Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Not much, you?

Once in a great while, I like the weather. The rest of the time I complain about the heat or the humidity. Just insert whines at random.

Last night a scarlet tanager flew through the yard; I am hoping it has a wife and they linger. It is one the first birds I can remember seeing (I think I was about six), and I do like bright red birds. One of my best birding days ever was in the Fossil Rim Wildlife park and seeing two red life birds in one day, summer tanager and a vermilion flycatcher. I must go back there sometime.

But in just under two weeks I will go to lovely Colebrook, NH, and dig, and that will be good. The database fairy is supposed to come to my job and give us a new, logical Access database, constructed by someone who understands them. And we are probably getting a new copy machine which will do both sides without my having to take the copy-on-one-side and put it (the right way up) in the paper hopper, saving hours of tedious labor, which I will spend filling up the new database. Since we keep spend a LOT of money on "Address Service," which means the Post Office lets us know when an address is dead, and then I take the name out of the list, the database is getting smaller every week.

Digging square holes will be a change for the better, believe me.

We had a family trip to lovely Northampton! to celebrate the daughteral birthday and take my aunt from Dallas around. It rained, because it rains in Northampton and Amherst. I took my parents to the garden center (they bought a daylily)and behaved badly myself(30% off peonies, I mean who wouldn't?). I went home Saturday night and the relatives appeared here on Sunday. Fortunately, it didn't rain till Sunday evening, so we had a gracious cup of tea and then I got a lot of things planted.

We are replete with young greenfrogs. The three newts of the puddle showed themselves all at once. I am someday going to finish my Meilenweit socks. That's about it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Chelonian rhapsody

I helped an old lady across the street today. At least, I think she was a lady and she was at least as old as my daughter. I saw her as I drove down the road; I had already been gulled by anamorphic perspective into braking for a really intense skid mark, so I was alert when I saw a huddled mass slow down and stop on the crest of the camber, where the sun lay warmest on the tarmac. She tucked her feet in and looked like my grandmother (neither of them were women to trifle with). "Lady," I said in my best cop voice, "you can't sit there." She ignored me for a minute and then took off, heading for under the car. Her shell was the size of a turkey platter. I picked her up. She kicked me, but was not annoyed enough to risk her dignity by trying to bite me. I put her in someone's yard, and she settled down remarking only that sand was not as warm as tarmac and that I was an interfering busybody flatlander really bad word.

i saw a jogger a bit further along. "There's really cool turtle a little way up the road." "Oooh, cool, " she said, proving the pleasantness of her face went all the way through. "A snapper?"

I had a good rest of the day, too. Work is boring, which is fine, although yesterday was the day the phone rang all day. A moderately famous NH older woman activist asked me if I knew any nice Republicans for her committee. I am sure there are nice Republicans (though my father tells me that's not how he raised me) but I don't know any for her committee.

When I got home it still wasn't raining, and I actually planted stuff, which was good because I glossed over a small trip to Hillsborough where I had intended to get groceries and bought annuals instead. Now the plants Norma gave me as hostess gifts (the pear-l jam is as tasty as it is beautiful, by the way) the weekend of NH Sheep and Turtle are happily settled and mulched, and I can hold up my head because Doug and I finally planted the poor tomatoes.

Monday, June 12, 2006

It wasn't raining

It was kind of strange yesterday; water was NOT coming out of the sky. Doug cut the lawn and built a raised-bed frame, and I ransacked the triangle flower bed, tearing out a lot of weeds I should have done more on the first time, edging it, and adding more petunias and mulch. I hope it all grows. This is the Hummingbird Garden from Audubon Nurseries, plus some other bits and pieces. I moved a very miserable azalea out of the swamp in the backyard, and a hosta from the chicken area, and it looks smashing. It took all day.

We have three newts and three frogs in the pond, but the tadpoles vanished very suddenly over the weekend I was in Northampton (the most recent one, last weekend that was. They were huge but legless when I left. It seems hard to believe they transformed so fast, and there are no signs of hundreds of baby frogs; but there are no bodies, either. Very weird.

In the meantime, before I get the pictures up, here is a fine cat story. Not sentimental.

Friday, June 09, 2006

On a happier note:

Wednesday, the day after, Ellie found an infant mouse wandering around in the basement. It was about the size of the one I had in my bra last year, but there was no cat involved. He appeared to have wandered out of his nest, as he could stumble and dash even with his eyes barely open. Mice are vermin but they are cute. When cats are chasing them I just tell the cat to take their toys ouside. This one was a BABY with a little tiny face and tiny ears... I knew we were not likely to succeed in bottle-raising him, so I fed him some banana and made a hot-water bottle (mug, full of hot water, with lid and wrapped in tea towel to prevent burns) and put an aquarium on its side with some hay in it and put the whole shebang back on the basement floor where the mouse came from. And he was not found dead the next day, or found at all, so we think his mom came back and got him.

If you even consider reading any book that has a talking dragon in it, which I am mildly suspicious of myself, definitely take a look at Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon . It and the two sequels (I advise against reading the teaser in the back of the third one, as it will be a year before the book comes out) are really good. There are relatively few female characters (though they are strong and likeable), but the most important relationship is the guy and his dragon. Unlike Anne McCaffery (which I read devotedly for many years), both are well-rounded characters who grow and change because of their relationship and their mutual experience. It’s got MORAL development! It’s got fireworks and spare but lush descriptions (meaning the settings and some of the clothes are yummy, but she doesn’t go on and on). Sometimes it's funny (on purpose).

This is the best fantasy I have read in a long time, even though it’s set in the Napoleonic Era and I hate early modern.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I notice other people are having somewhat of a blog slow-down. I blame the weather.

I spent last weekend moving Eleanor and her roomie Eleanor into the apartment they are sharing (with three other people) for the summer. I am getting better at packing the car (or maybe it was just that Doug had lent me his, so I could carry more) and moving furniture it basically more useful than playing mailing list games. I was also able to go to a really good garden center in Hadley and bought a fancy honeysuckle and a half-barrel (why would anyone want a water feature? The whole WORLD is a water feature, we're having flood warnings for about the third time in four weeks)and various small things. Now if I can get them planted before they drown....

But back to Memorial Day Weekend (when it was, if you recall, raining less). Ellie and Matt brought home a stray cat on Saturday evening. He was orange, frighteningly thin, with nastiness coming out of both ears, and the vet was out on an emergency and said he sounded stable; just keep him isolated and we could come in on Tuesday. So we set him up in the loom room and fed him. He was crazy for olive oil (I was using it on a paper towel to clean his ears) but also cat food. Ellie contemplated calling him Popeye because he was so fond of Olive Oyl... but opted for a more dignified name for an orange orphaned kitty (I had to point out it had something to do with Dickens as well Disney), so he was Oliver.

We knew he was in awful shape. Doug thought he might have had a stroke, I thought he might have been sideswiped by a car, as one side didn't work too well. But even though he had trouble walking, he would come bouncing up and stagger onto one's lap when we came to visit him, and purr very loudly and fall asleep. He wasn't neutered, but he knew a lot about people, and he was a sweetie. I wondered if someone might have dumped him when he got ill, or if he had just wandered off one day when he was delirious. At least for a while he had been loved dearly, and we could give him some of that again.

I am old and pessimistic and I was worried. Ellie is not. Both of us hoped when we took him to the vet they would fill him up with antibiotics and he would be all right, but of course we asked for FIV and FeLV tests. They did tell us he was older. It took the vet a long time to come out of the back room and I could tell at once the news was not good; he had full-blown kitty AIDS.

(This was the day NPR atarted covering the 25th anniversary of the scientific description on human AIDS, and it was a little too pat. But at least there's a vaccine for cats.)

Ellie took it hard, as she had not expected this. I had sort of expected it, since most cats don't fall over when they walk, but I took it hard too. We have only had to have one pet put to sleep, and my then-husband handled it. I am all for sensible allocation of medical resources and not prolonging anyone's agony, but I am also acutely aware of the difference between 'killing' and 'letting die.' He was having trouble walking, but he could eat and poop and purr and rub his head on us. And as Ellie said, he trusted us.

But we had cats at home who did not need to risk exposure to FIV, even though they are vaccinated. I didn't think we could drug him into remission and at least one of his ears was full of pus, which had to hurt; he was not going to get better.

So we filled him up with kitty treats and they gave him a shot of something like curare. He got all rigid, but Ellie could feel his heartbeat speed way up when they shaved his foreleg and gave him an overdose of anaesthetic. It was not the'they give him a shot and he just went to sleep' kind of death and we were somewhat miffed.

And he was dead.

And we buried him (deep) in the front yard next to Obelix, who Ellie says will like him, and they can both watch the chickens.

I am still sad.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Life has been rich

And I have to locate my camera.

Last Saturday Doug and I went to a flax-spinning workshop. We got to use a brake, a scutching stand, and two sizes of hackle. Since the actual flax stalks had been retted by someone else, it seemed like a very fast fiber prep from straw to a hank of what looked like teenaged-girl scalp. The outer bits of the straw fly all over, and the brake clacks, and then you take your handful of ratty fiber to an upright and hit it with the wooden sword. Norman Kennedy had told the teacher (Gina Gerhardt (sp?)) "Lass, you have to make the noise," so she had us making lots of noise, and the bits of outer staw fall off. Then you drag it through something very like a multi-pitch woolcomb, and then through a finer gauge one, and half of your handful (or more, depending on how well it was retted, which is to say how loose the outer bits of stem are from the inner fibers)becomes tow, and suitable for carding, and the long fibers look exactly like a dirty blond ponytail, the line flax. The actual spinning of the line flax is strange, because the staple is over a foot long. it is very possible to do spining relatively few fibers and make a fine thread, although I am more aware than ever that 200 - 500 threads per inch fabric like the ancient Egyptians made regularly was the insane.

I do not think I am going to become a wild keen linen maker, but it was interesting and I enjoyed the noise. On the other hand, i an really happy to wear linen rather than wool now that the weather has turned sticky (to say nothing of cotton, but linen really is cooler, as Juno will tell you. (though not in this post. She made a really lovely linen sleep shirt, she thought, and found herself wearing it, the envy of all who saw her, all weekend). Juno's pictures and her explanation of the party at Cate's on Saturday sums up everything I could say. Cate has a lovely house, even when you can only see bits of it because it was filled with women (mostly) and spinning wheels (and I think I saw more spindles in action at once than I ever have at once before).

The segue behaved badly, because there should have been time to say that after the flax-spinning, Doug drove us to Northampton (where I picked up Ellie last weekend and where I will be dropping her off this weekend) to Cate's house. Where Juno was wearing her linen shirt, and there were more people I knew than I have seen since Rhinebeck. It was wonderful. I hope Cate will have a keg party again when the twins are old enough to appreciate it. But Cate's family's absence did allow for considerable overnighting, and breakfast was fun as more and more people kept appearing. I think she had them on hooks in the closet.

The festival itself -- the weather was sunny and quite hot enough, somewhat of a contrast from the New Hampshire Sheep and Wool: if you weren't careful, you could have had hypothermia at NH and suntroke in MA within 14 days. I managed not to buy a Hitch-hiker (I love my Joy. I DON'T need a wheel for spinning in the car, and anyway I ususally don't have anyone else to drive. Pity.) I picked one of my daughter's dorm-mates from the college (she is spending the summer there too) and enjoyed continuing her ruination by encouraging her to buy more roving. I did succumb to Foxfire and Fantom Farm myself, and Jaeger Icelandic yarn and a skein of a mottled green that Cassie said everyone else at the party had also bought the day before. It's a really nice mottle, with bits of blue, and the yarn is part camel. I apparently believe I will get cold again someday, although it seems unlikely.

By far most of the fiber I brought home was given me. I have a pound of Damn Camel from Cate (if you can spin it, you can have it), an ounce or more of the lovely sage green Icelandic from Juno, and a batt of lovely angora-mix from Helen; so even being really scrupulous about not buying for my stash would not have saved me. Though Etherknitter kindly spun some of the blackish autumnal I am working since NHSW, while we tried to tempt her to various wheels.

A wonderful weekend. It was so good to see all those people.