Sunday, July 31, 2016

bye july

Intermittent light rain today!
I am so grateful. Heat and humidity have been almost relentless since May, and it's been dry, dry, dry.
So dry that in the week before July 4th, I called the police four times to report that thoughtless people (a bit of serious editing there, readers) were repeatedly setting off illegal fireworks near my place. Curmudgeon? Maybe. But the forest didn't burn and my barns are intact.

Speaking of barns, a couple of weeks ago I went out before dawn - the best time to do "extra" chores in this weather - to set up a big fan in the goat barn. The fan is part of a large haul of goodies bought at a farm sale last Autumn. It had been stored safely out of goats' reach in the little stilt barn, hanging from two nails in a rafter. Retrieving it meant teetering on a stepstool while keeping one eye on LeShodu, Betula and Acer - the three biggest goats in the herd - who had been sleeping in the stilt barn til I showed up to entertain them. Each was capable of bumping me off that stool with a gentle "whatcha doin'?" nose-nudge.

Do you find it a bit unnerving when you need all your strength to wrestle with something that's over your head? That big box in the loft, that suitcase jammed onto a closet shelf? It's like a dog chasing a car: when you finally get hold of that thing, will you really be able to control it?

I managed to hang onto the fan and get off the stool without mishap, mostly because even in the relative "cool" before sun-up, the goats were too lethargic to help. This endlessly muggy weather makes the goats either lethargic or cranky. Same here, goats, same here. I move even more slowly than usual, if you can imagine it. And there's been a lot more swearing when things don't go smoothly. (Please don't imagine that second part.)

In the big barn, I attached a piece of stock panel at an angle across one stall to keep the goats away from the fan, then opened the west door of the barn. Campion was the first to investigate:

Followed by Dara and Vinca. By the way, these are both goatcam shots. I kept an eye on things from the house, to be sure my barrier was working. As soon as I was out of the barn, Campion tried to tear the stock panel down, but was unsuccessful. This was a big victory for me; sometimes it takes two or three tries to Campion-proof something. He is tenacious!

The fan isn't on all the time, but when the air is hot and thick and humid, it certainly helps to keep a little air moving through the barn. And I hope it's helping keep the biting flies out as well.

So far this summer, there have been only three days when the gardens have not needed watering. There are hoses set up to reach the big gardens but every evening after regular chores I've been carrying buckets of water to a few small garden areas beyond reach of the hoses. A couple of days ago I broke down and bought one more hundred-foot section. (After extensive research last year, I invested in several sections of 100% rubber hose. And I do mean "invested;" these hoses will be specifically mentioned in my Will.) Money well spent. What a thrill to have that hose carrying the water for me! Simple tools often provide miraculous results.

Here's another miraculous thing: the vegetable plants are beginning to produce. 

French filet pole beans

In the past ten days I have appreciated the first pole beans, summer squash, and cucumber. The winter squash plants are now climbing to the top of the six-foot fence, and at the other end of the spectrum, the tiny okra plants are putting out new leaves. I may not have the abundant harvest I had hoped to put by for Winter, but I am very grateful to have fresh, organic vegetables right now.

Ronde de Nice squash
And tonight I think I can skip watering the gardens.

Piper visited the doggy spa last week, where she is very popular and always has a swell time. Usually she has a professional bath in the Spring and Autumn, but this was an extra trip; the equivalent of buying new jimjams for a hospital stay.

Piper's doctor felt a couple of molars were giving her trouble and should probably be removed. To be honest, I was hesitant; Piper wasn't off her grub at all and showed no signs of discomfort. And as boisterous as Piper is  - and as much as I am in total denial about this - she is not a youngster. Anesthesia always carries a risk.

But I did the responsible thing: trusted my vet and scheduled dental surgery this past Wednesday. It was two hours of surgery in the morning, and poor Pip was feeling peculiar and a bit wobbly when I brought her home late that afternoon. She is feeling much more herself now, but we're still taking things more quietly than usual. I'm hoping we'll be back out for little strolls in the woods this week.

typical provisions for Adventures with Piper
What are you planning for the coming week?
Can you believe it will be August?

Sunday, July 24, 2016


There was a tiny intermittent breeze this afternoon! For the first time in many weeks, I dragged a chaise into the Upper West Side paddock and plunked it down in a shady spot. Then I took out my knitting.

This is a sort of mindless knitting project; so far, it's just a big tube of knit knit knit knit knit. It's a perfect thing to pick up for a few minutes at the end of a tiring day. I can knit this with my eyes closed, and often do.

It began as an effort to use up several single-skein cotton yarns
that have been sitting in my stash for a while.
Unused. Unplanned-for. What a waste!
So I'm just having fun. Making it up as I go along.

I think it's going to be a reversible summer top.
I'm pretty sure it will be reversible;
less sure that it will be a wearable top.
It could be a pillow. Or a towel.
We'll see.

It's an experiment.

And like most experimental work, it has advisers.


Saturday, July 23, 2016


Just a quick word to thank Maywyn and Mike and Umme Yusuf for their helpful comments regarding image software. After following up with some online reading and general poking around, I am experimenting with the free version of Zoner Photo Studio. I may end up starting from scratch with different software, but for now this seems to be working. Of course there will be the customary "learning curve." With image software, part of this process always seems to be figuring out where the heck things are going.

I'm trying to be patient and methodical in shifting files from the old laptop to the new, so that nothing is lost. In my previous switch - no wait, it was probably three laptops ago - I misplaced all the images from a trip to France, which is rather sad because it was my first and very likely only visit there. But hope springs eternal, and I keep a happy thought for someday discovering those images in a buried folder labelled "Charts" instead of "Chartres" or some such.

Piper and I actually got into the woods before it became unbearably hot today - hooray! We spent a couple of hours by a little streambed - now nearly dry - where a lot of DrawingAugust2015 took place.

No actual drawing occurred today, but I like to think that feeding Piper treats and watching water bugs and listening to the sounds of the forest was "mental preparation" for DrawingAugust2016.

Anyone feel like joining in?

It's very good fun!

Friday, July 22, 2016

a little something for everyone

As promised, the results of the giveaway giveaway!
There were 15 commenters:

And the random sequence generator says:

So...the winner of the Kiva gift card is Thistle Cove Farm!

Congratulations and thank you for your comment, Sandra!
I hope you will enjoy your first Kiva experience :)

And I know it isn't the same as winning a giveaway, but for all the commenters - and indeed for all the silent readers of Comptonia (who I dearly hope will someday say hello!), I'd like to share two special images. I hope you enjoy them.

The first is a hummingbird moth!

 If you've ever seen one of these gentle furry creatures you can imagine how thrilled I was to find this one - called a Snowberry Clearwing, believe it or not! Did Tolkien name it? - enjoying the bee balm yesterday.

And only moments later:


Have a marvelous day, everyone!
Really. Let's all look around and find something to marvel at :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

wordy wednesday

The weather has lightened up, and everyone is enjoying it.
It's sunny, and it's hot. But not stultifyingly humid.
And there's an occasional breeze.
The air is breathable.


Betula had been basking in the sun, but when he saw me walking up from the garden, he got up and walked down to meet me halfway.

 LeShodu naturally assumed that I would walk to her.
She is rarely mistaken.

We had a brief but heavy rain one evening,
and the corn is higher than my knees at last:

The corn - it's organic popcorn, actually! - 
still has a long way to go.
But the summer squash is coming along:


In very "other" news, I'm in the process of switching to a new laptop. It's a necessary step - overdue, really - but now I must get it done because the tiny laptop needs to go away for repair ASAP. I've been switching over for a week now, bit by bit.

I am not going to make you look at pictures of a laptop.

Look, pumpkin leaves! Aren't they glorious?

I'll talk about the laptops though. Two big hurdles are: getting the goatcams talking to the new laptop, and finding a replacement for Picasa, which I've been happy with as an image manager (mostly) and editor (a bit), but which Google cut loose a while ago. Oh, Google. You are a blister at times.

I do so little "post-processing" of images, I have no need of PhotoShop. And I don't want my images in "the cloud" so I'm not even looking at Google's "replacement" for Picasa.

FastStone was recommended but doesn't seem to have keyword tagging. Tagging is a feature I need at this point; otherwise I will never find anything when I want it. Ideally, I need to find software that will not only offer tagging but which will read the tags on tens of thousands of images already tagged in Picasa.

What are y'all using? Any software suggestions will be much appreciated!

Hurdle 2: the goatcams are critical to my peace of mind; no exaggeration. There's just no calculating how many unnecessary trips to the barns and paddocks they've prevented, especially in the middle of the night. Nor how many times I've gone out with a flashlight because a goatcam let me know there was something genuinely amiss. They've certainly saved at least one life.

After many hair-tearing failures this week, I managed to get one of the cameras talking to the new laptop this afternoon. I have such a headache now, I'm going to rest on that one scrawny laurel til tomorrow, when I'll tackle the second camera again.

And speaking of tomorrow, it's the Giveaway Giveaway! I just discovered that I did not put a time on the random drawing, so to be fair, I will keep entries open til midnight Eastern Time on Thursday, and will draw and post the winner on Friday. That means there's still time to share, so please do...this is just a tiny giveaway, but the more people who hear about Kiva, the better our world may be :)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

sunday snaps

Piper and I were determined to get into the woods today.
I packed water, snacks, and the camera.
And a special rawhide chew in case Piper was Extra Good.

It was very hot and humid. We didn't walk far.
Piper wasn't even interested in running way ahead.
Or running in circles around me.

Or running.

And as soon as I chose a spot and took off my pack,
she carefully chose a spot also.

Look at that draped tail.
Too humid to wag!

Not too humid to roll though!


But just one good shake and she's re-styled.

We stayed on a slope by the pond for a long time.
So long, a few birds began to land in nearby trees.
 This bird perched high overhead.
I have no idea what kind of bird it is - do you?

 I think it may have been bathing,
and flew onto the branch to fluff and dry.

It took much longer than Piper to style it's look.
For that matter, it took longer than I do.
"Obviously! Just look at your hair!"

Why, is it full of twigs?
Because I've been walking though high bushes? 

I didn't take many, because it's such an important wildlife food.
But...I couldn't resist a few.


I hope your weekend contained some Extra Good bits.
As good as highbush blueberries.
And even better than rawhide chews.

Let's hold on to the good moments.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

giveaway giveaway

It's been a while since there's been a Comptonia giveaway, and I've been trying for over a week to come up with a good idea. Yarn? Could do. A book? Maybe. But with so much tension and upheaval going on in the wider-than-my-world, I wanted to do something that would feel a little special. A little uplifting.

A little positive for goodness' sake.

It took a while, but then...light dawned!

I emailed a question, and Kiva emailed right back
and said, "Good idea!" so here we go.

Are you familiar with Kiva? Since 2005, this non-profit group has funded microloans all over the world by combining donations of $25 or more. Donors choose a loan they wish to contribute to, and after that loan is repaid, a donor can re-loan the original donation to another borrower!

All the screenshots are from the Kiva website.
They are nice images; left-click to embiggen.

I. Love. Kiva.

I love the fact that 100% of every donation goes to funding a loan. There is a separate option for donating to Kiva admin costs. This is brilliant. A $25 lender does not have to wonder how many of those dollars are really going to the designated borrower, because ALL the dollars are going there.

I love that Kiva does such a great job of making this program work. The repayment rate is 97.1%. That's due diligence, that is.

I love that more than 2 million loans have been made, in 83 countries, by 1.5 million lenders, to the tune of over 800 million dollars. Oh, and Kiva has a top rating on Charity Navigator.

It's an unusual experience, making a Kiva donation. Reading the borrower information is a tiny, unique window on ordinary lives around the world. There's much I wouldn't have imagined. And much as familiar as the view from my porch.

Maybe a cooperative group of farming women in Vietnam are adding to their small breeding herd of pigs. Or cattle. Or goats. Maybe an urban taxi driver needs to repair the vehicle that supports an extended family, or a shop owner needs enough capital to begin purchasing products at a lower bulk rate. Maybe someone is planting apple trees in Moldova, or growing a business in California. 

The Kiva website offers simple filters to help a donor find the loan they wish to support. Some search filters are geographical. Some filter by the purpose of the loan - such as agriculture, or retail business, or clean energy - or by characteristics of the borrower: elderly, single parent, individual/group, etc.

So, okay...
this is all very interesting, but what happened to the giveaway? Have you forgotten the giveaway? The one I mentioned waaaay up at the top of this post?

It's a $25 Kiva Gift Card
(purchased by me)
for the winner to donate to your Kiva loan of choice.
It's a giveaway giveaway :)

Yay! Right?

If you have already donated to Kiva, the $25 will be added to your account. If you are new to Kiva, redeeming the gift card will set up your account. And in case you have concerns: in my experience, Kiva does not pester donors. I get an email periodically to let me know when a loan has received repayments, so I know when I have enough funds available to donate again - that's about it. And that's actually pretty nice.

So if you want your name in the hat for this giveaway, just leave a comment. Any comment will do, but if you feel like sharing something joyful, that will be appreciated by me and every reader who comments after you, I'm sure.

Feel free to share this giveaway, in any way you like. It's open to anyone on the planet, or on the International Space Station.

I'll do the random number thing next Thursday, the 21th.

Good luck!


Monday, July 4, 2016

happy day of your choice

Thank you for your kind comments on my little ink drawings - I really appreciate your encouragement. I haven't done much drawing since I was a youngster, and more or less stopped completely as I became a photographer. Come to think of it, before #DrawingAugust2015, my last attempt at drawing or painting was an intensive week-long class at a museum school. It was intense; drawing all morning and painting all afternoon. The funny part is, I was taking classes because my first photography show was coming up and I wanted access to the museum's darkroom. That's where I was at night!

Ancient history. Or herstory.

But now, just picking up a pen or (exciting! new!) watercolor pencils and playing around is probably a good habit for me to try to develop. It both requires and allows the kind of focus that puts every recirculating thought - big or small, but nagging, all - out of my mind for a little while.

The perpetual Task List.
The neighbors with their illegal fireworks.
Whether Piper needs a dental appointment.
If an affordable vehicle will miraculously appear.
And if so, will it be before my car implodes?

And so on.


when a half-hour walk over hill and dale
with a happy companion...

takes you to a studio that looks like this...

and you've remembered to bring insect repellent,
a water bottle, and treats for the mid-sketching game of

"Waaaait....go FIND it!"...

"This is the Waaaait part! Look how good I am at this!"

well, it's a gift to spend 15 minutes or so in quiet focus.

On a little plant next to your knee, say.

And even if you have to get back up and walk again,

before you can sit a little while longer...

It's all good.

Piper says so! 

If you celebrate Independence Day,
I hope you are having a good one!

And if you don't celebrate the Fourth of July, perhaps you might consider celebrating Piper Day? It's a floating holiday, comes around as often as you like, and is suitable for celebrating in all sorts of happymaking ways :)

"Everybody loves Piper Day!"