was homesick for cold wet, snowy Vermont as I ate Mexican food with the sun blaring in on a 65 degree spring day.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

So far, so good

Our visit is going really well. We had a great, though brief, time in Cincinnati with the dear Domkes. We went to the children's museum there, and if you find yourself in Cincinnati with time on your hands I highly recommend that museum complex.

It was funny- as we drove I kept thinking we would see the end of the snow. But New York had lots of snow and that corner of Pennsylvania had lots of snow and there was still lots of snow as we started through Ohio. Then, right around Columbus, the snow seemed to decrease. Cincinnati had snow but still less. BY the time we got to Louisville, the snow was gone from the ground, but we were still driving in snowfall. Then the snow turned to rain by the time we got to Nashville. In Memphis, it had quit raining, but the clouds didn't break until we got to Texas. We saw a truly lovely sunset as we headed west out of Texarkana.

Some funny kid things-
Phaedra noted that Nirvana and The Pogues sound rough and angry, but Sinead O'Connor is sharp and stern.
Ezra pointed out just west of Texarkana that "There are lots more houses with wheels here."

Monday, March 1, 2010

We made it to Cincinnati

And I knew it was all going to be fine when Little Miss Sunshine began singing "Do You Realize" before we got to Woodbury.