Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 pictorial














Monday, December 30, 2019

stormy monday

accurate colors of this morning

We are in the middle of another long bout of freezing rain, which began yesterday evening, went on all night, and got heavier just before dawn today. I am hoping very hard that the wind doesn't pick up and cause a lot of tree damage. There is still snow on the ground, which suggests to me that the air temperature must be hovering near freezing point. A sander truck went by earlier.

birds through a rain-spotted window

Yesterday the ice cleats came out for the first time this year. In a typical Winter, cleats are only needed on certain days, so I like to keep one pair of old boots cleated. That way I don't have to struggle with pulling cleats on and off my everyday boots every time I'm taking Piper for a walk along the road or driving somewhere or even coming in or out of the house while doing chores - cleats on flooring are both destructive and dangerously slippery. But this winter I don't have an old pair of boots to keep the cleats on, so yesterday I bought a pair of $30 boots just for this purpose. It was a reluctant purchase; the boots were made in China and I feel so miserable about not trying harder to find an alternative from Not China, that I may just return them unworn. At the moment they are still in their box in their shopping bag. For today at least, the cleats will stay on my everyday boots. Piper and I are going nowhere, and I'll try to pile everything needed for chores near the door so I won't have to come back inside until everything is done.

In other news, a return to a fiber-rich daily diet is about to commence.
Details will be forthcoming in January.

Expect many, many details.

I hope you are having a slightly-less-grey day wherever you are today!
Here's to the week ahead.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

reaching for the light

A watercolor impression of Heliconia estherae
from a photograph by Axel Dalberg Poulsen, a tropical forest botanist studying
the taxonomy and evolution of gingers.
Heliconia estherae is now known in the wild in only two municipalities in Columbia; Dr. Poulsen's photograph was taken in the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

We may not be a tropical zone here in Massachusetts,
but the daylight is lengthening:

Do you ever use SunriseSunset.com to make a free calendar for your specific location? I often do, and since it is up to the user how many types of information are included, I ask for lots of things. The last one here - "Len" - is length of daylight.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

in honor of the day

Piper became my dog on 24th December 2003,
after she'd had a few terrible months of puppyhood.

Today is the 16th anniversary of her first full day on Easy Street.

And would she look at the camera this morning
to make a nice portrait in honor of the day?


Happy Christmas to all who celebrate it, and 
Happy Piper Anniversary to everyone :)

Monday, December 23, 2019

early start

Piper and I were out early this morning.

I woke up and realized I could avoid going into town today if I just got some things ready and in my letterbox for pickup before the rural carrier appeared.

Mission accomplished!

I hope everyone is having a calm and pleasant day today.

That's our plan.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

winter light

Today, the first of the Days of Longer Light, I carried a stepladder from tree to tree in the snow, and arranged a string of fairy lights between house and workshop.

There have been mixed results in the past with having fairy lights outside. Strings have suddenly stopped working for unknown reasons. One triggered a GFCI and stopped power to the barn. And, bizarrely, some strings of lights have been cut into sections and taken away by a squirrel. What a squirrel wanted with bits of wire and tiny multicolored bulbs I do not know. If it took them to light up it's own nest, I imagine it was very disappointed.

Speaking of which, when I opened the box of lights today I was thrilled to discover that, not only had each individual string been neatly tied, but I had apparently found the strength within myself last Spring to discard all the strings which were not likely to work. I plan to recall this personal success story in future when I dither about whether to keep or discard something that doesn't quite work but could possibly be fixed. Not saying I'll always take the discard route, but I will at least think about how nice it was to plug in each string and have it light up.

Although this is a single string of lights, it swags between trees and crosses my path to the barn in a couple of places. As a result, when night fell, I realized it looks a bit more dramatic than I anticipated. It's colorful and pretty but it's also "a lot" in my quiet landscape.

I told the goats to enjoy it tonight because tomorrow I will probably take it down and do something different - exactly what, I do not know. My barns would look like little gingerbread houses if I outlined them with lights, but I have no intention of getting out an extension ladder for this project. It was quite enough using a stepladder for the trees today.

What's amazing to me is that all these lights were on the tree last year,
and it was perfect. Interesting, isn't it?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

cue the snow

At one point yesterday I thought the snow had stopped. I quickly suited up and got outside, planning to attach a new little birdfeeder to a window - the kind of lightweight plastic feeder that sticks to the glass with suction cups.

Quickly discovered that the snow had not stopped; it had become almost-sleet in such tiny particles that even while in it I could hardly see it, but could certainly feel it. Tried attaching the birdfeeder anyway - it slid downward on one side, but stuck in a crooked sort of way - and then went out to the barns to distribute hay.

While I was going back and forth with water buckets to the barn and the South paddock, the almost-sleet suddenly became Hollywood-style snow: giant flakes falling slowly and thickly from a white sky. I hadn't brought a camera, so please take a moment to envision a snow scene from your favorite holiday-theme movie. There. Like that.

By the time I went back inside, my footprints had already filled with new snow, and it was still snowing at dusk. I suspect we may end up with a bit more than the 2 to 3 inches originally predicted. As long as we don't lose power, and therefore water, I'm happy. There's plenty of hay and stovewood in the roundtop, cases of food for Piper and Moxie and Della in the kitchen, and everything I "need" to do for the next few days can be done online or over the phone, touch wood. I'm a lucky woman.

And I have plans for coming through this Winter in good form:


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

not a very late morning

We have had two glorious days of No Snow and No Rain.
Also No Sun, but one cannot have everything.

 I got a lot done on both days, which was very satisfying indeed.
There's nothing like a reprieve in the middle of tough weather, to make a person get out there and move til you can't move any further, and be very grateful for the opportunity to do so.

 And now, we've got this happening, as predicted:

Happily, I was able to take delivery of 50 bales of very nice-looking hay yesterday, in the ONE DAY between the ground being too soft for the big truck to turn at the top of the driveway and this new snow which would have prevented the truck from getting up the driveway in the first place.

Very late last night I went out with a flashlight and did an extra round of chores, thinking I just might be able to have a lazy, slow start to a snowy day today.
Piper likes a late morning herself, so she was fine with it.
However, Moxie and Della made it very clear that a late start to the day
is the nuttiest idea they have ever heard.

Oh well. It was worth a try :)

In Daily Markmaking news, the pomegranate continues to inspire.
finally cut into it, and last night painted a bit of the interior view:


Saturday, December 14, 2019

what a week

snow on red oak, Quercus rubra

I try not to let this blog become a weather report, but weather is such a major factor in my daily life that it's impossible not to mention it. Often. Maybe too often? I don't know.

This week we've had snow, single digit temps, strong winds, and to quote Eric Clapton, "rain, rain, rain." Although Clapton was talking about "love" and I am taking about "actual water coming down from the sky." Rain has been falling since yesterday, and is still coming down in a serious way.

Due to the rain, a lot of snow has melted, and - this is the good part - the air has been so warm that the resulting mud and muck hasn't turned to ice. It's been so warm, in fact, that when I went out briefly to take rubbish and recycling to the dump, a thick fog suddenly descended. Visibility was so poor I wanted to get off the road for a while. I stopped at a church fair and bought a pound of homebaked cookies and some balsam sachets made with needles from the maker's own trees. I don't have enough balsam firs to take a single precious needle from them, so this was a great way to bring one of my favorite aromas indoors.
"I'd like a few of the lacy ones, please...
and a few of those toffee ones...and the Italian cookies..."

I'm trying to think of some highlights of the week to share.
Let's see.

One day I captured Fern - she is a wild one - and trimmed her hooves.
Everyone lived.

On two separate evenings I persuaded a mouse to walk quietly into a container and be airlifted from the porch back outside, instead of continuing to provide late-night gymnastics challenges for the cats.
I wonder if it was the same mouse both times.

I've begun knitting a thing. It's a surprise thing.
First I swatched, which means knitting a test square to see what size needle will produce the correct gauge of x stitches = x inches for a specific pattern.
I swatched the same yarn on 5 different sizes of needles.
Which is 4 to 5 times more swatching than I generally do.
I really want the results to be nice.
This is what it looks like when the needles' diameters are 0.25 mm different:

After all that careful swatching, the pattern is driving me a bit crazy.
I'm considering just rewinding the yarn and starting over with another pattern.
Life is short and there are many lovely patterns.

It was my birthday on the 12th, and I had treated myself with a small art supply order from Blick's. My fondness for Payne's Grey has now been indulged with a watercolor pencil of a different brand than the one I've been using, and a tube of watercolor paint from a third manufacturer.

This portrait of my smashed mug was done with the new pencil:

And this clay spindle whorl was painted with both grey pencils plus one green.

I haven't tried the tube of paint yet, 
but that will be happening before long.
I do enjoy Payne's Grey.

Here's another portrait; very faint, but I think you'll recognize the subject:

The rain is predicted to stop tomorrow, so it may be a good day to work in the big roundtop, shifting things around to make room for more hay. I'm trying to arrange a delivery before the next snow, while it is possible to get up the driveway. The tricky part - apart from the cost of the hay - is that the turn-around area at the top of the driveway can become a sloping mudpit. Many a truck has been stuck in it over the years, despite backhoe work done to level the ground. So whether a truck loaded with hay can come here after all the rain is an "exciting" question at this point. We'll see!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

but who's counting

Arthritis: 1

Me:  also 1 

(because I dropped it just before I poured the boiling water in)

I bought this wonderful mug from a talented, self-described "student" potter in 2011, and have never seen another like it: a graceful, stable globe, beautifully glazed in a soft sage deepening to forest green, and with a more comfortable handle than most. The color, stability and handle remain...I'll try using this piece as a candlestick.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

poultry report

Lovely organic eggs, collected this morning.
The first thing I do when I come in from morning chores is remove my gloves, earwarmer, and the two eggs in my pocket. In that order.

And here are the Providers of Eggs: Agatha and Eloise.

Photograph taken mid-November.
When we could still see the ground.

I haven't been doing much cooking lately but most days I have a fried egg in some form –  usually omelette-ish, with broccoli or cheese. A new discovery: a little leftover cooked sweet potato makes a lovely addition. It adds a richness of taste without overwhelming the eggs, and a slight density of texture, and just a hint of sweetness.



You may remember that the hens came here as pullets back in August, because Captain Hastings had become the only chicken on the place and needed company. Very sadly, only a few weeks after Agatha and Eloise arrived, Captain Hastings was killed - perhaps by a hawk. As soon as I realized he had not crowed at 4:20 that morning, I knew something was very wrong, and began looking for him. I found his remains not long after.

A sad and unexpected ending, but I'm so glad Captain Hastings' last weeks of life were very happy ones, spent busily keeping an eye on his little flock.


Friday, December 6, 2019



Today's snow was predicted to begin around noon, with less than an inch accumulation. So when I received problematic paperwork in this morning's mail requiring a couple of hours to sort out in person, I decided not to wait til Monday but to go immediately and take care of it so I wouldn't have it in the back of my mind all weekend. Less than an inch of snow would mean either light snow that wouldn't be bad driving, or heavy snow that would be easy to wait out before coming back home.

Well, the "noon" part was correct. But heavy snow was still falling 
when I got home at three and went out to check on the goats.

Violet on one of the narrow goat-paths.
If you click to embiggen you can see the path.

I know I've said this before: I'd rather have any amount of snow than a quarter-inch of ice. Chores are harder and take longer but they get done. We've got firewood, food, and - touch wood - we've got water.

And of course, daily markmaking.

I hope all is well in your varied and far-flung corners of the world.
Thanks for visiting and commenting on mine.