Tuesday, November 28, 2023

november notes


Dara at the door.
If he comes in, I will put his collar on.
If he stays out, he will not have his breakfast.
It's a conundrum, isn't it, Dara?

For a couple of months, since I started feeding the goats individual pans of chaffhaye in lieu of hay either once or twice daily, I've been shifting the herd into a collar-and-tie routine; collaring and tying every goat, for every feed, in three small groups and in a very specific order to prevent fisticuffs. Patience has paid off, as it usually does in Goat World: bit by little bit, the process has become more streamlined. For several weeks, the morning feed was taking upwards of three hours. Just the feed; not hoof trimming or any other attention. Now it's generally a little more than two hours. One morning last week I was astonished when I went back into the house (for my own feed) and saw that the pans had taken less than two hours. My first thought was that I had somehow forgotten one group of goats. But no, it had just been an exceptionally efficient morning. Which has not been repeated. Yet.

This month we've had three light snows that stayed on the ground for at least one day. The most recent was ice pellets mixed with snow, and there was enough of it that working on the barn and Peace Pavilion roof had to be postponed until the coating of ice melted. Luckily for me, my Occasional Helper came by on the Friday after Thanksgiving and "brought a plate" as they say here. When I pointed out that the barn roof was finally clear, he offered to hop up and quickly rearrange the massive tarp that had been blown awry in the storm.
I enjoyed the turkey dinner tremendously, but having that brand-new sixty dollar tarp secured against damage to itself was a positive thrill.

There's always something interesting to see on morning chores.

Wild blackberry (Rubus) leaves at their most colorful:

Of course many colors are muted at this time of year,
but all the easier to admire the textures.
Like this bee balm seed head:

Lately the letterbox yields only bills and charity appeals, 
but seeing this milkweed pod lit by the morning sun 
made yesterday's trip to fetch the mail more than worthwhile:

Speaking of charity appeals, today is Giving Tuesday, when many charities receive a match for any donation made. I try to remember to make my annual donations on this day, to double their impact. Sometimes I forget and miss the day, so writing about it here is an effort to jog my own memory. Also, in case helpful to anyone.

And now out to the collars and ties. Later today my Occasional Helper's working hours are being reassigned from the barns to chauffeur me around. Because I need to get to the Registry of Motor Vehicles in order to renew my license. Ironic, no?

Have a lovely Tuesday!

Sunday, November 19, 2023


Just ordered my annual Christmas book for Occasional Helper's little girl. Shopping for a child's library is good fun, and I keep a running list of possibilities throughout the year and choose in November. 

November almost got away from me this year - it's all been a blur since August. Recent rumors of Thanksgiving caught my attention, and now I'm making another list, of Things To Be Done Before The Holidays.

Do you know about Bookshop.org? It's an excellent alternative to the behemoth online seller of books/everything. Bookshop.org was established solely to support independent bookstores, and it's worth a glance at their "About Us" page. Just a fine endeavor in every way. And as easy to use as any other online bookseller.

I now rely on audiobooks for 95% of my entertainment reading, and am fortunate in having online access to an excellent regional library system. But once or twice each year I treat myself to a special hardcover, sometimes an out-of-print book that I watch for on eBay, or something specific from a small publishing house or an academic press or a museum. I've had nothing but good experiences ordering from Blackwell's, which has been a great resource for such books, published in faraway magical places like South Africa and England.

Last year, my "treat" book was this heavily annotated reissue of "A Thousand Miles Up The Nile," by Amelia B. Edwards, the 19th-century English woman who created the Egypt Exploration Fund. It's a satisfyingly dense brick of a book, with two ribbon bookmarkers and many previously unpublished illustrations by Amelia Edwards. Just my cup of tea, especially for the long dark nights of Winter.

Do you own and acquire a lot of books? Is most of your reading for information or entertainment or a combination? Is your reading seasonal? Are there good libraries where you live?


Friday, November 17, 2023

the good news is

The good news is: I don't have to worry about mice in the truck anymore!

The less-good news is: I no longer have a truck.

I took the 2004 Highlander in for an inspection sticker last month, expecting to hear that I'd need new wipers or a parking brake cable or some such, and hoping it wouldn't be anything very costly. Instead, the mechanic who does the inspections came back in about 3 minutes, handed me the keys, and said, "You can't drive that." Apparently there was major deterioration beneath the rear half of the truck, and it wasn't safe to drive at all, even the 4 miles to get home.

Perhaps suspecting that I had every intention of driving home, the mechanic disappeared into the back and the owner, who I've known for many years, came out, offered me a ride home, and said that if I left the truck with him for a few days he would find time to put it on the lift and see what could be done. He knows I go to great lengths to keep my vehicles running as long as possible. Whenever I have to shop for a vehicle - a process I consider about as enjoyable as choosing health insurance - I always book a pre-purchase inspection at this garage. There is no point in buying something this fellow doesn't want to maintain.

Well, when I picked up the phone a few days late, I heard, "Start shopping. The front end is as bad as the back, and even if I could find parts, which is unlikely, the work would be prohibitively expensive."

Welcome to Massachusetts, land of salted roads in Winter, and rust all year round.

My default reaction when something breaks beyond repair, is to first step back and consider whether I really need a replacement at all. How much do I really need it? Can I get by without it? Sometimes "doing without" seems like the better choice, sometimes not; when the dishwasher broke, I didn't last a week.

For the past few weeks I've been alternating between an unenthusiastic online search for a replacement vehicle, and pondering whether I can get by without owning a vehicle. It's not a simple question.

I bought the Highlander for Piper in 2017. Here we are at the pond, about to embark upon one of our sketching hikes. Good times.


Sunday, November 12, 2023

recent markmaking

Roman glass

Owly eye

Pebble of the Day (twitter @GongFuPoet)

from one of vanGogh's pollarded trees

from (another) Harry Burton photograph
taken in Tutankhamun's tomb

Tiny ball of string.
Does everyone still have one of these in a drawer?


Red maple in late stage of life.
I relate.