Monday, October 17, 2016

bit by bit

This time of year is beautiful.

Different views every day.
Bit by bit, the changes come.

It's also the season when I feel a constant awareness of the Before Winter list.
It isn't a written list.
It's everywhere I look.

There's much to be done outside, of course. But I'm also picking away at some of the seasonal indoor chores. "Eating down" the freezer so I can defrost and clean it. Moving everything away from the propane heater. Cleaning the heater. Lighting the pilot. Trying to decide where everything "goes" this Winter, and tidying up accordingly.

Tidying up. Cleaning house. A little at a time.
Not my favorite thing.
Not something I'm good at.
But I try.
Bit by bit.

Do you find that the first part of cleaning up usually creates a bigger - but different - mess than you started with? I haphazardly piled a lot of random things temporarily on the porch table. BIG mess. I sat down for a moment to ponder.

Art supplies. Seeds drying. Cones to draw. Winter squash. My microscope. A package waiting to be wrapped up for mailing. And...wait a minute...what?

Let's zoom in...

It's Supervisor Della.
Sitting on the windowsill, elbows on the table.
Examining the sunflower heads.

Counting the packages of curtain rods.
(Did I buy enough?)

Bringing in a colleague to consult.

Supervisor Moxie moves on to inspect the Candy Roaster squash.

As I took that picture, I realized the paper atop the squash was holding all my saved pumpkin seeds. I leaped up just in time to continue saving them.

These two are really keeping me on my toes!

And also keeping me company when none of us are on our toes:

I hope this season is beautiful in your neck of the woods!


Saturday, October 8, 2016

one special book

The Heywood Hill bookshop is celebrating their 80th anniversary with a drawing, which includes a spectacular first prize.

From their website:

"First prize is a lifetime's subscription to our famous A Year in Books service. The lucky winner will never need to buy a book again. They will be sent a new hardback book, individually chosen to suit their particular reading taste, every month FOR LIFE wherever they live in the world.
Second prize will be a one-year subscription to A Year in Books, and third prize a hardback book every other month for a year."

Nice, right?

It's a free drawing, open to all. To enter, you must answer just one question:

"Simply tell us which single book has meant the most to you, published in English since Heywood Hill opened in 1936."

I have been pondering this question at odd moments for several days now, and still don't have the answer. (But I will, before entries close on 31 October.)

What keeps springing to mind are books I read over and over again in childhood. Or unheard-of books given to me by friends, which I then carried from place to place for years. Books that became old friends, or that broadened my vision in some way. Books that inspired, entertained, instructed, influenced or dazzled me deeply.

But "meant the most to me"? It's a difficult question, but one that I very much enjoy mulling over in odd moments. So, in a way, I have already been given a prize by the Heywood Hill bookshop, and I've not even entered yet!

Which single book would YOU name?

I hope my readers will enter this drawing, and also share your thoughts in the comments below. Maybe some of us will discover shared favorites, or - I'm hoping! - find titles to add to our "must read" lists :)

Monday, October 3, 2016

monopod goes for a ride

Monopod on a bus.

This Spring I began using trekking poles on my walks with Piper. I tried them at my Physical Therapist's suggestion (and with the loan of her own extra poles) during a period when a spike of pain in my knees was making it no fun at all to walk...

...even with Piper!
...even in the woods!

At the same time, a retired fellow in England who blogs about his walking adventures in entertaining detail, kindly answered my email enquiry about types and features of poles. Mike's descriptions of personal experiences - and fatigue delayed and serious injuries avoided - confirmed that trekking poles were well worth a try.

The first time I heading into the woods with the poles, I admit I felt a little...silly. I mean, this was a walk. On an old cart road. Not exactly snowshoeing crosscountry through trackless forest, and come to think if it, I never used poles to do that, and I was also carrying a pack full of equipment at the time. Blah blah blah. I've gotten a lot better at not berating myself with these pointless comparisons, but sometimes that inner voice still pipes up for a minute or two.

BUT. It was a relief to soon discover: even on a very difficult day, I could still force myself to get out there with two poles and take Piper for at least a short wander. And on a gentler day, even using a single pole could make a big difference in how far I wanted to go before heading back. I saw sections of trail and forest I hadn't visited in several years.

I usually used only one pole, as I've nearly always got a camera in one hand. So I recently decided to invest in a "monopod" - the same sort of collapsible walking stick but with a threaded bolt on top to mount a camera. The idea being that I will still have the camera Right There at all times, but will also have two hands free to use two poles in the woods when I want to.

Shortly after making that decision and budgeting $25-40 for a simple adjustable model, I found one, used, at a tag sale!

For two dollars!

I started using it right away.

The hyssop is still blooming and the bees are still visiting.
Both bloom and bees have slowed down considerably, but still...
blooming and visiting!

In the past few weeks, I've put that monopod through it's paces; not just in the woods and at home, but with more "travelling" than I've done in a very long time. First, the monopod went on a chartered bus trip to the Big E where I saw the quilts and the Clydesdales, and then it accompanied me on Saturday's trip to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival. In both cases, it was great to have my camera Right There for the sudden photo-opps, but the bigger benefit was being able to walk and stand for more than ten minutes - not always comfortably, but only a couple of times having to say, "I'm sorry, but I must either walk or sit down right now," in the middle of a conversation. And that is a big deal.

Don't worry: I'm not going to turn this blog into a record of all my physical ups and downs; it would bore you all to bits. Heck, it bores me and I'm living it. But I'm trying to get a little more comfortable about not editing out any mention of pain when it's actually an aspect of what I am writing about. Like my joy in discovering that a trekking pole is a tool that can sometimes make a little walk in the woods (and the resulting revitalizing thoughts and hundreds of photographs and one very happy dog) possible.

And who knows? Maybe a person reading this will think, "Hmmm, I wonder if a trekking pole might be a handy thing for me to use from time to time?" and then one day find themselves leaning on a trekking pole by a stone wall they haven't visited in ages, listening to the wind in the trees and thinking how incredibly lucky they are to be right there in that exquisite moment. So my suggestion would be: if you think some simple thing might be handy...give it a try. And then tell the rest of us about it in case we might find it handy too :)

Sunday, October 2, 2016

sunshine on a cloudy day

 I've been having a lazy day.
Once the chores were done and everyone fed, I pretty much stepped out of the traces and suspended any expectation of productivity.
In other words: slacking.

It's been gloomy and off-and-on rainy all weekend.

(The sunflower images were taken one afternoon two weeks ago.
Saved for a rainy day!)

Yesterday it looked like this in Tunbridge, Vermont:

I rented a car for the weekend - one of those Enterprise weekend deals - because it was important to me that I try to get to the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival and Cashmere Goat Association show. I didn't want to try to travel with anyone else because it's never a sure thing that I'll be up to the trip on the given day. With a rental, even if I ended up unable to go to Vermont, I could do local errands and test the notion that, instead of continuing to search for an affordable small (and elusive) pickup truck, I could make do with a small car.

(It was a good experiment.
The answer is: no.
Let the pickup search continue.)

It was a good trip, because I got to say hello to a few cashmere people and see quite a few cashmere goats in the barn. They had an entry of about 50 goats; not bad! There were also a good many vendors of fibery goodness at the festival, which meant pleasant chats with the owner of a specialty spinning mill and a breeder of Gotland sheep (very interesting!) and a dyer and a felt artist and a woodworker and some knitters. And I bought two sets of sock needles and a packet of felting needles. And lunch!

Just noticed my rubber barn boots: glad it was cool and damp enough to wear them.
Disinfecting back at home is easy when I can just step into a basin of antiseptic.
I enjoyed a hot pork barbecue sandwich and homemade coleslaw on a bench across from a sheepdog demonstration, while another cashmere breeder told me about a recent conversation with her vet, who had asked about me by name. Kind of surprising since I haven't seen that vet in about 4 years. Possibly one of my naughty goats left a lasting impression?!

The rain held off until I was driving back home, which was perfect. And although the day was a marathon for me - over 5 hours of driving and 3 on my feet - evening chores were finished by dark. And after feeding Piper and Della and Moxie, I must have gotten right into bed and fallen asleep, because I don't remember anything after Piper's last treat. She will stand next to my bed and stare at me until that treat appears, and it seems unlikely she would ever allow me to fall asleep without producing it. Piper learned a long time ago that thumping the bed with her chin - repeatedly - is guaranteed to get a response.

So, that's my weekend! I hope yours has been good :)

I also hope you won't be too disappointed when you hear that Tsuga and Lily did not win the third level of the Chaffhaye competition. I was already in Vermont and not even aware of the voting until lovely Tanya of Bead and Needle sounded the alarm (thanks again, Tanya!). Then, since I couldn't access FB from my phone, I was unable to even vote for my own goats! But it wouldn't have mattered; there was a landslide victory for the picture of a cute goat wearing a Chaffhaye bag. So a sincere "thank you again" to everyone who supported Tsuga and Lily - very much appreciated. And don't worry; they don't seem at all concerned about maintaining their Amateur status in the Cute Department ;)