Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Pictorial

This has been a difficult year for many of us.
And that's all I'm going to say about it.

I hope these 12 images - one chosen from each month's posts - will bring a few smiles. Because there was much to appreciate and enjoy in my ordinary life, and I am happy to share with you.

Each caption is a link to the original post, if you feel like having a wander.













I hope we all have pleasant dreams tonight
and rise up to make a better world in 2018.


Thursday, December 28, 2017

up in smoke

Several small projects were part of the Construction Extravaganza right from the start, and others developed as part of the process. Here is one of the first category: the chimney.

This chimney was added to the house in 1939, if I remember correctly. (The date was recorded in concrete at the base of the chimney in the cellar. It's 8F right now. I'm not going into the cellar to check.)

13 Oct 2017: southeast corner

When I bought the house, the chimney was venting both a propane space heater in the parlor and a massive old propane kitchen range of which I think two burners were functional. I might have tried to have that range repaired, but the amount of space it occupied it this tiny house was hard to justify. Instead I decided to remove it and do without a stove until I could design a little kitchen and put in a wall oven. Looking back, if I had known that I'd be cooking in a toaster oven for a couple of decades before I could make the kitchen happen, I might have made a different decision! But it all worked out.

18 Oct: northwest corner.
Flashing and loose bricks removed.

When I was working in one of my first forest-related jobs, I bought my little woodstove: a Waterford, from Ireland. Friends from work helped move it into my parlor, and that was a learning experience for me: I learned that there are some tasks one should not allow friends to tackle, period. It was a good lesson.

19 Oct: chimney tile extended; spark arrestor standing by.

I almost changed my mind before buying the Waterford, because I was told I would have to put a liner in the chimney. But when I clambered up on the roof, I found that the chimney was lined with tile but for some reason the top tile was lower than the crown. So I put "add one tile to chimney" on my List. That was in the early 90s.

You've got to love a carpenter who has built chimneys.

Apart from cleaning the chimney every year that I burned wood, I did no other maintenance. The last few times I was perched on the roof performing acrobatic stunts with the comically wobbly chimney brush, I noticed mortar beginning to crack between a couple of bricks on the top row. So of course I added "clean and remortar loose bricks" to my List.

19 Oct: most of the work done

And last year I bought a nearly-new spark arrestor cap for $20 at a tag sale held by the local Animal Control facility. A very useful improvement, but it wasn't even ON my List, darn it!

26 Oct: work stopped by days of torrential rain.

When I knew I would have to reroof the house, the chimney tasks - tile, mortar, cap - were naturally included in that project. The repair and improvement was done before the metal roofing went on, and then the carpenter constructed a custom flashing for it, using the roofing material.

27 Oct: a wonder that rain left any leaves on the trees!

The chimney had a long rest in November, waiting for me to dismantle and clean the stovepipe in the parlor - always a dirty, back-aching, mess-making chore. This year I also had two helpers who would have been happy to track soot all through the house on their eight little feet. And I did it on my birthday - don't tell me I don't know how to have a good time! Or age gracefully!

Early the next morning I lit the fire.
Here is the first smoke rising through the "new" chimney:  

There hasn't been snow on that chimney since.
And there probably won't be til Spring.

Since I didn't burn wood last Winter (in the interest of keeping those eight little feet safe), I have a wonderful stockpile of seasoned stovewood this year. Some from my own property, a bit left over from the 2015 delivery, and this gorgeous truckload delivered last December by my Best Forester Friend:

Flashback: 2 December 2016
 I wish you could hear the sound of the wood tumbling!
It's like the happiest thunder in the world.

I always try to stay a full year ahead with stovewood, but don't always manage it. As this Winter approached, I felt quite comfortable if not actually smug. I'm expecting to burn a LOT of wood this year.
And I have a lot of wood to burn.

I'm rich! Rich, I tell you!

As cold as it's been already this year - minus 4F this morning and up to a rollicking 8F at noon - the stove has been kept well fed. I wonder how much of my massive stockpile will be left when Spring rolls around?


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

more snow

 Snow fell for many hours yesterday.

A lot of snow.

Beneath the new snow is a thick layer of ice, the result of an entire day of sleet falling on the remainder of an earlier snow. Winter came fast and hard this year.

I often say I would rather have two feet of snow than a half-inch of ice. Snow is mostly extra work and inconvenience, but ice can be dangerous. Ice covered by snow, even more so. When your feet suddenly go out from under you with no warning, there is nothing you can do to help yourself: you are going down, hard, on a surface like stone.

All a person can do is be careful: be aware of slopes and obstacles - like stones and stumps - now invisible beneath a blanket of snow, wear cleated boots to try to gain a little traction, and, as much as possible, shift one's weight side-to-side in the "penguin walk."

This will be the state of things here until we get a significant warm spell.
Could be next week.
Could be April.

That mess of wire Piper is standing behind is a temporary gate in a temporary fence. In late November, my Occasional Helper and I moved a short section of fenceline after the builder modified the route from driveway to back door; an offshoot of the portico project. In early December I bought two 6-foot-wide gates to install in the new fenceline, and the builder kindly brought his massive auger to dig the new post holes.

Unfortunately, in the race to get more critical things finished, we missed by one day the opportunity to do the post holes and hang the gates before the first big snow a couple of weeks ago. So now I'm pulling the two ends of the temporary fencing together and clipping it closed every time I go through. It's a bit awkward to deal with (the fencing is 6 feet high) and looks a mess, but it's a small inconvenience for giving Piper and Moxie and Della a safe "yard" to roam and play in every day. And the gates are standing by, looking reassuringly ready for installation whenever possible. Even if they stand idle til Spring, I'm glad they are already here; by the time I've written the last check for the Construction Extravaganza, I may not be buying anything but food for a long, long time.

Anyway, back to Piper. She came out with me yesterday and trotted around in the snow while I was doing chores. But when I let myself through the "gate" to clean snow off the Highlander, she had to stay inside the fence. Piper has been taking advantage of her hearing loss by racing away the moment she is off-lead, and ignoring my whistles and calls because she "didn't hear" me. Often she really can't, but she knows very well that running off into the woods behind our property or down into the road - yes, into the road! - is absolutely forbidden. And here's the kicker: from her puppyhood, I trained Piper simultaneously to hand signals as well as vocal commands. Well, now she deliberately avoids looking at me when she is off-lead, so she "can't see" my signals or hear my commands. While this may sound very funny, it has the not-at-all funny effect of a very smart dog on a suicide mission.

Not on my watch, Ms. Piper.

Dear Readers, I welcome suggestions on life-quality-enhancement techniques for a very smart dog with hearing loss!

I've recently begun buying bells - in fact, I bought every bell I could find at the Pat Brody Shelter sale - to try to determine which tones Piper can hear. I hope to find three different-sounding bells: one to carry in the woods when Piper is off-lead and I need to "reel her in," and one for each of the two house doors. It is very frustrating - for Piper, for me, for the goats, and perhaps for any neighbor within a quarter mile - when Piper is waiting to come in at one door while I am standing around the corner at the other, whistling and calling at the top of my lungs, while trying to keep two lithe cats from shooting out between my legs into the night. If Piper can hear the bells, a different tone at each door will solve the problem easily.
Whether the "reel her in" bell will work is more doubtful, even if there is always a treat waiting. But we'll start small. It's worth a good try!

The sun is coming up through the trees, so it's past time for me to get started on things. Since it's Boxing Day, perhaps I will spend a little time going through the boxes I asked the carpenter to hand down from the attic. Or maybe I'll make a Box Lunch and take Piper for a ramble in the snowy woods.

What a tough choice.

I'd better let Piper decide.

Monday, December 25, 2017

one moment

Here's to finding comfort and inspiration in moments of beauty,
however fleeting or unfocused.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

night lights

It's very icy here. We had an entire day of freezing rain yesterday, falling on the existing snowpack. I drove slowly to the feed store this morning, stopped for a quick look at two bucks on the way home, took Piper for a very brief walk in the woods, then came home with plans to Stay Put. More snow is predicted tonight and tomorrow, and it's very pleasant to think of the stockpile of hay, the crockpot full of soup, the supply of good dry stovewood, and just...being Home.

When I was doing the barn chores tonight, the moon briefly peeped out from amongst the branches of tall trees, and I took a quick picture:

After the third trip to fill goat water buckets, I decided to spend ten minutes doing something just for the joy it might bring:

Fairy lights strung between the workshop and the barn, visible from the porch. I am a simple person in many ways, and my thorough enjoyment of tiny colored lights is a very good example of this.

And in the parlor, yet another form of light:

I'm falling asleep at the keyboard, so...good night!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

snowy snaps

There have been several dustings and a couple of real snowstorms in the past two weeks, and it was snowing heavily at bedtime last night. I was awoken in the wee hours by the town snowplow: backing up (beep!-beep!-beep!-beep! shrieks the safety back-up warning), then scraping forward thirty feet, and then backing up again (beep!-beep!-beep!-beep!-beep!) on the road right across the bottom of my driveway. Several times. This is a new technique. What could it mean? I'm hopeful that the driver was creating a long spot for the school bus to pull over, and that a side benefit will be easy access to my letterbox.

Piper is very sad when she cannot collect her mail.

At the moment it's still dark outside, so I thought I'd share a few snowy images taken recently. I like to get outside when the sky is light but overcast, to enjoy the softer shades of Winter.

My eyes are extremely light-sensitive (when we did studies of white objects in art class, I had to wear sunglasses in the basement studio), so I really enjoy the feeling of being able to "dive into" colors without squinting.

The clarity of strong lateral light is also irresistible at this time of year:

And the fleeting dazzle!

The day is beginning, and it's time for me to do something about breakfast and opening doors, say Moxie and Della. The sky is a uniform dark grey; we may be in for more snow today. Piper and I will have to investigate the letterbox situation soon.

Here's hoping we all have a "special delivery" today :)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

and we're back

Della knitting a sock. Excellent form for a novice!

The laptop was delivered tonight. I was watching for the Fedex truck and skated out with a flashlight to meet the driver walking up the driveway before he could hit the icy spots. Don't want anyone dropping the laptop!

So far, I've only uploaded the 742 images on my camera (which shows considerable restraint, doesn't it?) and now I'm going to sleep. But I'll be catching up on blog-reading in the next few days, and will write and post some snaps soon.

I've missed you!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

brief very

I dropped my laptop a few days ago. Internetting through a cellphone the actual size of a credit card is...interesting. May not be much blog activity til laptop is repaired or replaced, but this (from tiny phone w terrible camera capability) is an experiment.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

a special saturday

A little while ago, I stepped out the east-facing back door and took this picture. If I'm awake in the wee hours of the morning, I will see the moon again through the west-facing window next to my pillow, and perhaps take more pictures. I often do. This sleeping on the porch idea is working out as beautifully as I had hoped.

Today marked the start of the Christmas season for me: the annual tag/bake sale benefiting the Pat Brody Shelter where I first met Kitty Rex, Moxie, and Della. This event is literally the only time I approach shopping with both happy anticipation and a complete absence of mental debate: if something takes my fancy, I buy it. This year I came home with a typically nifty collection of treasures. Suffice it to say, being able to buy two aged hammers and a homebaked apple pie at the same location is my idea of shopping success. I will post a few pictures in a day or two, when I unpack all my little bags and boxes. Right now, it's time for sleep.

Thanks, Pat Brody Shelter.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

fairies taking flight

When I was a child, we called milkweed seeds, floating through the air, "fairies."

If you gently caught one, you could make a wish
before setting it free to float away again.

As far as I know, there is no age limit on this.

Go forth and make wishes.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

one quick sketch

Daytime temperatures have been ranging from 15-40F this week - quite a shocking plummet from ~70F one week prior. I set up one of the bucket de-icers a few days ago; I think this may be a record for how early in the season I've done that.

At noon today it was 32F, not windy, and brightly sunny. I went outside with the cats - who zipped around maniacally and were probably quite warm - and Piper - who almost immediately turned around and stood at the door, waiting for it to open in the correct direction. I opened the door and she headed straight for her couch, which I must admit, does look rather appealing:

In the time it took to open the door for Piper and take this picture, both cats raced back inside, did a lap around the house, and then raced back outside again. Wheee!

My energy level is somewhere between the cats' and Piper's. I went back outside with one little pan of black watercolor paint, a waterbrush, and a little sketchbook. I tilted back in a chaise (which felt exactly like having an icepack on my back which was fine with me) and I painted this quick sketch looking up into a red oak:

My fingers were soon numb, so Moxie and Della and I came inside. They are already cozily asleep in pools of sunshine. I'm going to back outside to set up the second, slightly more complicated, bucket de-icer. Which will pretty much guarantee a return of warmer weather.
Here's hoping!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

in partes tres

The builders are away on another job this week, and I am using the time - and the quiet - to tackle other things and generally recharge. So this seems a good time for a little Construction Project 2017 report.

The whole project is actually divided - like Caesar's Gaul* - into three parts. Thinking of it this way helps me to keep the Overwhelm at bay. After all, Caesar supposedly dictated his commentary while riding his horse and conquering Gaul...I'm just trying to keep a roof over my head. Easy-peasy, right?
Even if the project is big enough to have Three Parts.

(There are also a few "small jobs" associated with the larger three, but progress on those separate items just feels like a big bonus.)


Part One - and the impetus for all the rest - is a necessity: repairing the roof. At a minimum, this meant removing two existing layers of shingles and the heavy tarpaper beneath, and putting down a new layer of wimpy modern tarpaper and a new layer of shingles. Instead, I went the extra mile and chose metal roofing instead of new shingles. Greater material costs and more skill required to do the job properly, weighed against anticipated longer roof-life and less (some say zero) concern about moss growth or ice-damming.

After the old roofing was removed, a layer of weatherproof plywood (the green you can see in the picture below) was added to create an even surface. Can you see the carefully fitted patchwork of boards in the original roof? This is my kind of building method, based on probable necessity and certain thrift. Most of my little house was built, from the studs to the roof, with previously-used lumber. Perhaps it was salvaged from the original farmhouse; I've always thought so.

The original roof boards were almost all in excellent shape; little replacement was needed. The light spot in the center of the image above is a new patch, where a large branch from a white pine had come straight down like a spear during a huge ice storm in...2008? 2010? Hang on, I'll find a snap.

Right through a one-inch-thick board.
That was quite a night.
The hole had been "temporarily" patched with metal the day after the storm, but it didn't leak so it stayed that way. I knew I'd be redoing the whole roof sooner or later.

Well, eventually.

Part I, current status: the house is 100% reroofed.


Now here comes an example of a "small job" related to the roof: the relocation of the Poultry Palace, built onto the southeast corner of the house a couple of decades ago by professional carpenters. I had hoped to be remove it either intact or in wall sections, and add it to one of the goat barns. The chickens spend most of their time in the goat barn anyway, and it would be a little easier for chores.

By the way, if you want to see how small your house really is,
put a couple of humans on the roof.

This was one of those "no problem" jobs that turned into a rather large-scale undertaking with four people and a tractor all working hard.
Mostly the tractor and operator. 

It turned out differently than expected, but the result is good. Or will be when it's done. Because now that is another "small" job. I'll try to get to it soon, but it's not a priority compared to the Big Three.


Part Two of the construction project is an extension of the roofing. Literally. I asked the builder to extend the roof so it continues 12 feet past the east end of the house, supported on a post at each outer corner. No walls, no floor. (I think this may be called a "portico," but if you have another word for it, please share.) Here, a Winter's-worth of firewood can be stored conveniently close to the back door. Piper, Moxie, Della, and I will have an option for getting fresh air at any time, night or day, without getting soaked in rain or swimming through deep snow.

Part II, current status: structural ~80%, roof 100%.

Piper loves it already!

This Winter, I may put up a clothesline.
If I can find one to reclaim, there may be a porch swing.
There may be a potting bench and...
an outdoor sink with freezeproof taps.

Which brings us to Part Three...and the end of this progress report.

Part III will begin when the carpenter returns next week.

And oh my gosh.
Part III is going to be a doozy.

*Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres, quarum unam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquitani, tertiam qui ipsorum lingua Celtae, nostra Galli appellantur.
"All Gaul is divided into three parts, one of which the Belgae inhabit, the Aquitani another, those who in their own language are called Celts, in ours Gauls, the third." 
- Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War)