Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It creeps up on us

Fall is one of those indeterminate seasons (unlike winter which announces itself with trumpets) that starts (at least around here) somewhere in mid-August, when you realize that the major birds--bluebirds, swallows, etc--have gone, and the sounds have changed to mostly crickets and cicadas.

The change from hot days and warm nights is now marked by hot days and chilly nights, and a heavy dew that is sometimes measureable. Swamp maples and sick trees turn early, reminders of what follows.

I've been canning on a regular basis, as the tomatoes come in, and am now counting 45 pints and 12 quarts. We missed the September frost, so there's a good chance I might get a few more quarts of sauce tucked away before October. Once you get the rhythm of it, it's not bad. Every year I refine the process, and this year finally realized that you dont need to skin 'em, just core and quarter and cook. Much of the nutrient is in or under the skin, so this way it goes in to the sauce and not the compost bin. I think it makes for a fuller taste.
It's no harder to screen out the skins along with the seeds than it is to do just seeds, so why add that extra hour's labor intensive work?

Cuffy remains lord of the downstairs, and it appears he will be remaining so. No one except Jiggs (who is 17 with a mouth like a sailor) is even remotely interested in challenging him through the new screen door that separates upstairs from downstairs. I know, I know...it's called compromise, and it seems to work, that's what counts.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

winter is a cumin in, brrrr

Yes, I know it's only August, but the nights have turned colder, and mid-sleep one of us usually pulls up the extra blanket from the foot of the bed. Mornings are downright chilly, and I remember this kind of chilliness from when I was a kid, during blueberry season. We would huddle miserably in the barn where the berries were processed, in sweatshirts and flannel overshirts and even gloves.

When the weather changes like that you know that no matter what the calendar says, summer's almost done with us.

The tomato worms have appeared, and it seems my husband has a talent for seeing them far more easily than I do. Only one to a bush so far, but one greedy hornworm can decimate an entire bush in three days, and take huge bites out of the green fruit too, damn him. So we find them and take them for walks down to the forest edge. Let them work it out, they are too pretty (not to mention squashy) to kill. Coward that I am.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Labor saving my aunt fanny

Last fall a neighbor gave me her old self propelled John Deere mower. Bagger and all. Said it was not worth their fixing it up to keep, maybe I could do something with it. My husband tinkered with it, replaced a bit here and a bit there, and now I have a self-propelled mower that makes me feel like a very small woman walking a very large dog--but boy does it chew through the grass.

This past week I wearied of using Other People's cast off vacuums, and finally settled on my first new vacuum, a Panasonic, one of those that has the extra motor and the beater bar and a headlight...and it occurs to me, not for the first time, that labor saving devices only mean you can save all that work and use your energy for other things instead. At least, that's the idea. What really happens is, your standard of clean or mowed or whatever has just been raised, because you no longer have an excuse to not do it.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Universal Complaint Dept

I do wish that people who say they will be there on Tuesday would at least make it by Wednesday; or say, directly, "I can't do that because...". And yet I find myself guilty of the same thing, sadly. It seems to be the norm for craftsmen, electricians, plumbers, and the guy who was supposed to repair your chimney a month ago.

Perhaps it's the inability to say no, the desire to be liked (no one likes to be refused, after all), or the fear that if I refuse to deliver what I can't, then they won't call me back for another job.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Some people can walk past a bar and never feel the slightest tug, others need to be carried out nightly. Some of us smoke and quit and smoke and quit and I have heard nicotine addiction to be as difficult to quit as heroin--I believe it. Any addiction that is relatively socially acceptible sorts you into two factions: the addicted and the non-addicted, with the smoker, drinker, gum chewer, faction always urging you to continue, partly because they don't want to be alone with their cravings. "Well, they smoke, drink, chew gum too", we reason. "We're not alone."

Then there is the internet addiction, which encompasses a huge percentage of the population, and inside that large group we have managed to splinter off into our own justified (and relatively silent or at least private) passions; whether it's porn, net surfing, blogs, chat rooms or games,
it's ours and no one needs to know unless we tell 'em.

Hi, my name is Mittens and I am a game addict.

Up until now the free games have been a nice middle ground for me, free without the pressure of pay to play and play to justify the 20$ or the 15 or the whatever it costs. I have an account at Pogo, which is my only (at the moment) pay to play game, and I am resisting the siren call of several others. However.

Blizzard has an offer of a ten day free trial for Worlds of WarCraft, no credit cards involved, just play your brains out for ten days, and if you're hooked then you go to the store and buy a store game that hooks into the net. Hook is the word. I finally gave in at least as far as the free trial goes, if only to satisfy my curiosity about it; I can see where it grabs at you. The reward and punishment psychology is perfect, and you get to dress your avatar in ever more powerful armor and weapons.

But, knowing my tendencies to play like mad for about three months and then wander off to something new, perhaps I can resist the lure of the download. I. Will. Resist.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cuffy Photo

Some people look at this and say, that is one mean looking son of a bitch, others say, he looks like he owns everything and knows it. Let's just say he has rules, very fixed rules, and as long as you obey them, he'll let you live in the house with him.

He has turned out to be a water cat, meaning if you run water in the sink he's there, watching it run down the drain. If you pour a bucket of water on the driveway he will follow that stream of water all the way until it runs out and sinks into the dirt. He doesn't mind wet grass, rain, or the garden hose. I suspect he would enjoy a nice swim now and then, if we had a pond. And no I am not building a pond for Cuffy. Im just glad he hasnt figured out how to get the taps turned on yet.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tomato talk

One of my tomato plants was uprooted, cage and all, two days ago, after a really violent thunderstorm. I was horrified. It looked like a half dead beast, lying there on its side...but I upended it, stuffed the roots back in the ground, and anchored the cage a bit more firmly.
It sulked all day yesterday and today when I went to check it was looking much better. The stress must be amazing, especially when you have two dozen tomatoes hanging off your limbs...

Counted tomatoes this morning, just for fun. One of my inground plants has over forty, one has more than fifty, but I lost my place in the count...These are Early Girls and they have always performed well for me. I also have two in pots, Better Boys, and they don't impress me nearly as much.

I plan to can this stuff, since I'm the only one who likes raw tomatoes, and shouldnt really be eating them anyway--and last year I discovered that skinning them as they come ripe and then freezing what you have is a perfect way to get the fruit at its peak without having to wait for all the tomatoes to ripen before you start canning.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

this is the way it looks from the upstairs window. At ground level, it's just a collection of flowers in different places. Higher up you can see most of it all at once. Damn, ain't that green

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ever notice that small garden tools are carefully painted GREEN? Or left a tasteful shade of natural wood color, both of which blend into the grass where you dropped them five minutes ago. The next time you find them is with the mower.

What better way to sell garden tools...

Monday, July 7, 2008

whew that was scary. Yesterday in the middle of something my hard drive just turned itself off and died. Luckily I have a husband who Understands Such Things and he futzed with this and futzed with that and now I have a 100 G (oh be still my heart) hard drive in which I barely make a presence.
Its like being gifted with a 400 room house and told to fill it up. oh, right.

But it's also a kind of time machine, or at least as close as I think we might ever get to one. I had a backup system restore thingy that had been made a week ago, and my old back up hard drive was from January. I got to see things on that that I had forgotten even existed.

In a way losing a chunk of your life/time that way is like losing your wallet or your purse. Like bubbles coming up from the depths, you remember, one by one, what's missing. Oh damn, you think, there was that bill I was going to pay. My credit cards. That letter I just got and hadn't opened yet. Little things, but all of them part of you. That's what this felt like. There are five days gone from my cyber life that I will never get back.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Compost and other Magical Things

First, there's Cuffy. His breathing settled down to normal overnight, and since last week his asthma/breathing attacks have been reduced to one or two a day, very mild. He also has far more energy, and trots about as if he owned the place. We've been going for walks in the woods. He looks all the way UP tall trees, over and over again, as if he was assessing them for climbing. He's very careful about new adventures, and tends to watch me, see what I'm going to do next.

This evening he has spent outside on the porch, looking off into the darkness, listening to night sounds. I keep remembering how different this life must be for him, and how much adapting he has had to do. I just hope he doesnt decide that the porcupines are a new form of playtoy.

Compost. Damn, what a magical thing that is. I call it "magic dirt" and it is indeed. I've been learning how to build a proper pile so it heats up to a nice even 150 degrees and stays there long enough to break things down. Then turn it (not as big a chore as I used to think it was), mix it up, get some air into it, and let it cook some more. It takes at least three or four turns before you begin to see results, but once that happens...
we are now, suddenly, smack in the middle of summer, heading for heat, for mid summer flowers, for Hot Weather. Damn all, but that was fast.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cuffy's Big Adventure

He's been coughing and wheezing for about two weeks now, and I suddenly realized this sounds and acts a lot like asthma AND hairballs. So off we went to the vet this morning. ( I found some puppy training sheets at the supermarket that will hold a LOT of puppy pee, so he had one of those and an old towel in the carrier with him. ) That nervous bladder can be hell on the driver and the cat as well...

The vet xrayed him, and we looked at the pictures together. He has the beginnings of pneumonia, and what the vet said appears to be asthma, and in the lower right corner of the picture was a small round dot no bigger than a bit of birdshot, and that's what it was. If he had been in a slightly different place when that hit, there wouldnt be a cuffy at all.

So he had a shot for the pneumonia, and a steroid shot for the asthma, they stuffed him back in the carrier, and now he's home sleeping off all the excitement.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jury Duty

Jury Duty. What a strange world that is. I have been hogtied to our county's judicial processes since the beginning of June, and am discovering that there is much that is solid and logical about it, and much that is open to interpretation as to good or not, a waste of time or a boon to society.

Once you are a juror you are only truly alone in the ladies' room. If you wish to go out, to travel to the cafeteria, or even just pass through the corridors, you have a bailiff alongside. Most of them are personable, amiable, and quite fixed in what they (and you) can and cannot do.

The importance of being on a jury in small cases like this was never made clearer than it was today. It was a small domestic dispute that had blown up into something much larger--second degree assault with a knife--the kind of thing police and judges take very seriously. To us, it was obvious the entire incident was just that, a minor incident, but exacerbated by witnesses who had a vested interest in it on a personal level. However, even though as jurors we could see that this was a minor scuffle that had gotten blown out of proportion, to the people involved it was very serious, and painful to deal with in such a public venue.

So we had to put our own egos aside, and our own prejudices and slants, and think about how important this was to them.

What made me feel good about it all was that when we went into deliberation, it took no more than five minutes to realize we were all in agreement, and five minutes more to figure out why. Interestingly enough, we all had different reasons as to why we thought it should be an 'innocent' verdict.

Whatever works, whatever works.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ripoff part 2

Home Gardening Club; sounds good. They send you a packet of info and a chance to test garden products, they promise to send you Fiskar Pruning Shears and a kneeling mat. Yay, you think. Then they ask if you'd like their magazine, on subscription, for 24 bucks for two years. Not a bad deal. Its glossy, it's got some interesting articles, the pictures are pretty; not a lot of depth, but I've gotten some good info out of them already.

However. Yesterday I received a positively breathless letter from them, saying that I had been selected (one of only a few aha) for a chance at Lifetime Membership. Free, by golly. Yep, that's what they said. To that end they were rebating my magazine subscription price and there was the check at the top of the letter to prove it--and here is the catch--you had to send the check back to THEM, and they would put it toward the Lifetime Membership fee.

Um. Fee? Now it turns out you 'only' have to pony up $18 a month instead of the usual $24 a month for a year, and your lifetime membership will be all paid up. Forever. If you do the math on that, a Lifetime Membership costs $288 (full price) or $216 (if you figure in the 'discount') and since the only thing you are paying for is a magazine subscription, that's 24 years of magazine and not much else. Im 62: that means that by the time I'm 86 i will be riding free with Home Gardening Club. wowzie.

I still haven't received my kneeling cushion or Fiskar Shears, either.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Cuffy (III)

Now that was a long night. I was sure by dark he had gone for good; not a rustle, not a meow. This morning I woke up, put the cats out, and there he was on the porch, looking quite annoyed
and quite hungry.

He came in, ate two full cans of food, had a nap, then ate another. I had to shut him off finally, don't want him thinking this is a steady all day diner...put him out, and lo, he knows how to use the cat door.

Small things, but they all mean I can trust him to be out, to be in, to behave.

The relief is immense, although I'm sure the others are less than overjoyed by his prodigal return...

Rain today, all day it seems, and we were beginning to need it badly. Once the trees start to leaf out they suck a lot of that moisture out of the ground very rapidly. Wood stoves feel good on a day like this, for sure.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Cuffy II

well, now. after the second day in a row being awakened by the aroma of kitty pee at 4 am, I thought, this is getting insane. It isnt exactly something you can ignore, so I was in the dining room on hands and knees with the PineSol, considering my options. And his.

We're down to two. Either he becomes a cellar-at-night-cat (not really acceptable), or an indoor-outdoor cat much sooner than we had anticipated. I'm hoping he stays, I'm praying to the God that Protects Small Furry Cats that he doesnt try to go home. He has gone to ground somewhere, and with luck is merely sleeping in the leaves under the porch. Ive left food out for him to find.

If he goes, he will be a very expensive stray kitty again.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cuffy the first day

Cuffy's first photo, sleeping it off on the good furniture...

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Two days ago I got a cat from a friend. Cuffy was a stray, and the man who gifted me with him
has no clue as to cats or their problems. The cat apparently has no idea what a litter box is for, (oh treats), and since I am not letting him out for a week or so, this becomes a problem. We will be trying sand-in-a-box, to see if that will be acceptable.

Took him to the vet's today to be neutered and checked over for whatever else he might need doing; just awhile ago the vet called, to say that Cuffy has feline aids. I have three other cats, here. One nearly 17, one 12, and one close to 9. There is, apparently, no way to immunize against this, and cats that live in the same house are very prone to get it.

I took a deep breath and said, let's keep him. He deserves something out of his life, let it be this. He apparently was (at least as of last winter) an outdoor stray; the vet said his ears were frostbitten, and he had two bad teeth. I realize Im taking a chance with my own cats, and maybe that isnt fair to them, but is it any fairer to have Cuffy put down 'just because'?

I told my husband, and we talked about it, and both of us agreed that neither of us has the heart to put down what looks to be a perfectly good cat with some problems. They become our problems, and we deal with it.

I don't know. I just don't know. Sometimes there is no right choice, is there.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

April 15, 2008

The crocuses are up, and the anemones. the jonquils should be in bloom by Friday. Small things, yes, but when you have spent five months staring at nothing but snow, snow, snow, something as minor as a spring crocus or a robin yelling its head off loom very large on the landscape.

Winter here tends to be pretty quiet. No road noise (the snow muffles that), not even crows or owls. Not until mid January do the crows begin to start getting a bit rowdy out there, and only now, when everything is beginning to feel like yes, we made it, do the woods begin to open up with sound. Today, a pileated woodpecker, beating his brains out on a half dead maple, deep in the woods behind the house. Perhaps in a few days a woodcock and their distinctive peent peent peent, like small boats announcing themselves as they come back to port...

We are on the verge of getting two new cats, to flesh out the three we have already. I dont believe I've ever had two full grown cats arrive together, and I suspect ears, noses and tails will be severely stressed over this.
Good for 'em, they could use some new faces to stare at.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Restaurant Manners

When I was a kid, going to a restaurant meant you dressed up a bit, you went with adults, and if you uttered anything above a whisper you were glared at. No wiggling, loud rude sounds, laughing with your mouth full, or silly noises. It was a time to practice being a grown up young lady.

I saw a perfect example of how to handle young children in a restaurant a few weeks back, something that seems woefully lacking these days. Two older people, obviously grampa and grammy, came in with two young boys. They sat. When the menus came, Grammy read off the list of choices. "You can have a hot dog or a hamburger." One had a hamburger, the other had a hot dog. "Do you want gingerale or coke?" one of each. When the waitress came, she ordered for them. It was lovely. Until they get big enough, they will never know of the forty seven other things they could have picked from, nor do they need to. She kept it simple, and easy.

Tonight we went to eat at the same restaurant, and sat near two young mothers with their three young boys. The two older ones hollered, howled, laughed haw haw haw with french fries falling out of their mouths, they raced around the table. The littlest one, confined to a high chair, spent his time throwing as much food as he could across the aisle, and pitching his milk bottle on the floor. The two mothers ignored them all until near the end, when it was time to leave.
We were on our way out as well, and helpful to the end, I picked up the milk bottle and firmly (oh very firmly) placed it on the table, leaving before I started a rant that would still be going on.

It was a stunning example of how parents can tune out the worst behavior in their kids, but if anyone comments, then they look up and tell the kid to stop. And who criticizes someone else's kids, right? I think of it as discipline by proxy, and frankly it's a damn lazy way to raise kids.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Stone Soup

April 7, 2008

First blog, first entry


I feel like a grownup. Or something.

Went out to the garden just before sunset, managed to walk a careful path around the patches of snow we have left (and we have lots), and noticed the jonquils are about two inches up. My lord, I thought, go back go back. It's too early. Maybe in a month, when we don't have snow...

I dont know where this is going, perhaps nowhere, into the dark hole of Lost Blogs, Forgotten grocery lists, and oldbutstillgood socks that have escaped from the basket like stray puppies and are now hiding under the bed, breathing softly...

Or maybe not.