I'll try to check in soon, since I have been doing some excellent procrastination, but meanwhile... Cheers!
It's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and for every day I don't produce words, I am extending into December.
I'll try to check in soon, since I have been doing some excellent procrastination, but meanwhile... Cheers!
Putting words on the screen and trying not to be too judgy-judgy about whatever my creativity chucks out...
Like sunburned beachgoers storming an ice-cream parlor, the tiny leaf-shaped fires spread a conflagration of color across the woodlot.
Inside the wood, under the bright canopy, the leaf-strewn floor shines brighter yet. Rafts of bronze-backed turkey drift through this orange world. Devilish tuft-eared black squirrels add a Halloween accent, digging with only the barest pause to glare at an intruder.
A pair of leggy yearling deer skitter around a doe. She rarely stops moving, nosing through the leaves for beechnuts, for tender branch-ends, for windfall apples.
Prey animals are changing color from spring chestnut to ashy brown. In a week they will disappear into a stand of dead grass simply by standing still, but just now, in this pumpkin-spice week of peak color, they pop.
Once we discovered the neglected rows of apple trees on the Would-Be Farm and started their rehabilitation, the first question was always, "But what kind of apples?"
And for six years, I've answered (at painful, literal length), "We aren't sure."
Because, long story short, we have had one dang thing after another. Most critically, we've never been on hand when the fruits fully ripened without a late frost that nipped the buds, or that plague of tent caterpillars, or the zombie apocalypse, et cetera.
But this year --!
First, aside from the considerable matter of a drought, it was a good year for fruit on the Farm. We had the first ripe apples in late August.
And with fruit in hand, it's possible to start identifying them. Not to mention eating them.
To figure out what kind of apple it is, one starts with looking at the size and shape of the fruit, the color and texture of it's skin, the quality and color of the flesh, and finally, the flavor and juiciness of the apple. Phew.
I spent a lot of time sitting with a pile of apples, leafing through my reference book. I'm only sure of a few varieties –– but it's a start.
I never have gotten over my love of kid's books. Especially novels. So...why not as many Newbery books as might come to hand?
I'm not ending the experiment yet, especially since there doesn't seem to be any equally reliable award for "adult" fiction. And because there are so dang many yet to go.
Here's a short list that I read (or re-read) this summer.
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craig George
Getting Near to Baby by Audrey Couloumbis
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
Abel's Island by William Steig
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm
The Crossover by Alexander Kwame
A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
Wittington by Alan Armstrong
Lily's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
Criss Cross by Lynne by Rae Perkins
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
The Watsons go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Wish they earned some credit for some middle-school reading team...
So much happened over the summer on the Would-Be Farm, and so little of it has anything to do with us humans.
Each year, I find myself taking photos that I hope will catch the visual essence of the sweetness of the season.
This year, of course, I've snapped any number of pictures of the farm, but really, summertime in the North Country?
It's about cottage life, boat-rides, and the Water (whichever body of water, it's always capitalized: The Lake, The River, The Beach).
For over a hundred years, my family has spent weekends or weeks or the whole season on the granite shores of the St. Lawrence River.
The scent of old life-preservers and clean seaweed.
Sleeping porches. The "whap" of a screen door pulled shut by a long spring.
Pine needles. Lichen.The lapping of water under the wooden dock.
And the inexorable march of Labor Day...
This is the longest stretch in his adult life that my favorite skipper has spent away from sail boats.
For decades, we schedule our year around various regattas. We've missed weddings and birthdays because of our sailing calendar. As I remember, we'd been together for five years before taking a trip that was NOT related to sailing.
Because of regattas, we've traveled to Italy and Sardinia and Greece and all over South America. And North America. Hawaii even. The year the Flying Scot North American championship was held in Texas, we planned a summer adventure that took us looping out West. All for sailing competitions.
Racing on the bounding main –– it's a sport, a calling, a joy. It's the bones of our life together.
Then along comes the Covid-19 Pandemic, leaving us high and dry.
Which is how we've managed to finish the Woodbee in a matter of months.
When last we left the build, the 600-square-foot structure was dried in, with a pair of walls and a loft accessible by pull-down ladder. Jeff and I had put down flooring, lathered paint on everything that held still, and set the wood stove into place.
When we arrived in late April, the list of to-dos was not inconsiderable: walls, plumbing, electricity, kitchen, bathroom...
And a drumroll, please....
My favorite skipper eventually called it: mad dash.
It will seem quaint someday how we drove north in a self-contained little world of snacks and Lysol wipes with a U-Haul full of Would-Be Farm equipment and furniture.
It will be just another page in the Quarantine Chronicles how we isolated and monitored.
Perhaps we'll remember how we could only hope our precautions and cheerful masks will have made a difference.
But it seems instead that this is the year we are reminded that Mamma Nature not only holds all the cards, but that she has sharp teeth, and claws at the end of a long reach...
If it wasn't the black bear emptying the bird feeder (effortlessly snagging it with a claw and pouring the contents –– like the crumbs from the bottom of a potato chip bag –– right down the old pie hole), it was porcupine eating the gazebo. Or birds flying down the chimney.
And how does one deal with a 300-lb black bear with a penchant for black oil safflower seed? One puts a decorative cow-bell –– an inexplicable tourist purchase finally coming into use –– onto the formerly lovely red metal feeder.
Pavlov's crazy dog at the midnight clank, one dashes onto the screened porch closest to the feeder, shouting and clashing together an aluminum saucepan and lid. The noise was like nothing I have ever made before. It worked.
Though of course the raccoons followed the bear in the violation of my bird feeder. They are less shy of human attention. After some weeks of interrupted sleep, I decided the easier –– though not unproblematic solution was to take the feeder inside at night. Now I only rouse myself to chase things off the unscreened porch. Which happens a lot.
And how to address the ongoing porcupine issue? Porcupines eat bark and tree parts...unless of course they develop a taste for pressure-treated lumber.
Fair's fair. The porcupines were here first. I tried putting rows of hardware cloth around the perimeter, but Mr. Linton took the reins. We call the gazebo The USS Monitor now. The damage has stopped.
Sidebar fact: tom turkeys sometimes get really worked up by the sound of a carborundum blade working through metal roofing sheets. I guess it sounds like a big sweet gal of a hen.
And as for the bird, we were sitting on the couch in front of the cold wood stove when we heard a gentle tapping on the glass window on the stove door.
A youthful house-wren politely requesting a hand.
Of course it panicked. All birds do, when confronted with the inside of a house. It flapped into a window, and then briefly fainted in Jeff's hands. But it eventually regained its senses and flew off, rewarding us for a few weeks –– possibly –– with extra noisy morning songs.
You know how it goes. Everything peaceful and chill.
Maybe the iPod is playing the soundtrack from Hamilton. Perhaps you're watching Rabbit TV (a limited lineup, but endlessly entertaining). Maybe you're cooking on the newly functional propane stove. Anyway, it's relaxed.
When EEEEEEEEEE. and EEEEEEEEE. and EEEEEEEE!
The noise is designed to either wake you from a sound sleep or possibly drive you in-freaking-sane.
Whichever. It works.
Okay, you you press the reset button. Two minutes later –– just as the old heart-rate is returning to normal –– EEEEEEEEE! and EEEEEEEEEEE!
My handsome gallant saves us, holding a thumb over the button repeatedly. It becomes clear that the damn 10-years-guaranteed, never-needs-batteries, save-your-life-and-required-by-law has gone rogue. It will not stop alerting us.
It EEEEEEEs in the bathroom. It EEEEEEEEs outdoors.
Jeff eventually puts it into the van, so it could, as he said, "Simmer down."
All during dinner, an errant wind gave us brief hope, and then, faintly, EEEEEEEEE. and EEEEEEEE.
Dishes done (in a sink! with running hot and cold water! cabin life is better and better!), Jeff betakes himself off and the next thing I notice is that he's taken out the 50-year-old .22 his father gave him.
Whatcha doing? I ask.
He points, and I hear a faint EEEEEEing across the field. He's put the damn thing into a tree. I admire the dispatch with which he handles tech troubles.
A clean through-and-through, and by golly the thing has stopped EEEEEEEing.
The test button suggests that it's still working, but I'm taking it back to the local hardware store where we bought it.
I don't mind explaining why.
It's a very good Scrabble day when I can play "jonquil."
In the world, I rarely call these flowers anything but daffodils.
Be that as it may, my sweet mother-in-law calls them jonquils, and when she proposed a big honking field of them at the Would-Be Farm, I said heck yeah!
Pat is a wonderful gardener, and even in her early 80s, she can out-shop, out-weed, and out-sew me pretty much any day of the week. So when she said she wanted Jeff and me to be reminded of her each spring at the Would-Be Farm, I enlisted her actual aid.
Long story short, we ordered something like 200 bulbs from Holland last fall. Thank you John Scheepers. We hopped a plane (back in the days when people did that kind of thing without thinking about it much) once the package arrived in the North Country.
We made a girl's weekend of it, staying at my sister's civilized house, eating yummy meals, and playing dominoes at the end of the day.
And we flew South, happy but full of anticipation and the usual worries: Would squirrels eat the bulbs? Would the plants freeze to death? Would deer eat the bulbs? Would an early thaw fool the plants?
Springtime is brutal on hopes. When bright flowers do indeed rise from the cold clay -- oh glory.
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