Sunday, October 22, 2017

sunday snapshots

Sock in the works:

Sock in the works
on a tiny air mattress:

Sock in the works
on a tiny air mattress
in a huge stock tank.

With knitter.

With knitter
with hobbit feet!

A totally gorgeous day.

Since I could barely move this morning, I filled the stock tank with hot water while I tottered around doing the morning feeding. Then spent hours soaking, listening to Hugh Fraser narrate an Agatha Christie book, and knitting. Feeding Piper treats. Watching Moxie and Della pop up from the ferns than plunge back in with a suddenness that did not bode well for chipmunks or mice.

I'm still in pretty rough shape, but will probably be able to get to sleep tonight, thank goodness. And it certainly was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

Hope your weekend was wonderful :)

Saturday, October 21, 2017

ginger beer for supper

Tsuga enjoying a black birch sapling, delivered fresh to the paddock.

Thursday and Friday were perfect days for outdoor work. And it's great to have a builder who is happy to add little bits and pieces to his work plan as time permits. Thursday, for example, when my Occasional Helper was here removing fenceposts for relocation, Builder Matt didn't mind taking a few minutes to use his front end loader to lift out a couple of posts that wouldn't budge.

Yesterday, when the tractor was going to be idle for a while, I asked if Matt would park it by a pile of wood and stone that has been a thorn in my side for a few years. It's one of the most frustrating kinds of mess: the ones created and left by previous hired workers. Part of this one was my fault, because I had covered some firewood with what I thought was a tarp but which turned out to be a "pool cover" that disintegrated, shedding fragments of plastic which rendered the wood unburnable. But while I was figuring out what to do with that pile, a barn-builder with a skidder pushed thousands of pounds of old foundation stones into it.

What. A. Jumbled. Mess.

Since the new fenceline will run right through the center of that mess, yesterday I took a deep cleansing breath and began dismantling it. I pulled out individual pieces of wood, tried to brush off every bit of plastic into a rubbish container (on the left in the picture below), then added the wood to the tractor bucket (on the right, below). Whenever I came to a rock buried in the pile, I pulled it loose, picked it up and carried it to a corner of the fence.

Then, when Matt had a free moment, he drove his tractor  about 30 feet to unload the wood. I had outlined a space with sections of a white birch that had been too decayed for stovewood when the tree was taken down two years ago. It was a big tree, and even decayed sections were heavy. But it was worth the effort, because just like that (imagine finger-snapping there) I've got the base of my second Very Raised Bed. VRB2 was very much a backburnered project, due to the intensity of labor required. Having a tractor available to make one part of the process much easier was an opportunity not to be squandered.

I carried quite a few rocks, and filled the bucket with wood twice, but Matt eventually needed his tractor for the main job. I'm probably only halfway through the pile but it's a good start. I have to admit that after a couple of hours, it was really clear to me why I don't attempt this kind of thing anymore. Between the wood and the stones and later wrestling alone with rolled sections of 6-foot fence to temporarily block off a 50-foot opening so the cats can go outside this weekend...

I feel a lot like this squash leaf, but with less color:

It's been a productive week, and lots of good work has been done by the builders, with lots more to come. This is really a three-part project - not counting the little things that come up along the way, or the planned "20 minute" task that took nearly four hours and all hands on deck. I've got more research and decision-making ahead this weekend, but today I made my usual Saturday morning trip to the dump and the library, and that may be IT. I am exhausted, and all I want to do this afternoon is sip cold ginger beer and watch the cats climb through piles of roofing detritus while the autumn sun shines gently through the trees.

I hope your weekend is off to a great start!
Is anyone going to Rhinebeck? Usually right about now I'd be feeling a twinge of wish-I-could-be-there, but right now if I was magically transported to Rhinebeck I would probably be flat out on the ground, moving only enough to eat fried artichokes while watching sheepdog demonstrations.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

roof, day two

You may be asking, "What happened to Day One?"
and that would be a very reasonable question.
The answer is, I fell asleep immediately after supper.
It wasn't even dark yet.

I don't know why I was so tired! Unlike the porch job, when I opted to do all the clean-up myself and reclaimed lots of lumber for smaller projects, this time there will be no reusable materials. None at all. Strange but true. So I had the full clean-up rolled into the estimate for the job.

Which means that - apart from frequent discussions with Carpenter Matt about which way I prefer to do some particular thing which will impact the way other particular things will be done farther down the line - I have nothing to do.

Getting the lowdown on combining new and original materials.
Is the perspective puzzling?
Matt is on the roof of the Poultry Palace and I'm on the ladder at the gable peak of the house.

I'm not even doing my own outdoor projects, despite great weather. Instead I've been spending most of the day in the house, hoping to be a comforting presence. I underestimated how much Moxie and Della were going to be upset by the noise and activity. Very very very upset. So I've been puttering a bit. Yesterday I made a big pot of baked beans, and also (finally!) wove the ends in on a knitted sleeveless sweater I plan to donate to the hospice shop. Knitting detour snapshot:

I wanted to make this popular pattern - called Shalom - for ages, and it was fun and turned out very comfy and nice. But when I put it on, it also turned out to be "not me." I hope someone buys it for a few dollars at the hospice thrift shop and enjoys it for years!

End of knitting detour.
Back to the roofing project.

Like the cats, the goats aren't happy about the kerfuffle. But with the weather so nice, they can wander and snooze in the sun and go to the farther end of the Upper West Side and feel more relaxed. Or so I thought until I found this in the clubhouse under the stilt barn. It's possible the herd is planning an escape!

I hope they bring me back something nice.

Piper is the only one not troubled, and I really think her increased hearing loss is working in her favor this time. Even the compressor for the nail gun doesn't disrupt her nap schedule. She walked with me to collect the mail today and we had this view from the Lower West Side:

Which contrasted pretty nicely with the view at the house: 

But isn't this a clever system? Starting by using the plywood roofing sheets to protect the exterior walls while sliding the old roofing materials to the ground. And covering the ground with heavy packing wrap recycled from the lumberyard to later gather everything for appropriate disposal.
I think these fellows have done this before.

On to Day Three!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

in the works

Guess who's coming back.

Last year I decided that 2017 must be The Year of the Roof.
My insurance company concurs.

After the very successful porch renovation project almost exactly three years ago - can you believe it? I had to check the date twice, but I started taking down the screenwalls in November 2014! - I definitely wanted the same Excellent Carpenter for this next major job.

Stepping back to 2014 for a moment:

my first carpenter/handyperson had to stop partway into the porch reno project due to the onset of severe carpal tunnel issues. (Happy ending: after months of waiting for an appointment, he ultimately had surgery and was completely relieved of all pain! Huzzah!) And meanwhile I was unbelievably lucky to find the Excellent Carpenter who was willing to step in and get the porch buttoned up in a very short timeframe.
And beautifully.


Okay, back to 2017.

When we spoke in March, the carpenter told me his first available slot would be sometime in October, and I said, "Please pencil me in. No, use INK." And as good as his word, he came out on the 5th to discuss details, as there is actually more to this project than replacing shingles or even replacing the roof. I've been doing a lot of planning and pricing and pondering and running around ever since. There have been unrelated complications: my vehicle was in the shop three separate days; medical issues (human, canine, feline, and caprine); and my Occasional Helper and I have had mostly out-of-sync schedules. Also, migraines. Oh well.

But after that meeting on the 5th, and some back-and-forth on the phone, and a follow-up visit at 7AM on this past Friday for final measurements, enough decisions have been made to Get On With Things. Tomorrow evening at 4:45 the carpenter and I are going to meet at my Town Hall (the Building Inspector has only 2 office hours/week) and apply to pull a Permit so work can begin on Tuesday.


Unless there's a problem with getting the Permit. There shouldn't be. But I mentioned the time so you can send good vibes if you happen to think of it. 5PM Eastern time. Thanks.

"Pull a permit" odd expression, isn't it? For filling out a form, presenting a plan that complies with local codes, and writing a check to the town? Tell me, do you need permission to replace, remodel, build anything over a certain size, where you live? If so, what is that process called? Are you also pulling something?

So, on we go. There will be lots of process/progress updates on this somewhat scarily major project. Hopefully beginning Tuesday!

Meanwhile, looking back on a moment of calm, Friday evening:

 Actually, it was more like two hours of calm.
In a stocktank filled with hot water.
Spa 2.0


Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

rather wordy wednesday

New England asters!

Well, you know what this means...

1) Found the camera!
2) It is now Autumn!

Autumn is not a sad time for me, though I understand why many see it that way.
I feel it more as a beginning than an ending.

There's certainly plenty going on in the plant world.
Some plants are just beginning to blossom for the first time:

Others, like this Queen Anne's Lace,
are already investing most of their energy in the future:

Plants influence my daily activities in many ways. Collecting seeds. Arranging for the goats' food supply. Watching the candy roaster squash grow, and planning where to store them if they make it to storing size.

A new experiment: biting insects arrive before the jewelweed in the Spring, so next year I'm hoping jewelweed in the form of ice cubes will provide similar itch-relief as the fresh plants. Do me a favor? Next Spring, when I mention the blackflies and mosquitoes, please remind me that I did this. It is entirely possible I will forget what those little brown blocks are, tucked away in the freezer.

Speaking of the freezer, early Autumn is also the gastronomically interesting time when I try to identify and eat everything left in the chest freezer - lots of soups and berries this year - prior to defrosting and cleaning.

 All in preparation season!

I love Autumn.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


I've misplaced my camera. This is a rare occurrence, as I use it so often. By comparison, I misplace my cellphone every couple of weeks, and after a quick search, just wait to stumble over it somewhere. Not having the cellphone at hand is just a slight inconvenience.

But without a camera, my ability to communicate feels oddly restricted; like losing the power of speech. The camera is here at home, I think, and will likely be found soon - so fortunately, it's like losing the power of speech due to dental novacaine.

This morning I looked through the most recently downloaded images, hoping for a clue as to where I might have taken the camera next. No clue.

But I did find an image from a few days ago that seems appropriate for this post.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

thankful thursday

candy roaster squash, yesterday

candy roaster squash, today

The weather broke today, thank goodness and all the gods.

The past week has been very hot and stultifyingly humid, both day and night.
A/C cranking. Three fans in the house instead of the usual two, so Piper could have her own fan at night. By the third day of higher than 90 percent humidity, I had turned on the industrial-strength fans in the barns.

After morning chores which left me dripping sweat no matter slowly I moved - and believe me, I can move slowly - I sought respite in my spa.

My spa is an inflatable tub that you might think looks like a toddler wading pool in the shape of a bathtub, but it's NOT. It's a SPA. It says so right on the box.

Piper doesn't like it.
Here is the look on Piper's face when I am in the spa:

If you look closely, you'll see that Piper's concern at my insanely dangerous behavior does not interfere with her enjoying a good roll in the leaves.

There is a sort of cover that zips up across the top (another indication that this is not just some flimsy toy paddling pool, oh no), which helps if a person or an adventurous little cat requires a surface.

Moxie could tell right away that it's a spa.
Let the self-care begin!

A couple of times, I painted the scenery:

Once, I worked on a sock:

But today, this gloriously clear and fresh and fabulous day, all the windows in the house were open again and working outdoors was a pleasure. And Ms. Piper could enjoy rolling in the leaves without the nagging concern in the back of her mind:

if a human melts away into water and never come out again,
who will open the cans of food?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

reflecting on summer

At the grocery store it suddenly hit me:
I haven't tasted watermelon even once this year, and it's nearly apple season!

We didn't have a Summer this year in my neck of the woods. We really didn't. What we had was a Mud Season that went on and on and on, and simultaneously became what is known in Massachusetts as "wick-id haht." All the paddocks have been awfully wet, and the little barn paddock never dried out - ever! It's still muddy and slippery despite the hay "stepping stones" I recently threw down in desperation so I could get to the various shelters and feeders with less risk of falling. Like their goatherd, the goats also step carefully from spot to spot on the hay, and not because they are silly or "spoiled," in fact, just the opposite. These goats have the survival sense to try to keep their feet from becoming diseased due to constant exposure to moisture. And I appreciate this trait, because although I do my best to keep up with frequent checks and trims, if we get all the way to Winter with healthy hooves this year it will be some kind of miracle.

Campion feels that his hooves are PERFECT and he would appreciate it if I would please STOP checking and trimming because it involves a human (me) Touching His Feet! UGH!!

Continuing with the theme "Summer, Lack Of": a few words about the gardens. if you've been reading Comptonia for more than a year - and I know some of you have been reading it since the beginning for which I thank you very much - you know I put a lot of determined effort into growing as much of my own food as possible. It's important to me economically and from a health perspective.

Well, if I was genuinely dependent upon what I grow to get me through the Winter, this is without doubt the Winter I would starve. The relentlessly rainy months made planting difficult for the gardener, and growing a challenge for the plants. After finally managing to plant - and trellis - about 40 feet of pole bean rows, I harvested a total of two and a half handfuls - literally - of beans this year. The okra is about a foot high now. My fingers are crossed for the Candy Roaster squash which are currently in valiant flower, as are the Suyo Long cucumbers. If you look closely, you may see a tiny cucumber on this vine:

Even the hardy perennial flowers have struggled, and I've been sketching and painting here at home more often than in the woods this year, in appreciation. Below are a few days from #DrawingAugust, each done either just before or just after a rainstorm, in a little spot between the perennial gardens and the stilt barn.

This folding chair has been kept in the stilt barn, dusty but dry,
and ready to set up for a quick session with watercolors or pen:

If you were sitting in that folding chair and looked down by your feet,
you would see these violet leaves:

If you then turned your head slightly to the left, your eye-level view would be a wild tangle of hyssop, bee balm, and goldenrod:

When the mosquitoes forced your retreat to the porch,
you might endure them for one more minute while you stand and dab a watercolor sketch of this unidentified butterfly enjoying the bee balm:

Even though it hasn't been a Summer, these past few months have provided occasional sunny moments and, eventually, precious and colorful flowers for which I am deeply grateful. More than once a drenched but stalwart daylily was the highlight of morning and evening chores.

And in case you missed it in the picture above, here is a closer look at a tiny cucumber with flower still attached, tucked back behind the stem:

Fingers crossed!


Just a quick blogistics note...

When I put up a new post, I usually respond to comments on the previous post at the same time. My internetting has been in fits and starts recently, so this may mean a lengthy delay between your comment and my response - sorry!

Comments are one of the best parts of blogging, and according to the blog stats, I receive an average of roughly one comment per 100 pageviews - you folks are a quiet lot! I do try to stay in touch either through comments on your blogs, or here. I just want you to know you may have to look back to the prior post for a response to a comment you've made on Comptonia.

Does that make sense?
I hope so.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

goats for sale

Every once in a while someone contacts me through the blog
to ask if I sell cashmere goats.

Yes and no. I don't breed with an eye to selling stock - if I did, I would be routinely breeding all my does, which I don't - so I rarely have goats to sell. But right now I do. So I thought I'd just mention it here in case anyone is interested or would like to pass the information along.

I know each of my goats very well, and am happy to provide my opinion on which goats would be suitable for a particular home and "job"...such as invasive plant control, giving a handspinner some very nice fiber to play with, or providing companionship and entertainment.

My email address is linked in my profile, and is the easiest way to send specific questions about my goats. For general information about cashmere and caring for cashmere goats, this link to the Cashmere Goat Association website is very helpful.



Sunday, August 27, 2017

gone and back again

An exciting thing happened Monday.
No, not the eclipse.
The reappearance of this character:

Zebra Mouse.

Last Autumn, Della found it. All by herself. I had never seen it before - I can only guess it was in the bottom of the little bag of treats sent along by the shelter. It became Della's very own special toy. Moxie played with lots of things; Della played with Zebra Mouse. It was very little - as was Della - and it was fuzzy with bright white stripes and a tail made of curly feathers. By November, when the picture above was taken, Zebra Mouse had clearly been through the wars. I was rather touched when Della surprised me by placing it on my keyboard, inviting me into the game.
(I'm not much good at sports, but it is true that I can throw a stuffed mouse farther than anyone else in this house.)

Then - cue dramatic music - one day last Winter, Zebra Mouse disappeared.
Della didn't know where it was. Moxie didn't either.
Sweeping and vacuuming were futile - I tried! And I asked my Occasional Helper to please keep an eye out for a small, ratty-looking, greyish lump.

But months and months went by...

...and Monday, Zebra Mouse was back. On the carpet in the middle of the parlor floor. A couple of feet away from Moxie, who was not playing with it. She never had.
I think Moxie found it for Della.

Mox is very talented at finding things. In this picture, she has found a tiny frog*:

Moxie has been eating a little better, and being a little bit more active for short periods of time. I think she devoted one burst of energy to fishing Zebra Mouse out of whatever crack in the universe it had fallen into.

And oh my gosh, the excitement level around here has skyrocketed! These pictures are blurry because Della is in constant motion. Constant, happy motion.

 Thanks, Moxie!

Now, the other disappearance/reappearance of Monday.
I had no special plans for watching the eclipse, but about five minutes before it began to be visible in my neck of the woods, I made a little camera obscura with a cardboard box, and went out to the garden by the south paddock. Here's what the sun looked like in the box, just before the eclipse:

The sky clouded up just as the actual eclipse was beginning. So I stopped stumbling around with my face stuck in a box, and turned to see this:

Fern, watching my performance.
Unimpressed by eclipse.
Wondering if there's something good to eat in that box.

We've had some really nice weather this past week, so I've been mostly off the computer and outdoors: taking Piper to the woods, catching up on a few outdoor chores, and painting a little. Trying to cram as much "Summer" as possible into every non-raining day. Still plenty of mosquitoes, so it feels authentic.

I hope you all had a great week - here's to the one ahead!

*I rescued the frog.