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.