Sunday, December 31, 2023

markmaking 2023


Turning the page on Year Six of Daily Markmaking.














Friday, December 22, 2023

minutes of light

Victoria Crowe Large Tree Group 1975

It was 11F when Moxie and I got up this morning. Brisk. Invigorating. Also, dark. I opened the door for Moxie, hoping the goats wouldn't hear the door opening and start thinking they would be served breakfast before dawn today. Generally on a cold, dry day I won't feed until the sun has appeared over the stone wall, dazzling through the still-dark tree trunks - at about 8:06 these days. My goats sleep very cozily tucked in, and there is no reason to make them all wake up, get up, and stand around for an hour in the dimness of predawn, shivering, in order to have their grub. But by the time the sun has appeared, everyone is ready to be up and at it. Violet is hollering, "I heard you open that door THREE HOURS AGO, where have you been?!" and I'm out by the barn, lining up feed pans.

Last night I dozed off early, but woke (for the first of several times, as usual) at 10:20 PM. I got up, fed the stove, and then realized:

I had woken for the Winter Solstice!

It occurred at 10:27 PM here.

Perhaps I has even been woken BY the Winter Solstice. Who knows?

Anyway, as a person who lives very much by the sun, it felt GOOD to know there will be more (and more and more) minutes of light in the days ahead.

I like the dark as much as the next person - in fact, I keep a chaise under the portico year-round so I can drag it out on clear nights and tilt back to look at the sky for a while. "A while" is usually determined not by how cold it is, but by how cold I get: I used to have a old sleeping bag on hand just for this purpose, and could stay outside indefinitely. (That sleeping bag seems to have disappeared; I may soon replace it.) In recent years, my spine does not "do" tilting my head back, so the chaise is the only way to go - and a very nice way it is, too. Sometimes if the cats happen to be outside, they will hop up and sky-watch with me. Which is perfect.

So, as I say, I like the dark. But it's a lot easier to get things done in daylight. And the sun, especially at this time of year, genuinely lifts my spirits. There's no better way to describe it.

I hope everyone is well and happy and joyfully anticipating whatever you do for the upcoming holidays, if you celebrate them in any way. And if this time of year is in any way sad or stressful for you, I hope you can find ways to help yourself feel more at ease. For what it's worth, I find even quite simple activities or treats or personal rituals can be very powerful.

Wishing everyone enough of whatever lifts your spirits.


Monday, December 18, 2023

and the winner is

 Everyone loves a clicky spinner, right? I entered the names of the 11 commenters on last week's post, spun the Picker Wheel random chooser - clickclickclickclickclicketyclick - and here's the result:

Congratulations to Chris from Boise!

Thanks to everyone who left a comment, and thanks for the lovely birthday wishes! You all helped make my birthday a special day.

Chris, when you have a chance, please drop me an email and we can sort the (very few) details: q.piper at hotmail dot com


Monday, December 11, 2023

revisiting the giveaway giveaway

I am not giving away this book!

This lovely book arrived in the mail today - a cookbook co-authored by Appalachia blog-pal Tipper Pressley, from Blind Pig and the Acorn. It was one of the prizes in Tipper's November daily giveaway, and I was thrilled to win it. This book was a long time in the works, and a labor of love. It was worth the wait.

Tipper called this one of the "flawed" copies; i.e., a copy that was scuffed or damaged in some way between publisher and sale, or else one where Tipper or co-author Jim Casada made some sort of error in the signing of the book. My copy is one of the latter category, and I was tickled to bits to see the abbreviated inscription "To Glenda from" which must have been the point at which an error was noticed.

I think "Glenda" may become my alternate identity.   

Winning this prize made me realize that it's been quite a while since I've done a giveaway here on Comptonia. 

Long-time readers may recall the Kiva giveaways - here's a link to the first one, which describes Kiva in detail - which everyone seemed to enjoy whether they won or not. Which is perfect. So I'm going to do that again.

I'll prepay a Kiva loan of $25, and the winner of the giveaway will choose the recipient. It's a giveaway of a giveaway. Okay? Okay!

To enter, just leave a comment on this post, before the 18th of December.

Now, I don't know how many people are reading my blog these days. I know I lost a great many long-time readers during the extended hiatus following Piper's death. I am grateful for those who have returned - or appeared - and especially those of you who leave comments, which enliven my workaday life considerably. I'm hoping some visitors who have not left a comment yet, may feel inclined to do so this time. Oh, and please feel free to share this with anyone you think might be interested in Kiva.

If only a couple of people leave a comment, that's just fine. But if a few more can be gently coaxed out from reader-only status into reader-and-commenter status, well, that will be a gift to me. 

Which will be especially timely - just like receiving Tipper's book today! - because tomorrow is my birthday.

Okay. On the 18th, one week from today, I'll do a random draw, post the results on the blog, and email the Kiva info to the winner who will have the fun of choosing a recipient. And I'll tell you in advance: if you've never done a Kiva loan before, you are in for a treat.


Thursday, December 7, 2023


Thank you so much for your kind comments!
A quick update:

Hazel is acting more herself, 
and she is eating almost normally.
I am relieved.

She's still approaching chaffhaye very delicately,
mouth barely touching the chaffhaye,
but managing to eat at least half her ration, eventually:

And for comparison, here is mum Azalea,
demonstrating the typical full-muzzle-pushed-into-palm approach:

Hazel is also eating hay and treats,
so definitely feeling better.
I still don't know what happened to her mouth,
but hopefully she'll be 100% soon.


Monday, December 4, 2023

penny for your thoughts

This will always be one of my favorite snaps of Hazel.
(She's the tiny one.)

Well, this may not seem like major news, but this morning Hazel ate a carrot penny and then asked for another. I hope this means she's turned a corner, because for the past two days she has not wanted to eat or drink anything. More accurately, she would approach her water bucket or food pan and either brush her nose over it - in the case of her pan of chaffhaye - or take food and start to eat it, but spit it right out - in the case of apple slices or carrot pennies. 

As with many livestock injuries or illnesses, it's a matter of searching one's memory and imagination to determine what could be causing a behavior. Hazel wanted food, but not enough to pick it up...had she overeaten earlier and was simply full? She wanted a favorite treat, but could not or would not swallow it...was her throat sore...did a piece of alfalfa twig get caught in her throat or scratch the inside of her mouth? Was moving her jaw painful...did she get a bruised jaw from mixing it up with another goat? Was chewing painful...could she have a loose tooth that is uncomfortable to bite down on? I did my best to test these possibilities, but all I can tell you is this: you would be surprised how sharp goat teeth are.

Yesterday she was still peeing and pooping, so I decided that *if* I could get a bit of nourishment into Hazel, I would hold off on a stressful vet visit. When all the usual temptations were refused throughout the morning, I came up with the idea of blending a half-cup of oatmeal with a cup of warm water and a little salt, putting it through a sieve, and slowly hand-feeding the liquid with a 60-ml syringe. Hazel had mixed feelings about it at first, but did take about 100ml at lunchtime, and she seemed a bit brighter in the afternoon. When I hopefully offered a second serving of oatmeal smoothie at bedtime, Hazel was less willing to have it, which was disappointing. But she accepted 50 ml, and then a syringe of water, so I felt that she would be alright overnight. If she was no better in the morning, I would try to get the vet out.

Yesterday's all-day rain finally stopped in the wee hours of this morning, and Azalea and Hazel were both in the barn paddock when I went out for morning chores with a pocket full of carrot pennies. More like half-pennies, as they were sliced very thin to minimize the need to chew them. Hazel accepted one, and, while I held my breath, swallowed it. Then asked for another. And another. She was still not willing to even taste her alfalfa, and I didn't see her take a drink. But she ate about a carrot's-worth of pennies, and a couple of peanuts. And since it is not raining today, I opened the inter-paddock gates and Azalea and Hazel headed right down to the Upper West Side as usual, moving from rock to rock as much as possible, to stay out of the mud. So, fingers crossed that the worst is over and there will be continued improvement today.

So, how is your December shaping so far?


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 It's an excellent alternative to the behemoth online seller of books/everything. 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.


Wednesday, November 1, 2023


2 April 2012 - 26 October 2023

Baby Acer tackling Goat Mountain...
...and reaching the summit.

Acer the Maple Man and Betula the Birch Boy,
with mum LeShodu, Day 5...

...and a couple of years later.

Second birthday pictures:

Acer at 4 years, 2016:

Always the first to shed: 10 Feb 2016

Nearly nine years old, Feb 2021:

Acer and Betula enjoying bittersweet in the Pocket Paddock,
30 June 2013...

...and 1st October 2023.

Acer's last three months have been filled with extra meals, lots of  treats, a wide variety of fallen leaves to browse, and many hours of companionship and special attention every single day.
Some of those days were sunny.

Good boy, Acer. It's been a pleasure.