Sunday, December 30, 2007

Winter Settles In to Stay

Alas, winter is truly here for the next 3 months. We are waiting for the next storm to arrive. Fresh snow to welcome the New Year. Next year I hope to welcome the New Year from a warmer part of the country - without snow or ice. I worry to much about mundane things: will the oil last through March; will the propane last another two weeks (I've given up getting through the winter on one tank of propane); how far can I stretch 1 and half cords of wood; how do I prevent slipping on the ice; why is the gas mileage dropping in my car. It all pulls at the edges of any serenity I manage to gather. It is pretty outside, even it is inhospitable.

This frost laden land is helping me to shape out my New Years Resolutions: learn to play poker; join the book club when it restarts in February; organize my office; & exercise 30 minutes a day (zero to thirty is an improvement) and practice drawing 30 minutes a day. There are a couple of others but that's enough to ponder for the moment. Why the goals for 2008...reasons to move forward in spite of the snow.

I've made peace with this old wood stove. One small hot fire a day to burn off the creosote. Then a long slow burn. The insulation in the basement seems to be helping. This New Years will be a good test as the temperature is suppose to change again.

One person, Lonely Wombat has a great list of things to do to survive winter. Here's the blog: I'm searching for a good lava lamp. I also loved the flick'r site she recommended. Take a look!

Friday, December 21, 2007

tree in hiding

This has been a very snowy December! It has transformed the woods that surround the house. It also functions as an icy muffler. The silence of the night here is deep and profound. I find myself wondering how I ever managed to sleep when I lived a city.
This quiet belies the frantic pace I run into when I rejoin the work world each morning, Monday through Friday. I've not put a single holiday decoration in the house. It would be a poor showing compared to careless, accidental sophistication of the snow-filled woods. As I listen to my co-workers chat about the stress of the season and the shopping to be done, I feel a smug satisfaction in not having to participate in the bustle. I wish everyone good cheer but I would not trade a moment of the silent celebration in the woods.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Sunday Nor'Easter

Woke to a blizzard in progress! I have to remember to pick up a holiday gift for the plow man. He's already been here once. I've shoveled the walked several times and still have had to shove the back door open against the piling snow. I've been listening to the tv news. Here's something of note from the broadcasts - many churches cancelled services but the Pat's game is still on and people are going to be there. Some drivers gave themselves 5 hours to make it to the stadium! Ah New England!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Calm Before the Storm

We've had a couple of gentle storms. The photo is taken on the commute home. Tonight we are expecting an old fashioned Nor'Easter. Sleet, snow, ice, and high winds. It is -4F with the wind chill now. Should be quite something in a few more hours. This is why someone was inspired to make snowblowers! A good night for surfing the net and investingation warm weather destination vacations.

Okay, the truth is I'm planning a trip to Alaska - but that will be in the summer. But if I could afford two trips one would be so some delight island surrounded by warm water. Bliss.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

winter birds, apples and work

It has been a gray week.
Work was particularly difficult. Had a terrible state survey. No where to go but up. Many staff tensions -the building is newly organized with a bargaining unit. I hear there is a petition to have me removed from my job. Not the sort of thing that makes one want to jump out of bed and rush into work with great excitement. Never-the-less, in I must go and do my best to fix the problems.

Tye was sick all night. This dog gets panicky and starts to eat everything. The house hold finally settled down to sleep about 4:30 AM this morning. AM keeping him kenneled through the rest of the day until he and his sensitive stomach settle down.

We're expecting more stormy weather tonight. Emptied the ash from the wood stove, the logs are stacked and now - wait for sleet and snow. Have filled the bird feeders. It is amazing that the delicate chickadees survive the rigors of winter. No matter how bleak my work life, I do love their cheery chirping. Surly if these tiny creatures carry on in adverse condition - I can face my work woes as well.

I am however engaged in a fantasy of moving back to Washington state or now and then New Mexico. I would prefer the drizzle of Washington State to the sleet of New England. For now it is a pipe-dream. Moving is very expensive. This facility needs to be 'fixed' and it is in general best to wait out the looming and growing housing crisis.

Have a variation of chicken (my apologies to all birds in general) soup in the slow cooker. The aroma is heavenly. The small joys in life.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

thinking about silence

Have finally faced my studio. Why does the blank page continue to constitute an almost insurmountable first step? Had to haul out the mental 6 foot ladder to climb over my own mind. Project now underway. Am thinking about silence. Considering deliberate silencing, soothing silence and almost silent (the type one finds in the forest).

Easy Silence Dixie Chicks By PAntunes

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Plow Man Cometh!

Snow last tonight. Sleet on Sunday and predictions of 6" of snow on Monday. Bless the snow plow guy! He just called - as panic was beginning to creep into my mind. The wind is blustering outside my window. How I wish I did not have to go get mail today. Staying huddled near the fire sounds just about perfect. I have a stack of books to read. Ah well, time to bundle and wrap up to face the wind chill factor....6 degrees F. Today is a good day to buy a lottery ticket - I will engage in a warm weather fantasy until the fateful drawing tonight!

Friday, November 30, 2007

"The Onion"

Have you read it yet? Try Google Reader! "The Onion" has wonderful news.

Try this:

It helps to laugh and to think through sticky, charged situations. What better way to end a hectic week than to ponder the fate of a robot whose job was out-sourced to India. This after watching the "Dirty Hands" episode from Battlestar Galactica @ (

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wild turkeys

Past these feathered gobblers on the way to work this morning. A veritable bevy of birds on the side of the road. Sadly they dispersed into the woods as soon as I slowed to a stop.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

27 days to winter

Ice in the stream - a harbinger of things to come! She's beautiful, wily and frigid and she'll be here in 27 days!

Sylvie's Tale

I met Sylvie for the first time (and probably the last) this past Tuesday. It was a bitter cold morning. I spotted her jumping on the car in front of mine on the road between my village and the next. The car slowed and then drove off. I stopped because this smallish lab-pit cross looked desperate. She circled my car, checking out the doors. I opened the front door, she jumped across my lap and into the back seat. She promptly hopped back into the passenger seat, licked my face and then hopped back in the back seat, curled into a tight little dog ball and went to sleep. This was obviously an experienced car dog. When I got to my office I called the vet on the rabies tags and got the name of an owner. The owner it turned out was in the hospital with a infected surgical wound. His voice conveyed how much he loved his canine companion. To make a long story short between the two of us we located a friend of his to care for the dog until this man could be released from the hospital. Sylvie it turns out is an escape artist. In this case she managed to sneak out when her caretaker came to visit. Her little paws were abraded and bleeding but it was an easy clean-up and fix.

I have repeated this scene dozens of times over the years - all but once I've picked up the animal and found the owner or someone to care for the it until the dog or cat's human could be found. the one time I fail to do this little kindness and have for 20 years regretted the decision.

If an animal is behaving strangely or is aggressive leave it alone and call the police or animal control. But often one can help. Sylvie was a delight. She was a perfect guest in my office - better than my two canine companions (embarrassing but true). Worth the little bit of effort!

Friday, November 23, 2007

new and old growth forests

The woods here are primarily new growth forest. The area once had thriving woolen and saw mills. The old forest disappeared before anyone had words to describe what kind of woods covered this part of the earth. Here is a link to a Rolling Stones article about old growth forests in Oregon. The photos displayed and the activist described is interesting:
Regardless how one feels about the tactics of various activists, it's strategic to view the world from their perspective. As Steinbeck suggested in the "Grapes of Wrath" - get in their skin and walk around awhile. Is there a part of their story or belief system that we should hear? They embody life's battles: rich vs. poor; passion vs. profit; young vs. old; stable community vs. wandering community. Humans rarely care for self-proclaimed prophets. Their visions seem extreme and uncomfortable. I have come though to believe that there is a middle ground of some sort to most issues (save religious conviction of the fundamentalist variety). The compass that directs the way to the middle ground involves listening to both sides. Improved and more tolerant listening may just be a key survival skill.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

About Burning Wood..

Many articles later, I can think my way through two central issues regarding the burning of wood. What follows is a non-scientist's interpretation of those articles. The two categories are: 1) Health and 2) Environment. One would think that these are the same but there are pro-wood burning folks and and anti-wood burning folks. Pro has something to do with wood not being a fossil fuel and the coal burning associated with converting fossil fuel by power production plants - hence carbon emissions. The Con has to do with chemicals in smoke and particulate matter that is very small (less than a micron) that can get into the deepest part of the lungs and cause damage. The con argument is that wood smoke is more dangerous than second-hand cigarette smoke. In urban areas, fireplaces and wood stoves contaminate the air in other homes because the particulate matter is so small that it crosses the barriers even closed storm windows etc. The pro-wood burning thought is that if wood is seasoned and burned efficiently and in modern, EPA approved wood stoves it create heat without the dangerous elevation of CO2 (a serious green house gas) that is believed to be a cause of global warming.
I know that there are people all over the face of the earth who cook on open wood fueled fires and heat with wood. Are there any programs to produce new wood to replace the trees that are burned for heat? I read an excerpt about Brazilian women who have advanced lung disease from cooking on open wood fires. I did not read anything that indicated that they also smoked cigarettes or if someone in their family did. Does burning wood in remote rural areas raise the same problem as burning wood in urban areas? Does smoke from wood or corn pellets present the same danger as wood logs? Some of the data seems to suggest that it does not but does still have that particulate problem. What incentive is there for owners of old wood stoves to convert to a more efficient wood burning stove?
The other day I listened to an accupuncturist say to me that all wood burning should be banned. That it was far more dangerous than cigarette smoke. She said that there was only a one year's supply of wood if everyone who wanted to burn wood did. Is that accurate? Obviously more reading is called for here. I would think that freezing to death in the winter is dangerous but she didn't mention that. How do the poor and economically challenged middle-class people survive if they stop burning wood. Oil and gas is expensive to install and right now those fuels are breath-takingly expensive to purchase assuming one could afford the burner. Each is a fossil fuel. The economics of these health and environmental issues are enormous. I've heard many lawyers say "hard cases make bad law" and with that in mind I think that regulations for urban areas will likely not be useful for rural areas. Solutions mandated for the middle class and above will not work for the poor. Regulations rallied for by the urban upper and middle classes have a designer patina to them. How do we include the rest of the people in these discussions and eventual legislation?
It's a lot to ponder. Will have to search my neck of the woods and see who is doing what about these issues.
In the mean time, today we've had a heat was in the 50's (F). Wrapped the base of the house in plastic to reduce the effects of the wind and it's chill on myself and my companions. Now to find some bales of marsh hay to put around the foundation. It will be back in the teens tonight. More snow on Friday. Practicing for the more serious months of winter: January and February. December is wily. One never knows as it can be warm (well, by New England standards that is) or bitterly cold (serious sub-zero temps).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Icy Fingers

The chill of the season is here. Tuesday the usual chaos followed the first snow...drivers moving too fast for freezing rain, slush and black ice. The wind was brisk, reminding all of us of what lie ahead in January. We in rural New England complain about the bother of the weather but I think we feel stronger as the cold tests our fortitude. We feel sturdy for a season.

Have done much research about burning wood and the effects of smoke on humans and the environment. To be honest, I'm too tired to share tonight. Perhaps tomorrow.

Thanksgiving is upon us. Mine will be quiet. The Son of the West returns on Friday night. The slow cooker will provide for he, a friend and I. Something aromatic and tasty but not Turkey. He will have the Turkey and trimmings while in Boston.

If I am of this world next year (taking nothing for granted) I plan to travel on the holiday - for all the rest of my life, while I am able. And why not?

Travel or not, a moment to reflect: I'm deeply thankful for the health of both my sons; thankful for my friends who are there through thick and thin and thankful for my critter companions as well as this drafty old house for sheltering us.

As my grade school principal noted on our graduation to high school (there was not a jr. high in this convent boarding school): "Upward and Onward"...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Son from the West!

He called this evening to confirm his flight. Joy! This is a trip of devotion, he loves the warmth and cheerfulness of California, still he journeys east to visit for the holiday. The man holds family and friends dear. He'll be cold and feel the isolation of this quiet place in the forest but still he is venturing across the country.

Ah the list: make up the bed, vaccum up the cat hair, pick up milk and other food (he'll probably want to do something silly -like eat). Did you notice that there are a lot of 'ups' in that list - wonder what that means.

It's a long, slow dark drive to the airport. There are no good west-east roads from here. It will call for coffee as I'm usually sound asleep at the time his plane arrives. It will be early evening on his California biological time clock. But at least he will be awake and that will help me stay awake at the wheel for the drive back to the woods.

If you ever listen to Garrison Keillor, today there is an interesting, wistful, reminiscence poem from his site on the Public Radio Site today:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What a difference a few weeks makes. I pass this marsh each morning on my way to work. Today as you can see it was covered with a hard frost. Silent, crystal white and beautiful.

The photo on the right is in nearly the same spot but taken just a couple of weeks ago. A fog was lifting off the water. I could hear wild turkeys in the distance. Mother Nature telling us to 'pay attention - the season is begin to chill'.
Heavy rain heading this way. Snow and rain to greet my son when he flys in from California...can't you hear Mother Nature snickering - "surprise"

Monday, November 12, 2007

Wood Stove Lust

A confession: I've been cruising the internet! I lust after a new wood stove. The one that sits in the living room is OLD and as I am also old having two of us in one small house is one too many! This is a high maintenance "appliance". Someone had to find, cut and transport the wood here and then when it got here it had to be stacked. But this stove is inefficient and goobles up wood. I need the stove and loath it. I love the warmth when it finally gives off heat but it is a pain to get that heat. It takes 3 to four trips to the wood pile to get enough to get through 24 hour period - unstacking and restacking. (Ok, I'll grant you, that all the stacking and restacking is healthy exercise.) And did I mention worrying about creosote and chimney fires! The wood disappears in the the hole in the top and is all to quickly turned to ash. So I cruised the net - pretending that this was my house and that I had several thousand dollars just lying around waiting to be invested in a easily loaded - easily cleaned - EFFICIENT burning attractive wood stove with glass front doors - all the nicer to read and sip a glass of wine while viewing the flame. So my life has come to this....
But the parrot is happy - I moved her cage to the room with this beast of a wood stove. Great, I feel better already! :-/

Carbon Negative Relief

What a relief to read that heating with wood is carbon negative - a non-fossil fuel heat source. Living in a rural area - heating a even a small home is a challenge. Buying a cord of wood is also a challenge. As with all fuel, the price has had a dramatic price jump. Last year a $125. for a cord and now as much as $220. I'm searching for one more cord but $220 is out of my price range! I heat water and cook with propane. Reading about carbon foot prints informed me that heating with water is a costly use of fossil fuel. If it were my house I think I would consider solar for the hot water. Now I'm heating water on the wood stove for all cleaning chores as well as putting a bit of moisture back in the air.. Showers are limited to 3 minutes (just as well - the bathroom is on the far side of the house and is rarely warmer than 50F). Am determined to make the 75 gallons last for another 10 months. This house has an oil tank but it's contents are being saved for the worst of winter - if needed to keep the pipes from freezing.

Today's walk found that some hunter built a new foot bridge across the stream on the edge of the property. What a kind stranger! The old bridge has slipped off the bank and is under water.
Tye was braver than I and made the first pass over to the stream. Slow coach that I am, I did finally slowly make it across as well...trusty cane to help me keep my balance! :-)

The woods are blissfully quiet. The yellow tape here and there suggests this path is used by snow mobilers during the winter months. Fine by me - it will almost be like having company!

Found the foundation of the saw mill I thought was a decayed bridge. Am still looking for the cranberry bog. Walked to the edge of the marsh on the back of the property. It looks as though I could navigate it with my kayak in the spring. Speaking of kayaking, am also dreaming about fishing...surely some of these streams are home to brook trout. Something to ponder during the long winter (the beginning of which is now 40 days away).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A correction...

The photo imbedded in yesterday's post is not the remains of a bridge. I heard last night that is likely the skeleton of the one of the old saw mills that dotted this area some time ago. Will do a bit of research and find out more about that. It is 30 F and windy here today. Am moving the parrot and love bird down stairs as I'm finding it difficult to heat the office room. The dilemmas of which rooms to heat and when continues to be a haunt in my anxiety closet!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Saturday Walk in the Woods

It is brisk this afternoon - our high was 40 F today. The forest is quiet and carpeted with now brown leafs. Passed an interesting bolder - yin and yang in the woods. Also walked by the remains of bridge. It is peaceful here. Haven't heard anything other than the rush of water and the heavy flapping of a turkey's wings in its clumsy effort to avoid my dog and I.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

48 days to Hibernation

There are several ponds and lakes in my neighborhood. The water level has been dropped in the one nearest to my home to allow those that dwell on the shore to attend to the maintenance of thier docks and to put boats away for the winter. Small pond docks are stranded on the land above the water. They look ungainly and a bit woeful. I imagine that those docks are in a state of hibernation - waiting for the warmer, more playful weather in the Spring. It is a wonder that the winter winds don't topple them. Snow flurries are expected this week. I'll have to revisit the shore when the docks have a mantle of ice and snow.
Forty-eight days until Old Man Winter blows into town. The weather people are saying a warmer than normal season. Does that mean more snow or less snow? The docks and I would like to know.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Aged Tree

An aged Maple tree off the sun porch has been preparing for winter. The one photo was taken a month ago. A blush of color. Then last week a progession to more color and fewer leaves. Now she's all bark and limbs. I listen to that old tree groan at night when a wind starts up and hope it's leaves did their work so that old girl will be flush with greenery in the Spring. Last night I found myself wishing that she had a bevy of sisters to block the cold wind that seeps in around the windows. It's only in the 20's and already I'm moaning. Although I'm not old like that venerable tree, I'm an aging Boomer. In January...20 below zero will make this seem like an island holiday.

Tonight I put a fan on the wood stove to move the heat to the rest of the house. Figuring out my carbon foot print is going to be dismal work indeed. I'm trying to keep the parrot warm...I kid you not! She is upstairs and on the Grandmother Maple's side of the house. Still it's drafty. The bird didn't vote for the move here. I have a steward's obligation to keep this tropical companion at some reasonable level of comfort. Bird warmth, burn wood, use many decisions.

Bonnie and Clyde

Just went to the basement to fetch the wash and stick it in the dryer. I realized that I've forgotten to mention the other members of the household: salamanders. For the moment their names are Bonnie and Clyde. There is a third but I've only seen the tip of the no name yet. They came with the house. They spend most of their little lives under the old chimney base. The damp to wet environment of the basement seems to work for them. I've absolutely not idea how they came to live here. Having them down there feels as though this house should be a chapter in a Garrison Keillor story.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Hard Frost

The temps dipped into the 20's last night. Apparently Mother Nature does not give a fig that the Sox won the World Series. Perhaps she was born in Denver.
This is an exciting time of year. We in New England are capable of endless weather conversations. There is a casual art form to it as well as a social structure. A frame on which we build short conversations with people we don't know well. During lively times of the year (the changes of the four seasons) we can discuss the
unpredictable weather with relish. It's a safe conversation and a statement of fact...we will cope no matter what the atmosphere around us conjures up.
The wonder of Fall is it's first act - the spectacular colors displayed in the leaves as they prepare to die. The second act, if one lives in the country, is the way that the death of leaves reveals the forest. For instance, birch (nurse trees to the forest) stand in stark contrast to pines. Animal paths once hidden are visible. Vacated bird nests can be seen. Deer, moose, bear, wild turkeys are suddenly nearly visible to even careful, casual observation. My dogs are not fans of this time of the year. Their work is more difficult. They patrol the boundaries of the property against invaders that they can smell and hear. My parrot screams some message to them about four legged tresspassors and Tye and Reb spring into action. I watch, listen, calm my companions and go back to my tasks.
The other excitement in these rural parts. The political races,of course. An opportunity to discuss something other than the weather.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tye and Trash

The week ends here are quiet. But for Reb and Tye, my two canine campanions, Saturday and Sunday must be a joy. They spend most of the days out of doors. No snow yet. Lots of room to run. Tye is the youngest of the dogs. A little over a year, he's a lab. cross - so still a puppy. He is digs up everything he finds in the forest. Today he presented me with a broken tiki torch, several scorched sea shells, and a fractured pair of goggles. Often he brings home bottles and cans of every variety and he is the best mouser of any of my four legged friend.
When I walk through the woods I see breath taking beauty. His nose tells him otherwise. His busy treasures tell me how careless people have been with the disposal of their used goods. I am re-examing how I use 'stuff', when I think it is 'finished' and where I put it when I'm 'done'. Speaking of done, it's almost time for game FOUR - Go Sox! Yes, I'm turning on the TV...what to do, I'm a member of the RED SOX NATION!

The Rented Retreat

About 8 weeks ago I moved to "Wildwood" - this name proclaimed on a engraved sign hanging in the screened porch. This is a rural and secluded rental home in New England. The move here percipitated by the imploding of a troubledrelationship. The particular home - necessitated by the fact that I live with 2 dogs, a cat and a parrot...most landlords shy away from this group package. The home sits on six acres surrounded by woods (hence the name) and save one other house down the road, the nearest nieghbor is about a mile away. I am almost 60, out of shape, over-weight, and not in particularly good health - still I love being alive and being here in the country. The tasks ahead this year: stay out of any new relationship for at least one year, learn to live with and perhaps even find some joy in solitude, figure out how to get through winter with 3 cords of wood and one tank of oil (the last tenant let the pipes freeze), paint or write and try not to turn on the TV in order to bath in the numbness of programmed entertainment. I have a job and commute about 26 miles each way to and from work. I've yet to win a lottery so that part of my life is unlikely to change. Everything else is up for grabs.