Sunday, November 22, 2009

four teacups

tea mugThis one, my daughter turned up. It is very practical, as she and I differ in our estimation of the proper amount of milk for a satisfying cuppa. Sadly, the price is breathtaking.

tea mugThis one is very pretty, though it enshrines a low standard of tea prep (loose tea would look less attractive and also less iconic).

commuter mugThere is also this one, which is 16 oz but is melamine and not microwave-safe, a deal-breaker.

commuter mugAnd this one: which seems to be almost the same as this one, except the latter is cheaper and comes with a latex sleeve, albeit one with a coffee bean on it. I could cope with that, and possibly turn the sleeve inside out. It is available at its higher cost at the MFA gift shop in Boston. I wish they made a larger size.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

not bad

So Doug decided he needed to move out of Concord. Since Paul was never here, I asked him to consider moving his stuff out. He is, bit by bit. So far it as been AMAZINGLY angst-free. I still have a pet 18-yr old, Katie, but she isn't any trouble and will watch "Castle" with me.

Mind you, all of Paul's stuff is not gone, and there is one strip on the outside of the house I wish he would finish, and Lord only knows who will plow this winter. We'll see.

I am, at least for the moment, employed. All this time I have not done any contract archaeology, which is when you work for an outfit who helps whoever is building something comply with state or federal regulations. The main reason is that I was certain I was in completely inadequate shape for it. This may still be true, but there is a sort of local firm who was desperate for people to help dig test pits before the ground freezes. So for two out of three days last week I was the youngest on a crew of three, which was funny. I may be the youngest on a crew of five or six next week, as Vicky Bunker is persuading as many members of SCRAP as are at loose ends or retired whom she can to come dig for money. I said I hadn't been paid for Archaeology since the Reagan administration, but I think I left Canterbury before he was inaugurated, so it may have been Carter.

We are making sure there is nothing important in places along an existing line of huge power poles where they intend to sink more power poles. Two of the three days last week were idyllic, with some sun and t-shirt weather -- sifting and shovelling into the screen warm one up quite nicely. Yesterday it was more sullen and cloudy, but it was still not too cold and not raining at all. Heaven. There are pictures here.

I am in a position to say there is nothing there important culturally, but the wintergreen and sweet fern smell very nice. As well as the usual birds I have seen a brown creeper, an ominous-looking hawk making an ominous squawk, and a surprised and very lucky red-backed salamander.

You may have heard of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day? Since my daughter mentioned it sometime last year, I have become very spoiled and live on this stuff (a couple of years before that Ellie and I stopped showing signs of gluten intolerance. It's been a very great joy to eat and make bread again). They have a new book out, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, with recipes for partial whole wheat (about half the flour is whole wheat, okay? not a paradox) and also for gluten-free bread. I wanted to what the GF bread was like, and it was quite tasty and a little strange looking, though I imagine if I practice I'll get more confident messing aoround wiht the recipe. It contains 4 eggs. Even I, with my notorious lightheartedness about refrigerating eggs, feel dubious about having raw egg batter sitting up to two weeks in my refrigerator. But Herzberg and Francois are not careless people and no one seems yet to have been poisoned.

So if you take some of the dough and roll it out (ideally between two sheets of parchment paper or two of those silicon cookie sheets), and spread it with sauteed garlic and lots of chpped parsely, you can roll it up and let it rise and it's delicious. If you have something not unlike a bunch of chickpeas cooked with garlic and onion and whathaveyou, you can dump a spoon of it onto a sheet of the dough and re-invent samosas or calzones or Cornish pasties. Just let it rise half an hour or so first.

It makes great lunch for digging with.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October, really? (food and archaeology)

The wine making continues to go bad ly the latest batch is not too grapey, much, but it has a nice bitter metallic taste that ... well, perhaps the wine to have when you've already had more than one. Or maybe four.

I bought a $40 dehydrator (we will rush past the one I got on Ebay for $15, which worked when I got it and for about 5 minutes afterwards). I bought it because I envied Sarah's dried tomatoes. They taste like a jolt of a really good summer day. I made some, and they were good. The dried apple slices, I am telling you, are very very dangerous. They taste so good.Then you realize you have ate a) half a dehydrator's worth in one sitting (36 hrs depending on how thick you slice them -- I like them about 3/8" raw and dried to bone texture); b) all the fiber you will ever need; c) you need a bathroom. But they taste so good.

Then I made beef jerky. I used Alton Brown's recipe. I did not use the liquid smoke, and I halved the red pepper flakes. It was SUPERB. The next batch I used round steak (I think, something cheaper that looked unfatty) and off-brand Worcestershire sauce, and a large glug of vinegar, and it was pretty darned good. The worst problem s the smell of Worcestershire sauce (TM) makes me drool almost uncontrollably. Jerky tastes really good with dehydrated tomatoes, which is why I have none left. It is not a way to cut down on your sodium. It probably isn't very cheap, unless you were eating a good deal of the packaged stuff (and the homemade has fewer nitrates and you have some idea where the meat has been).

It's delicious. People at Octoberfest ate it up. really.

(What a clever segue to archaeology!)

Octoberfest is a five-day weekend at the beginning of October when, for the past seven years, we have gone to the Potter site and dug up stuff. Last year we mostly dug dry holes (50 x 50 cm shovel test pits), trying to find limits of the site. It was still better than real life, but kind of boring. This year we dug more on the blocks (meter or more rectangles, trowelled in 5 cm. levels over a 50 cm quad) we started this summer. I found hardly anything. This was okay for a couple of reasons. Most saliently, I actually dug for perhaps 20 minutes, all told. I did a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing getting people's names on their timesheets and taking pictures of stuff. It was a good year for stuff. Since I found a fluted almost-finished point last July I am feeling less like I have to find EVERYTHING, and watching the Quebeccoise girl find a point base was pretty soul-satisfying. Pictures are up on Facebook of some of the people.

It was cold. Not really really cold, like the year some of us set fire to our gloves trying to warm our hands over a Coleman lantern, but at times brisk. It was not often sunny. I would have been warmer had I had the brain cells to dig deeper into my duffle bag, but I was fine. The Octoberfest hoodies were one of Dick's best inspirations ever. We were warm (as long as we didn't get too wet) and we looked really scary.

So it's October? (Personal junk)

Okay, I'll try to do better. It is possible unemployment is doing a job on my morale. In fact, it is. The Army sends me spam every morning. I don't think a 53-year old chick not in the best of shape is really their favorite, but perhaps I should take them up on it. They are in portsmouth, an hour and a half away. Monster alternates between sending me jobs for people with three years of banking experience (I have none) or a high school diploma and no police record (actually, I have neither of these either) in towns seventy miles away that will last for a month.

People I respect with actual fresh useful job experience in real fields are also having trouble and I feel bad about a) feeling bad and b)not having solid experience and qualifications (like the Army, perhaps?). And being fat, divorced, 53, and pointlessly verbal. And kinda bitter sometimes.

My health is pretty good, as is that of my family, my cats, and my friends. Except for cats, I wish I had more of all of these (one of the things that worries me about my mental health is that I DON'T want another kitten. This is like, mature. I don't trust it.).

Paul and his daughter are still my tenants. Paul still does not have any construction jobs and is holding things together with his referee gigs. His daughter is counting the days till she can move out, which will unfortunately include getting better jobs. Living with a teenager is somewhat softened by not being related to her. Human beings have a rough time navigating toward adulthood (just look at me). It can be tiring for those around them.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I should be more worried

Okay. Paul can't get a job, so he can't get Katie a car. Or pay rent.

Katie has two jobs, which pay together slightly more than enough to fill the utterly inefficient gas tank of Paul's truck.

On the plus side, it's early autumn. Sarah is in the midst of Putting-By the Harvest.
Here is a vignette from last week:
I was talking to myself when Sarah called and said she was leaving work early and would appreciate company while she made peach butter. I went to Canterbury. Sarah's entire apt REEKED of basil, which was kind of nice. There was raspberry vinegar soaking in a bowl on the table, a bowl of measured pickling spices, several jars of cranberry mustard, a bowl of sliced green tomatoes to become chutney and a counterfull of canning jars (no eye of newt. She likes newts). Oh , and a sinkful of blanched peaches waiting to be peeled.

It was great fun to watch. I finished a sock and made the instep of another sock and spun for a couple of hours. She put a slew of little jars of pesto into the freezer, peeled the peaches, sliced the peaches, figured out the she needed to have weighed the peaches since her recipe was by weight rather than volume (she had 2 and a half recipes of Amaretto Peach Butter), put the peels into a huge pile of to-be-composted (including the bodies of several huge basil plants. She got them from someone who grew it to look nice in big pots but who hated pesto). Measured sugar and water and started the peach butter, got the bread dough out to rise, whipped up some simple pea soup, and asked sadly if I knew how to get the labels off jars. Beer people use bleach and water and she found soaking them in that for awhile and then using steel wool produced a desirable result. I warned her her nails and cuticles would be toast. But she was delighted because she been buying pesto in cute little jars for a year and they were canning weight jars and she had despaired that she would ever get the labels off. She had about 20, which meant she had enough jars to put up the green tomato chutney and the peach butter without begging jars from her mom.

Then we went across the road and scrumped apples. "Scrumped' is the British term for doing to fruits and veg. what you would be doing when you 'poach' a rabbit, and she loves the word. She estimates she and her friends have scrumped about 200 pounds of fruit from one row of peach trees.

We went to one apple tree and she and I had 3 shopping bags full of large cooking apples in about ten minutes. These were only the low-hanging fruit, from a tree that is not pruned or fertilized or sprayed or anything. They are lumpy , some of them, but not all that bad-looking. Another person from the village was there and got about another bag of the same apples because he and his wife have been coming to the same tree for ten yeas and it makes the world's best pies. He believed it was called Wolf River. We met two very old lesbians who were scrumping herbs. The moon rose, huge and very picturesque. Another person with some authority in the village showed up and suggested we would need to weigh the cars to assess how much we owed for the apples, but he was only joking and had been telling people to pick the damn peaches already for weeks. Sarah had been feeling guilty so she felt better, and I explained to everyone that she had bootlegger's springs in her car. Since they were all Very Old, everyone but Sarah agreed this was a great idea for smuggling fruit. Sarah had not heard about bootlegging springs.No appreciation for our nation's heritage.

We went back to her apt and she put most of a jar of aging applesauce on her fruit leather sheet on the dehydrator, and I finished the jar. Then I got to scrape the bottom of the peach butter pot when she transferred it to a smaller pot with a thicker bottom, and told her my secrets for removing burned-on from pans (soak for 12 hours, then scour with lots of table salt and a scrunched up piece of tinfoil. Knowing this means I am very popular at field school, where the pots are cheap and the cooks are doubtful).

She baked the bread and eventually we had pea soup with homebaked bread and home-shaken chive butter and I ate too much and staggered home.

The next day Miranda (I have a new boarder from the same organization as gave me Rob and Bryn last December) and I made a vast amount of pizza, while she made the first from-scratch pie of her life (a thing of perfect beauty) and I put more than 5 pounds of strange-looking apples through the food processor to make apple wine. Today I am hoping to make an apple tart for the official opening of the 2009-10 Archaeology Lab Season, and also to dehydrate some apple slices. I have a gallon bag of dehydrated peach and gave my parents a bag of frozen peaches (I still have one and half bags in the freezer and two gallons of peach wine).

I shall write more about the socks mentioned in passing but I need to go make an apple tart.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Domestic disorder. And hummingbirds.

I still haz it. It's complicated. At the moment it is not only too hot to cook, but also too hot to try to do the kind of 'find a place for everything and put it there' cleaning that is necessary from a) tearing up the kitchen (and the downstairs bathroom, and the dining area) and b) moving out of the kitchenette (and there is plenty of 'normal life wear and tear' in the loom room and the study area and and and...

The previous downstairs bathroom was a small, ill-designed room with a non-functioning showerstall and a toilet placed so that no one ovver a size 8 could feel comfortable there. Because of the way the house is built, the placement of the toilet and the basin was foreordained, so the new version has the toilet and the basin clinging to the left wall. It's now all very white, "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste" (guess what image I can't find on Google?) white, and I think I will put an ancient wall-painting on the wall. Started out thinking dolphins, pondering Ancient Egyptian garden, trying not to make tacky pun and do Minoan Throne Room.

We shall not speak about the garden. But black-eyed Susans and Queen Anne's Lace look great, and as an archaeologist-type I like having th house surrounded by luxuriant jungle vegetation.

ONe of the few things I have been faithful about is bird-feeding. I have at least two resident Indigo Buntings, and at least four (probably more) hummingbirds. The hummingbirds are mostly this year's chicks, the size of medium shrimp, and they talk a lot. They chirp when they fight and they mutter themselves afterward. Here was an odd interaction from last week:

The males do a kind of territorial/mating thing wherein they make big (like 12+ feet) arcs back and forth, with aeolian effects from the feathers. It reminds me of watching the big swinging Flying Boats from carnivals. The other day, a male (I am pretty sure he had a red throat) was trash-talking either a young female or a young male at the feeder. But instead of the usual diving and open dogfighting, these two were flying no more than a yard from one another and the feeder. It looked like they were flirting, and even more when the aggressor did a few passes of modified Flying Boat, with an arc only a yard across. Then the one on the feeder, instead of another mildly evasive manuever, lifted up from the feeder perch and sat on the aggressor's beak. Looking smug. She and the sat-upon bird stayed in the air for a moment, falling slowly onto the porch, and after the one on the bottom had flapped a little the one on its beak let go. But they went on sparring for several more minutes.

I love them. I'll miss them when they go south.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Not dead, no, really

Though I will be if the heat doesn't break. If only because I don't want to cook because it's about 85 in here and I have no food. (oo! Granola!)

Actually last week I made Ugly Instant Cobbler: take some so-so peaches and cut them in to a bowl. Add granola to taste or texture. Add date sugar and top with yoghurt. Here's how it becomes ugly: microwave it for a few minutes. The yoghurt curdles. The whey soaks into the granola. The peaches poach a bit. The date sugar enhances whatever peachy goodness they have. No cooking vessel to wash. No fat unless you count whatever they put in the granola.

I went to field school. I got the coughing crud. I had to go to bed at eight pm for most of two weeks and could not join in the beers at night because it seemed to make me relapse. This was boring. My block was the only one on the dig with psychodrama (well, we had the most, anyway). My block went crazy and found enough scrapers to make me almost blase. I found a fluted point, which really does take some of the 'I wish I ever found anything decent' pressure off. I am trying to make a narrative. An illustrated one becomes too large to e-mail almost at once. Flickr, I suppose?

Only before I could make the narrative I wanted to get the photos in some order, since the last year or so Dick has decided it would be fun to have pictures of the relatively important finds as they are found, ideally in situ with a signboard. These take place before the object gets a bag number, and way before the object gets a catalogue number. And even once I became diligent about keeping a photo-log (phlog?), I was apparently on crack. I know this, because I have the pictures and I have a copy of the phlog. And except for the few times I frightened one of the diggers into getting me the bag number it's hard to figure out which picture goes with which object. Even if you have a signboard with all the coordinates, if you don't have the list of bag numbers you're lost.

This became an obsession. Now, of course, I want to alter the very fabric of space and time itself and get the photo numbers into the computerized database. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It didn't rain today, but we have only seen a scrap of blue sky in the time we've been here. We're afraid someone stole the mountain across the road from the cottage because we haven't seen it. And the grocery store had a big fight with its landlord, who wanted too much rent, so now it's closed and we get all our food from a SuperWalMart. And the only tortillas they have are wheat. This was particularly poignant since I was making Cheap-Ass Chicken Enchiladas, containing only the finest not-homemade foods (Rotisserie chicken, boughten tortillas, canned enchilada sauce, and pre-shredded cheese. We had salsa, sauteed onions,chopped lettuce and tomatoes, cilantro to garnish and coleslaw (homemade, I suppose, in that I only had a dreg of salad dressing and stirred up the rest. My team (Andrea and Casey) were GREAT and all of us are exhausted.

Other than that things are pretty good. The place we're testing is testing out sterile (two flakes in about 25 shovel test pits) and tomorrow we're supposed to open up some larger (Multiples of square meters) areas. It will be a different kind of hard work. Today I was teamed with a really nice 17-yr old girl (Erin) who worked quite hard. So did I. The first STP had about 20 cm of nasty hard stuff with rocks and the second one is much softer but has a pile of (40 years ago) bulldozed upon topsoil on top. We've gone down 90 cm and keep getting perfectly obvious signs of not being very far below the real surface. We hope we'll finish it early.

Monday, June 22, 2009

North of the Notches (Dig Day 1)

It's still damp. My tent never condensed a puddle on the floor before. There are about thirty people in camp, and the second session promises to be larger. We believe (oh dear, it's 5am. and I don't know what I was going to say. Tea alone is not enough....)
Anyway, it is the field school and we are once again in the Mt. Washington Valley.

Well, I survived the first day. And so did the 20 or so newbies, who learned how to do paperwork (while the other 8 or so of us tried to lay out more grid in the area we cut the trees off of about three weeks ago. When the bugs were worse, and I am glad they are not quite as bad). Then Dick gave teams of two newbies an experienced person and we tried gently to teach them how to dig a 50 X 50 cm. shovel test pit. We were in an area we were fairly sure was free of artifacts, and I had hoped we would confound him, but no one found anything. Tomorrow we'll start real digging in the area where Dick laid out 25 STP's on new grid, with extra roots.

Tonight we had delicious pulled pork. Tomorrow I and Andrea and Casey make chicken enchiladas, assuming I can move tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gathering rosebuds while I may

Actually, petals, to make some kind of rose petal wine. And mead, ideally. Like dandelions, it's a labor-intensive ingredient, not least because what I have in ABUNDANCE is the US Soil Conservation Services's little Bad Seed, rosa multiflora. It's pretty and heavily-scented, but invasive as all hell and the roots break steel plows. And the flowers, though many, many, many, are small, about an inch across. Five little white petals.

I have a considerable amount of floribunda roses (though nothing compared to my holdings in Oriental Bittersweet) and so I went halfway down my driveway today, with a plastic bag and three protective cats.

I took the precaution of putting White Mountain Blackfly Repellent on my neck with a paper towel. It worked fairly well, and my hands didn't stink of citronella/peppermint/whatever. I figured this was important, since I don't want to brew White Mountain Insect Repellent Wine (would it work if taken internally? Could I get it to come out of my armpits?).

I had some pruners, too, but it became obvious that the easiest thing to do was not to pick or snip the flowers, but just to pull the petals. Even though it's a pernicious weed, I felt bad pulling off two or three buds as well as a potential rosehip with every flower. Various things eat the rosehips (thus spreading the pernicious weed, but they're hungry) and I don't like unnecessary cruelty. It also occurred to me that removing the non-petal bits of the flowers was going to take just as long as it does with the dandelions, and pulling the petals off while leaving the stamens and pistil and sepals on the bush was not all that difficult.

In the meantime, two catbirds hurled invective upon Marten and Willow. I saw the upper half of a hummingbird territorial display and heard lots of bird-cursing from two or three of them, too. Crows chased a pair of red-tailed hawks overhead. The bird with the very long melodious song (a whole bunch of phrases. Probably a warbler, it's been here invisible for three summers now and I still don't know what it is) sang, and the ovenbird and the yellow warbler, and it could hardly have been more pastoral. I picked for over an hour until I was tired of picking and hungry. The cats and I went back UP the hill.

I picked out the last calyxes (calices?) and I measured them and came out with a scant quart of petals. I need two quarts for each gallon of wine or mead, so less than a quarter of the quantity I would like. I shall have to be diligent tomorrow. They didn't seem to smell like much, despite the WHOMP of rose-fug around the bushes. Since I had less than a recipe's worth of rose petals, I couldn't make the brew up. I stirred a cup of sugar that I'll need for the recipe anyway into them. An hour later I had the best perfumed sugar ever. I am psyched. More petals tomorrow.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

See, if I post regularly you will know that my interests in life are very basic.

Will the Indigo Bunting come to the feeder before I get out of bed? (It depends on whether leaving the bed to refill the feeder, then returning to it, counts. The raccoon empties it every night. So I don't put much in. I think the indigo bunting must have nested around here. This is the first year he's stayed more than a week.)

How about the hummingbird, the rose-breasted Grosbeak, and the Red-Breasted Nuthatch? (Yes. And blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees and titmice. The Evening Grosbeaks are scarce lately.)

Do I feel this way because I drank too much or do I have allergies to all the tree sex going on? Or am I in hell, except with good birds? (Allergies. Haven't drunk that much. Not on a dig.) (Hell has polyester sheets, not 300 ct cotton.)

Will tea help? (Well, YES. Duh. Have more.)

Is there catfood? Do I need to make more bread? Does the laundry need dealing with? Is Paul the contractor likely to come today? ('usually' to all.)

Do I need to go to Concord? Do I need to go to New Jersey? (Sometimes.) If New Jersey, do I need to plant anything first so it doesn't broil on the deck? Are guest-type people likely to arrive? If yes, are there clear paths on the floor, more than one place to sit, and some kind of food to offer them?

How many cats do I have? (Three. Holding steady.)

Is it still raining? (Usually.)

Paul passed his energy auditor class with flying colors. He will have a steadier income, which is good. His daughter, Katie, (last child at home) graduates from high school this week.

We're all clear that Paul, though a fine figure of a man and reasonably literate, is not boyfriend material? It's not that I need to defend gay marriage or the Endangered Species Act ,or in fact the whole liberal agenda, at dinner or anywhere less formal, it's just that there's no point in dating someone to whom it would be necessary. Because neither Paul nor I would have enough sense to shut up and enjoy the moment. He thinks it doesn't matter who's president as they are all venal and useless.

They are going to be my new tenants, so I have been facing facts and trying to integrate myself into the new kitchen (AKA the real kitchen. Sooner or later, just 'the kitchen.')

The kitchenette is small and white with a breath-taking view of my driveway (and trees). It has one of the small fake-log gas warming stoves (it's a fake woodstove, for heat, not cooking) so it is actually warm in the winter and may be insulated from the rest of the house with a simple door. It was great spending the winter there, even if the kitchen-aspect was on the primitive side (tiny fridge, almost no counters, not much storage). It and my bedroom are the only rooms in the house with generous natural light. If a paying tenant with carpentry skills were not a fine thing, I would resent leaving my little decently-lit womb.

Today Doug and Sarah both came by and I moved the crucial furniture out of the kitchenette. Not that the kitchen is done. I moved the toaster and the electric kettle to the real kitchen even though there's no real place for them, and moved the couch and the chair into the living room, which is still full of the dining table and some surprised-looking bookshelves. Home Depot says it really, really will get the countertop here. Paul says he really, really will finish off the wall behind the counter I do have. The kitchenette, still full of a carboy of wine and another of beer, plus vinegar bottles, looks like someone moved piles of books and unopened mail off of surfaces and onto the floor. Strange. I am trying to remove one thing every time I go in there. The bathroom isn't finished either, so I am going into the kitchenette-area bathroom fairly regularly.

I'd like to say when I come home from my first week at the dig, everything will be done, but I no longer have formal hope, just a dull doggedness. I am tired of having my house messed up. Only been a year....

The cats aren't sure what to make of it all. Being in the living room does allow us to keep a closer eye on any raccoons who try to sashay in (and one does, sometimes more than one). The small one who raids the birdfeeder was there in broad daylight again today, and she seems to have full umm, raccoon breasts. Therefore she is a nursing mother (raccoons don't get man-boobs, do they?) and I resent her eating birdseed slightly less. Only you know she will teach her young about birdfeeders.

It only rained a few hours today.

Though I bought two splendid oven gloves to avoid getting any more scars on my knuckles, I just burned my elbow taking bread out of the oven. Bonked it on the oven door. Maybe a hazmat suit?

This time next week I will be in Randolph and thinking about going to sleep in my tent.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

For the record

My friends with the biopsies have had good news. Hers was benign and his was encapuslated and nothing bad found in his lymph nodes.

It has been raining for three days and I am wearing what I was wearing last winter and lit the woodstove this afternoon.

Monday, May 25, 2009

a placeholder until I actually catch up.

Lets' see. Tuesday, May 5, I flew to Dallas, where it was immoderately humid and not all that hot, but I still thought I might die. My aunt and her housemate were kindness itself and I saw the new Michael Caine movie. It is good acting and one unforgiveably funny moment (you can forgive the movie, but not yourself for laughing, a lot) but maybe I was not in the mood for old age and death and Youth's Resilience. They did a fine job but it seemed nothing new.

Saturday I flew to Austin, which from Dallas is possibly even a little shorter flight than from Boston to New York. It was really, really hot and bright. Thought I would succumb to heat prostration. Nearly did while just putting up my tent. Collapsed in the unA/C, Internet-free, equipped with adequate but uncomfortable furniture, and thought it was a pity to come so far, to such a lovely place, only to die.

While I was calling my parents (my cell phone worked actually fairly well) a scissor-tailed flycatcher came and did aerobatics in the sky, catching flies and looking more like one of those phoenixes in Chinese restaurant art than anything I have ever seen. I had known about S-T Flycatchers but only ever seen them sitting, looking overdressed, on telephone lines. I am here to say they may possibly be the best thing ever.

Was on an interesting dig with tolerable weather (no snow this year, no rain, either) and a bunch of people I really like for ten days. I did not die; in fact, I think I did just fine. More to come, I hope.

Flew home on Sunday, May 17, to be met late at night by Doug at the Manchester Airport, and at home by delighted cats.

Returned to the bosom of the Interwebs, I was happy to hear that _Castle_ (ABC, 10 pm Mondays, starting again in September, but you could do worse than to check it out on iTunes). I was less pleased to hear one close person was awaiting the results of a biopsy and a less close, but still good friend, had failed his and had the full prostate cancer surgery. 'But he's only in his 30's,' I said, 'he's barely older than I am!' (Pause.) Well, that was the case 20 years ago, yes, and now I doubt if he's much over 55. I hope both of them will be all right.

Scratched fire ant bites and slept a lot. We will not speak of the amount of _Firefly_ fan fic I read, but there's still another 130 pages of titles to go. I am being selective, for all the good that will do. I also made a batch of dandelion wine (it is labor-intensive: I watched 2 Middleman, 1 Better Off Ted, and an episode of Castle while I prepped just over half of the dandelion blossoms). I also bottled my cheap-and-fast Malbec, which still tastes too grapey but, unlike the last two batches of Zinfandel-in-a-box, will be drinkable. I have done some extensive research to make sure.

On Friday, May 23, I got in the car and drove to Northampton, MA, where I stayed up late talking to Grace about theodicy. God isn't looking too great, Obama notwithstanding.

Then I picked up Miriam (aka The Dread Pirate Roberts; she has been in my Smith science fiction convention spinning class twice) and we went to the MA Sheep and Wool Festival. We both behaved ourselves, and I saw: MamaCate, Robin, Mary Pratt (Tiffany bought a fleece), Tiffany and Katy, Robin, Marcy, Cindy Baehr, Cheryl and Sherrianne (?) from Doug's guild, Etherknitter, Deana,Jess (I know her face, I'm bad at names), Kristen, Leslie Wind... a generous helping of people I haven't seen for two years, what with missing both NH Sheep and Wool two years running now, and MA Sheep last year.

Then I drove home. The cats were relieved.

The next day I got up early and went to Concord, where I succeeded in packing most of Bryn (community organizer from last December?)'s worldly goods into my car and took them to her new place in Brighton. She did the heavy lifting and I watched her stuff and my illegally parked car, and talked spinning with strangers who wondered what my drop spindle was. Then I had lunch with my parents and went home.

Today Deb D came to visit and the weather was lovely. Paul continues to work on the bathroom; we wait in joyful hope for the second coming of the counter, since Home Depot LOST the first one: and Marten thinks Nigel needs a lot more polish before he's ready for the big time (that would be why they had a dust-up, right?).

Pictures of the dig to follow. Sometime soon, honest. Before the next one, anyway.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's a wild life.

I boiled a chicken, stripped the bones and boiled them and the skinny cartilaginous bits to make chicken stock. This, of course, coincided with a heat wave. I was very happy with the temperature between 60 and 70. It was at least 95 on Friday. It hasn't been quite so hot since and the daffodils are holding up nicely.

So, chicken soup: I strained it and wanted to offer some to the cats, particularly Nigel as he is a vacuum cleaner. I put it on a plate on the porch and forgot about it. At night, Marten scratched at the window and said he wanted to come in. I went to the door and there was ALREADY a kitty there eating the chicken, a nice BLACK and WHITE kitty with a PLUMY TAIL. The not-really-a-kitty kind of skunk-kitty. Who, fortunately, was not too bothered and left. Marten ignored him.

That was last night.

Saturday Sarah came over. Because of her job in a nature center she has some odd habits and some odd things in the back of her car,, to which she has added carrying a stuffed (roadkilled) bobcat. It has a lifelike pose, just a little taller and a little longer than Marten. Willow thought it was awful. She crept up almost to it, her tail fluffed, but changed her mind and slinked away. Then Marten showed up. He had no interest in it until he saw its face, when he fluffed up. Sarah, who claims to be a nice person, bumped the bobcat with her hand. It fell over and the two cats fled ZIP!!! under the cars.

Nigel touched noses with it. He's either quite intelligent or quite dumb.

Sarah's cats still hadn't gotten over it after a couple of hours of it being in their home.

Sarah's cat Abbey upon meeting "Bob"

The sink is now fully installed, the last piece of counter is ordered, and the stove is in process. After many calls to GE, we established that the adapter for liquid propane had actually not come a) installed, or b) in a plastic bag in the oven. It's now on order. I may actually move everything into the kitchen soon. Some of it for the second time. Whatever. It turns out that in hot weather the kitchenette is not nearly as attractive as the cavernous, cooler parts of the house, which will be an incentive. I had never spent any time here before last fall.

And now for some anthropology.

This is supposed to be a fiber-arty blog, with birds. The person who writes it, however, is not ashamed of being a science fiction and fantasy fan (maybe a touch defensive, but not ashamed). Fanfic (the Wikipedia entry is quite good, too) is a basic human desire, to take the good stories and add to them, maybe put yourself in. In Greek every two-bit village had a hometown boy who went to Troy, whose stories may or may not have been folded into the Iliad and the Odyssey. In mediaeval Europe, there were the tales of Arthur and his knights, who may have started out post-Roman Britons, seasoned with some magic cups from Wales and spiced up when the French got in on the act and put Lancelot in. Pre-literate fanfic, oral tradition, eventually met up with publication-- which can be immortality or zombie-fied stasis (The Once and Future King suggests that not all oral tradition is dead, along with new versions of Beowulf from Seamus Heany, Neil Gaiman and friends, and John Gardner). It's very hard to keep a good archetype down, and some stories are too good to leave alone.

By the late 20th century the archetypes were all over the place on TV, but no itinerant minstrels to promote them. (This was after movable type, but before plain-paper copiers.) There were expensively self-printed zines available, sometimes with COLOR! if you knew where to look, sometimes for sale at science fiction conventions, but years would pass between chapters in a serial. The writers, always an unreliable lot, had to be herded, and editted, and the editors had to come up with a substantial sum of money (this was before 'yuppie food stamps' and hedge funds). I was particularly impressed by one friend of mine who couldn't afford the $25-$45 for the zines in the Robin of Sherwood fandom. So she had poems published in all of them and got complimentary copies.

I survived high school writing pretty bad Star Trek fanfic (this was before there was more than one kind of Star Trek. Or more than a couple of Star Wars movies, either, thank God). It wasn't great art, but it was a good place to go and as the years passed it caused occasional self-discovery (like when I noticed how fed up my character was trying to pass for Earth-normal. I was living in England at the time. Alien angst, how interesting.) It is possible I may have written fan fiction about other TV shows, as well as original fiction. Eventually, mostly because of Katherine Kurtz, I fell in among some other literate fans and felt a little less freakish. (This was before, above all, before the Internet. You're not alone any more. Whoever you are. Even if you shouldn't exist.)

So one grows out of things, not enough to deprive me of some strong opinions about what constitutes Star Trek's canon (my God, there are articles on _everything_ on the Internet!) (and no, I won't be seeing the movie unless there is some STRONG recommendation), but I never had the hankering to write about Buffy or X-Files, even though I had strong convictions about some of the plot lines and how they ought to have gone. I haven't (skritched) it no more.

And for awhile I was TV free and snotty about it. And the Internet struck again. Then last week, for various reasons probably along the lines of 'idle hands,' I happened to Google 'Fanfic' the other day.

O Brave New World! or possibly, Holy CRAP!!!

I haven't delved too deeply, but have a look at this: There is fan fic about comics? about songs? about TV from the 70's _and they are still writing it as of this month? Alias Smith and Jones only lasted about three seasons, for goodness sake! and there's 90 stories or fragments up! More than Thirty-five THOUSAND Buffy fics? M*A*S*H? Teletubbies? Fics about Bill Nye the Science Guy? Mammoths having "Ice Age" sex?

If we could harness the energy of the inner and outer teenagers who write this, we could end world hunger.

But we'd still be hungry for stories about people we know and love and who, we know, would NEVER act like that. But they might.

Friday, April 17, 2009

In which I lose all my elitist cred

Television.' I don't watch it. After the 'meh?' ending of Buffy; after the God-awful stringing along of the last season of the X-Files... particularly after I moved to New Hampshire, where a cable connection would cost $2600 to run in from the road... true, there is something called Satellite TV, sadly not broadcasting news from the Lunar colony...

A couple years ago Paul the contractor got all moved with pity and installed an aerial, only the VCR was stuck on 'safe mode' and as God is my witness I could only see PAX TV. These things, they don't inspire a deep desire for connectivity. I 'watched' the presidential election on various radio and tv feeds on my computer. Sometimes I would watch DVDs on my computer. Then my son, the media fan, sent me a link to The Middleman. It was good (and of course, it was cancelled, but you can get it on iTunes or as a DVD). I also knew my daughter was watching Battlestar Galactica online.

Then I discovered Hulu.
So I idly started watching Dollhouse, which is so-so, not awful. And Kings, which is pretty maybe not too good, but I like the in-jokes with the Bible. My mom was watching Better off Ted (ABC) and it made me smile, particularly with the screaming. ABC suggested I should watch 'Castle', which involves Nathan Fillion of Firefly and snide remarks and intelligent humor. I really like it. ABC also thought I would like "The Unusuals," which is no "Castle" but is all right, and "The Motherhood," which was stupid. I don't think watching people being stupid is funny. But still, I began to feel that I was accepting everything they offered, in my terrible sensory-deprivation, not-enough-social rural idyll.

Tonight I tried to like "Parks and Recreation," which has the nice woman who was SNL's Hillary Clinton. Oh MY GHOD. Wanted to laugh. Did NOT happen.

So I still have some faculties of discrimination.

And a pair of red-breasted nuthatches and the return of BamBam the yellow-bellied sapsucker. I do like spring.

Friday, April 10, 2009

we continue the great slog forward

It is a good day, when you have a nice cup of hot tea. Less when you pour half of it over your chest and a shirt you have just said is your favorite. Washer. Dry shirt. I haz them, so it's still a good day. And I am still trying to get the Kitchen-Aid Behemoth ready for Craigslist. It's nicely made, all its surfaces come out for washing.

Perhaps on Monday Paul will be able to figure how they go back in, because I am baffled. Also the second shirt got all wet. Could be worse.

I did not awake to a unicorn in my garden with a golden horn, but to a messy object chewing over things in the grass---shoots of something? Slugs? wormses? It was a porcupine, probably the one who was around three years ago as a Por-cutey-pie (my daughter's boyfriend said so) and took a chunk out of the porch where the road salt had sat. I see it once a year or so, and I tell myself the prickles are distinctive.

The are rodents, like Jabba the Chuck or beavers; like beavers, they walk on flat feet. I suppose the snuffling for things in the grass might seem Porc like, but they look more Spiny Bear to me.

Monday, April 06, 2009

First light

Now, possibly, I am cooking with gas! Wahoo!

Progress IS taking place in the Kitchen That Time Forgot. I was ogling my cabinets and asked Paul the contractor if people usually stared at their cabinets covetously. He said they often did when they had had to wait ten months for them.

There is still a lot of finish work to do and and one more counter to come. I am also waiting for him to finish attaching the sink (a new leak appears in the system every time he thinks This Will Be the Day).

I am trying for clean lines, crisp intuitive ergonomic organization. They (who do you think?) try to mess with me. This spice rack in a drawer, for instance? It is about 3mm too tall to fit in a standard kitchen drawer if you actually put the spice bottles that come with it into it. I was particularly happy that it did not come with jars filled with herbs and spices of unknown age and provenance. Anyone interested? It comes with two sets of labels, some for things I don't use (chervil? Celery seeds?).

The kitchenette is still somewhat too small and I will not regret the literally 18"X18" of counter it has, even with two microwave carts. Or the dwarfish fridge whose door I suspect of not sealing, with the automatically icing mini-freezer (in some time of great wealth, I hope to replace it). But it's a nice room and the cats and I have been happy here. Until I find a tenant, I can go on using it as as a sitting room.

Today I have been cleaning the previous fridge, a Kitchen Aid Behemoth (Superba) too big for the kitchen and at least ten years old (new more efficient smaller fridge for me), hoping I can find someone who wants the old one. Periodically I try to put something away in the new kitchen, but an immense, Lazy Susan needs assembly in a crucial cabinet. I remove things from the dining room table (on, under, and around), now occupying prime real estate in the living room, blocking me from the swift and an important bookshelf. Things I haven't used for ten months I can probably get rid of. How many thermos flasks does a person need? Must I use flatware? Should I retain the corn stickers? Why is everything covered with dust?

In brewing news, I was ready to bottle the cheap fast red but I turned out not to have enough bottles. Went to the Dump, sorry, recycling center, only to find that they had apparently just emptied the glass hopper. There was nothing. Since then it has been raining a lot and you would think people would be drowning their sorrows; I'll go back tomorrow. Drinking more myself would not help, since I am fond of a very cheap Shiraz in a box from Fish Eye.

We see almost no deer now that the snow has gone. But we did see a woodchuck scurrying under the former chicken hut. It was the size and roughly the same shape as Jabba the Hutt. Even if I had decent soil and a better work ethic, I wonder what the chances of a successful garden crop would be?

So last Wednesday Paul confided that his son had sent a text message to his girl friend and, as sometimes happens, it had sent itself to the person previous on the list, so Paul received "Dear Peggy, I really can't deal with you being pregnant. Are you sure?" Paul and I had a long and interesting talk about relative goods (if he were not an intransigent libertarian he would be quite tasty in many ways) and what he was going to say and how he hoped his son would bring the topic up.

April Fool!

I told his son I would kill him myself.

Paul and his son came by today to explain that they could not do kitchen as they would be fixing both Paul and his son's trucks. His son had driven his truck into his father's truck's rear end, messing with Paul's bumper and puncturing the son's oil filter, at least. We are lighting candles for the trucks' well-beings.

Still soggy, but with frog spawn.

Last Friday, April 3, was Salamander Big Night. It hasn't rained properly the last three years in early April, but the first spring I was here it rained all day and into the evening on April 8 (There is a blog entry with decent pictures but skip the prose).

Sarah, who is having crazy times at work, in a good way, called in a state of high excitement and pointed out that it was well over 40, had been raining all day, and would into the night, so she was coming for Big Night. This year I did not have debilitating cramps and it wasn't raining as hard as 2005, more of a light mist. We walked up and down my rutted dirt road for two and a half hours and saw (unsquashed) 27 peepers,

peeper,frog hyla crucifer,amphibian

a woodfrog,

frog,wood frog

a greenfrog, four spotted salamanders,

Yellow-spotted salamander,salamander,amphibian

and a red-backed salamander. (Squashed: three peepers, three woodfrogs, a couple of greenfrogs and one spotted salamander. Cars. And the traffic was quite light.) We also saw innumerable rocks, twigs, and leaves masquerading as amphibians. One of the sticks turned out to be the red-backed salamander, a species who are entirely terrestrial and had no need to go gallivanting to the nearest vernal pool. I think this one wanted to know what all the excitement was.

I took a video of a pool full of woodfrogs a hundred yards down the road from my driveway; the picture isn't much, but I hope you like the sound.

Monday, March 30, 2009

sogginess in the Spring

It could refer to my knees and ankles, or a pile of newspapers in a water source, but I mean the air and the ground are about equally damp and squishy today. I know I should be glad it isn't freezing solid (or, like Fargo, flooding AND freezing solid), and I am, but it is not raising the heart or the energy level. Or maybe that's the effect of three sleeping cats.

Marten had an upset stomach the day he went for his annual vaccinations and he was more miserable than I have ever seen him, keening (though he is normally almost mute) and hiding under my feet on the way home. So I drove home in sockfeet because I didn't want to crush him when I clutched in. He was not himself for two more days, but now he seems himself again. Nigel is continuing to be a delight, but he wants someone kitteny to play with, because Marten thinks he is a pipsqueak. I do not think I should get a fourth cat, because they cost money and I should also pay attention to creeping Cat-Ladyhood, which can sneak up on a single woman in the near-woods. On nicer days we all go outside and take walks, even Willow.

This is not a nicer day.

There are crocus and mini-iris and snowdrops. No peepers I have noticed yet. We have gone beyond 'mud-luscious' to 'amazing ruts in the driveway.'

On Friday, I made my yearly trip to Northampton to teach spinning and needle-felting at the Smith science fiction convention. I missed my daughter, who had mixed feelings about graduating and leaving Smith, too, but I found I still knew a bunch of people and since at least two of them will still be there next spring, I will probably go again. I also really like spinning and spindles and I don't do enough of it. And science fiction fans, who find it perfectly reasonable to wonder in the middle of a conversation about spinning, _why_ the Greek-style sword is shaped like that. (It was a wooden version, along these lines, for sale and a thing of beauty. I don't know whether it would have to be peace-bonded at a convention, but you could probably give someone a nasty bruising scalp wound.)

An eight-year-old girl with her family from Virginia suggested several more science fiction conventions I could go to when I announced I needed more of this. She and her sister were wearing matching velvet half-cloaks, being steampunk (think Victorian with a heavy Jules Verne overlay, and extra gears and rockets) with their father.

Another person told me she had never heard grownups discussing science fiction before, and another wondered why so many people looked down on it. I tried to explain that there was a time before lots of paperbacked books existed and that it had mostly been small pulp magazines until about 1964, but since I have never understood why 'everyone' in the 'real literary world' thinks science fiction is the lowest form of life except maybe for slasher porn, I wasn't much help. (I am not sure I believe in 'everyone' or the 'real literary world,' either. But I have heard about them.)

But science fiction cons, despite the posing-as-weird-(they-wish), the unwashed, and those in chain-mail bikinis, feel like home to me, so it was good. ConBust was actually quite clean, relatively unweird, and mostly appropriately dressed.

WEBS is selling some really nicely prepared 'domestic wool' (looks like Romney) in several natural colors for 99 cents an ounce. I behaved very well and only spent $18 there, and half that was for needles. It turned out I needed the extra roving I had bought, and the con was charging a materials fee for the spinning class, a great idea I had never had before. The kitchen store has moved next to the comic book store, which could be a bad conjunction for me the next time I go, but I behaved and bought a hostess gift from the comic book people (for when I go back there Memorial Day; I don't think Grace and Debbie read this, so I can say it was a FLUXX deck; and a spice jar holding drawer rack for the kitchen I sincerely believe I will one day be using. It has many drawers. I am hoping t=for the almost empty counter look, so I am giving this a shot.

The cats don't approve of all this gallivanting, but I do. It was beautiful in Henniker on Friday and in Northampton on Saturday, t-shirt weather... someday again, I hope.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Black cat update: He seems to be named Nigel, which means 'Small black thing.' It's also a form of the name of a rather weedy minor male character in Terry Pratchett, who nonetheless has a hero's heart. He is sweet and wants much head-scratching. I am not altogether sure how the litter box issue is working. He also sleeps most of the day and wanders around at night, looking for a party or his relatives. But he is living inside the house and shows up for attention and a huge amount of premium kibble. The other cats are not saying "What a charming playmate," exactly.

It snowed again.

Paul finished putting lights into the kitchen. If it ever becomes a real functioning kitchen (I know, wanting the sink and the stove to be hitched up is just another way to waste energy and water) it will be better lit by a great deal than the old one. Perhaps by June. It's making more progress now with him working on it.

Friday, March 06, 2009

And also

Since my remaining patience is being tried it's a good thing I started the short term wine kit. It turned out that my local brewing shop, Kettle to Keg, carries the brand that I have been successful with. I also picked up a better siphon. This kit will be ready to bottle 4 weeks from when I started it, and though they would prefer I waited 6 months to try it, a month will do. It's a Canadian Malbec. If that's possible.

Around the same time I got my next step into fermentation going: I had bought a bottle of Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar a couple of weeks ago (the local food co-op has it). I poured about a third of the bottle into a clean jug and added most of a bottle of undrinkable Zinfandel. It is finally beginning to have the symptoms of acetafication; something like an oil slick is forming. It doesn't smell any more like vinegar than it did, but that may yet happen. Today I gave the matter a great deal of thought and some Googling and have taken several of the small bottles of really-not-very-good stout and put them with some more of the unpasteurized vinegar in a half-gallon jar by the stove, and after awhile I hope to have malt vinegar.

Sarah and I have enticed the Black Kitty back into the house and he feels thoroughly betrayed. He ran straight to the rather camouflaged cat exit, only to find I had shut it (admittedly, after the cat had gone). Sarah is now feeding him tuna fish. i don't eat tuna any more because I admire them and they are not farmed and so on. But if it's here, at least that fish will not have died in vain. Now Cat's rolling on his back and eating tuna out of her hand. Very good at taming people.
So I went to the feed'n'grain a week ago to buy eggs and there was a sign up from an elderly woman on a fixed income with three cats. She had just taken in a pregnant stray, and, oddly, wanted someone else to take the cat. (They have found an obliging vet.) I said that she should call me when she needed a home for a male kitten. Wendy, behind the counter, whipped out three pieces of paper. "Here, black male 5 months old. Or here. Or here -- no, she hasn't popped yet." So I called the black male's owner, who assured me he was a love and litter-trained (yeah, maybe) and she just had too many cats. And a Caesarean and a week-old baby boy. He (cat, not baby) is good about litter boxes but had no shots and was not altered (owner seemed confused as to what I might mean by altered).

Sometime later, I arrived at the house. The owner had 'Tucker' (Tucker is the name of a dog belonging to a friend of mine; it is not a cat name to me) in a catbox, pulled him out and puts him in my arms. A very nice cat, slightly fluffy black with semi-plumy tail. She says they like him, they just have too many cats. ("I'm 24 and well on the way to being a crazy cat lady.") His sister, Freckles, is from a different litter, but Betsy, their mom, has never been a good mom and both litters were mostly raised by Sally, their grandmother, who had been just coming off a litter when Tucker's litter was born and she nursed them after Betty ran off. His and Freckles's fathers had been wandering toms.

Tucker had been rather feral as small kitten but after he was got at by the two rat terriers who live in the basement, he came to live in the house and was just a love.

That's not counting the two dogs upstairs, one of whom has been sent outside for considering biting me. Very protective of the baby, Maleina explains. Other dog had to stay indoors as other dog had mauled goose and killed goose's mate.

Would I like to meet the pony? I met the pony, the rescue pig ( a Tamworth, trodden on by mom, with unusable right leg; the size of a coffee table and looks like a wild boar without tusks. Friendly, polite), and the remaining goose. Maleina, had sewn the goose back together after dog had left her for dead. Goose looked fine now.

So I took Black cat to vet, and he was very calm, like not hiding, and passed all his tests and got his first set of shots and I was in yuppie-shock about having too many cats, not fixed, no vaccines (despite being inside/outside).

Better living through contraception.

After 6 days, he was still sitting with his face squashed into the space FARTHER under the stairs and only coming out when no one was there, unless I offered him tuna. When he came out, he was friendly and charming. So far he has been pooping and peeing on the futon in the spare room.

Yesterday, tired of spending time on my stomach under the stairs, I carried Cat (possibly named Emile) to the other end of the house where I and cats spend most of our time, waiting for spring and the contractor to finish the proper kitchen.
(I still sleep upstairs in my rather chilly bedroom and cats join me to watch bird feeder and glom cat treats.)

I was thinking he could live in the 3/4 bathroom, though it is the only one functioning on first floor, while learning the way of the kitty litter box. And he would be closer to the rest of us, becoming used to noises of life, NOT acting institutionalized with face squished into corner.

This may not have been a good decision. But he was not using the futon for the purposes for which it was intended (and he wasn't using the litter box at all).

He reacted to the bathroom as though he had at some time been put under the shower. There was a lot of reaction. The glass, but fortunately tempered glass, doors of the shower stall fell out of their frame and then the frame fell on my head, while Cat was using me as a place to kick off from in wild dashing around small bathroom. I do not blame him and the holes in my face are small. I am confident of putting the shower stall back together, which would be nice as upstair bathroom is only minimally heated these days.

Marten and Willow were not impressed.

He was under the couch in that room (the kitchenette/sitting room) when I went to bed. No one else fits under the couch. It would be nice if he used one of two litter boxes at hand. I am not looking forward to going down there but since it's not sunny today it's cold here and I am getting hungry.

Later: well. I thought he was under the couch.
Later yet: he is under the front porch. I went out to see the sun attempt to set and there he was. He was not going to be enticed inside, though. At least he is staying nearby.

He may be named Schroedinger.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Snow, but with redpolls and wine kits

We had three weeks without snow. It was strange at first, but I became reconciled to it. Marten and I took walks.

Then we had six inches of snow and a couple more and then about eight; it compacts and sublimates (and drifts) so it is not an even coating. But there's a good solid six inches on the driveway and Marten tells me I am on crack when I suggest a nice perambulation.

I have been fortunate enough to attract a second flock of finches; the first was ALL pine siskins, which was quite fine. They are irrupting like mad, apparently. I love them; they are tiny (stare at the smaller finches long enough and hummingbirds seem a little less ridiculous) with amazingly needle-nosed beaks for removing seeds from pine cones.

But I also like Redpolls and Birdchick was taunting me with hers, so it was with added delight that I realized my monochrome (almost) though lovely siskins had been augmented by sparrows dipped in raspberry juice. This is the usual description of a house finch, or maybe a purple finch, but in the gray of winter maybe the respberry juice is half frozen? It was quite startlingly bright. And goldfinches, who are in civvies for the winter, though quite lovely themselves.

There are more squirrels to be seen, red and gray and very tense. I don't blame them, there is a hawk spending a lot of time around. The deer were out during the day last Saturday as well; Sarah spotted four or five through my kitchenette window and there was one, possibly doomed, wandering around on Rt 106. I hope they don't eat my azaleas this year, but I am still struck by the pure, maybe completely ditzed-out, look of inquiry on their faces. None of the pictures I can find seem to show their focus, all ears and eyes... and maybe no analysis of any kind. At least they don't chew gum. I do not expect to like deer as much as I do, since I know there are usually far too many (and not enough wolves). But it is hard not to feel for them this time of year, and they look so polite. You would be amazed how much noise they make when they are in a hurry.

I spent much too much of yesterday putting my Radiance Jacket sleeves into the body. I have to do the non-button band/collar and it will be done. I hope it looks less tatty when blocked. Give me a nice halo-ey worsted to hide any number of flaws, particularly the putting together parts. And this is fundamentally a warmer-weather, slightly dressy sweater. It's never going to be warm enough here. Get real.

So maybe I'll make some Coraline socks (I do not need a blue sweater that will show, I suspect, every bulge of my fat), with holographic thread (this link has some nice Coraline pictures) and duplicate stitched stars instead of appliqueed cloth ones.

My original impulse to blog was related to a wine kit I am making. I have had great success in the past (drinkable) with Vino Vida and not so much with this kind, but I don't know if it's them or me. Twice. A kind of hideous uber-grape flavor. (I am making vinegar, now.) The failure, expensive in both effort and money, has made me inhibited from trying again. But I have had a kit sitting in the corner for two years (and fortunately, a spare sachet of the right yeast) and I decided to give it a shot. This was a more expensive kit, with oak chips and toasted oak powder (re***MARK***ably sludgy) and I mixed it up last week and have been enjoying the change of smell from Welch's to something more sinister. Yesterday I transferred it to the secondary fermenter. It made absolutely no more mess than killing a pig (probably. Definitely less noise. Not that I have killed a pig, really, in or outside). Only I would not have killed a pig in the kitchen.

The carpet needed replacing anyway.

And now, reading farther, I find this fancy-pants wine would like to sit, bottled, for six months or better yet a year before I try it. This will not be a tolerable solution to my need for a low-cost tipple anytime soon, the more since it is at least a month off from getting bottled.

Time to go through the sofa cushions for change and off to Kettle to Keg.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

the loneliness of the monogamist knitter

We have to get a better word. I am not married to my knitting. As such. Even it occasionally screws me over or supports me... no.
Anyway, I have knitted ONLY the Radiance Jacket since January 12 and there is no doubt I am in the home stretch. It's like pulling teeth. I thought getting out of the sleeves and back to the back would help. It hasn't, much. It's still a good pattern; maybe if I hadn't broken the rhythm of the repeat by doing the sleeves... only I would still have had the fiddliness of the fronts. Should have skipped to the back.

I have a little cute bag kit based on the Egyptian sock that I bought from the Spanish Peacock (it's not on his site. Does anyone know of a Carol New?), and a skein of Dream in Color In Vino Veritas and a new (to me) book called Knit One Below.

I want to knit something else.

I want to be Fiscally Responsible. I don't want more of the woolen equivalent of subprime mortgages (mind you, the properties in the Loom Room are fundamentally sound, they just need development...I should not be allowed to visit yarn shop or a fiber festival for about about 8 years). I would like to see a sweater instead of a pile of parts and neatly rolled balls.

I hope I finish soon. I keep zoning out and finding I have been listening to the book on tape (American Gods with my mouth slack and unfocussed eyes, which is fine for listening but my hands are still.

Right. It's not even very many stitches per row.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

now yer talkin

Which creature of the night are you?
Your Result: Demon

Your raging id needs no chemical incentive to break out into a fiery orgy of destruction. When you're not burning, you're brooding. All you need is someone to point the way out for you.

Cthulu Spawn
Which creature of the night are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

My Political Views
I am a left moderate social libertarian
Left: 5.91, Libertarian: 1.54

Political Spectrum Quiz

Of course some might same these say the same thing.

Monday, February 09, 2009


On January 28, I first heard chickadees this year discussing the possibility of getting together over coffee. On January 29, there was a woodpecker drumming. They are all overly hopeful.

However today I saw two squirrels chasing each other, despite having to cross vast stretches of icy tundra where a hawk could nail them. Sex is a fearful thing.

Yesterday it was in the 40's. Perversely, it felt much colder outside than the windless day-before-yesterday in the 20's. Much melting took place; I know this because the snow on my deck is now some 4" below the level of the concrete-filled bucket in which the feeder-tree is planted. Previously about the same amount above it, which made flling the feeders much easier. I gather the raccoons are asleep somewhere, and for whatever reasons any squirrels (gray, all them, so far this year) that come here eat only a meal once in a while and do not plunder or ravage.

The remaining snow on my deck, about a foot, is as dense as the styrofoam protecting computers or stereo components in their shipping boxes; I walk on it without leaving any impression or getting my boots snowy.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Not a moment too soon. I want it to be warm enough to sit on the porch. It isn't. It is warm enough in the sun to enjoy the heat and have little flashes that I think are 'wanting to garden' or 'wanting to do archaeology.'

Marten is getting fat, so he and I are now walking the length of the driveway and back. Two days running, now. He doesn't really like going out of sight of the house. He tried to go snowshoeing with me, but I got out of sight several times (I fell over several times). He was managing to walk onto top of the slightly crusty 2+ feet of snow, but I was not. He, who is practically a silent cat, yowled until I staggered into view and then yowled until we went home.

So we are walking the driveway, which seems fairly flat going down and noticeably uphill going home.

It has not snowed much in probably over a week.

I need a Job.

Meanwhile, I am probably 4/5 done on the sleeves of the Radiance and making progress.

I went to see Coraline on opening night. Other parts of the country (perhaps it was only Portland OR, where the studio that made it is), there were lines and throngs. New Hampshire, while practically perfect in every way, is deficient in fans. The cinema was maybe half full. We liked it, and though it was pretty scary (I am too long out of the game, but I would guess most 8-year olds and up would be fine) at times it was mostly good. The fact that all the things in the movie were three-dimensionally real (pruning shears. Knitted gloves. Snapdragons.)made my miniature-loving self very happy. I wish the museum exhibit would travel closer than Portland.

In fact, I think I would have gone so far and said it was Quite Good if I were not a literary purist. I understand why the director had to add a character (I only understand grudgingly, but for me a movie about a girl talking mostly to herself and a cat would be autobiographical) and most of his other touches. While The Lord of the Rings was coming out and all of us Faramir (and Sam) fans were spitting nickels and even larger denominations, I decided it was like different versions of big oral-tradition epics, where it would make perfect sense for different places to have slightly different versions (like ones of the King Arthur cycle where Lancelot got put in, or the Grail). Even Star Trek has various canons (not going there unless you ask, while offering alcohol). So I manage not to be haughty about all the places it varied from the book, or not too haughty, and I enjoyed the movie (except for one gratuitous kick at the cat). The 3-D was excellent. I had never seen any 3-D movies before; mind you, I didn't notice that ViewMasters were supposed to be 3-D until I was about 15. But the hummingbirds and the dancing mice and all of the credits were lovely.

Since I am internet-stalking Neil Gaiman (no more than about twenty thousand others with me, and apparently no one is ruining his life IRL, so I guess we are all well behaved) the movie finally coming out was a big deal. His blog and that of his assistant, Lorraine, and the craft and design blogs have all been following Coraline-movie a fair amount. Then Neil Gaiman won the Newbury Medal in the middle of the movie tour and I practically had to sit and fan myself following him and Lorraine around their preparations. Lorraine also has a number of cats, and NG has a Dog, and the Birdchick is their beekeeper, so there is quite a bit to follow. They live in Minnesota where it is even colder then here. Coraline in the book lives somewhere indeterminate, probably England, where it rains and is misty, but at one point the sun comes out and she stares at beauty of the cat's fur in the light, just as I have been noticing Willow's.

Enough with the winter.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Newbury Medal!

I was rabbitting on about this book on tape I couldn't turn off? It won the Newbury Medal today! Among the reasons Neil Gaiman is so lovable is that his second thought was to remember not to swear like he did when he won the Hugo. He didn't think it would be cute to the children's librarians. says I'm a Cool Nerd God.  Click here to take the Nerd Test, get geeky images and jokes, and talk to others on the nerd forum!

So there.

It's cold (was -2 this morning), barely enough snow to insulate the perennials, but warm in the house, at least this part of it. I have now moved the little table out of the kitchenette and moved a couch in. I thought the couch was a loveseat until I saw it outside the living room, when it became obvious that it was at one time a pretty classy thing with brocade upholstery. I was lucky to be able to get it past the refrigerator. Its springs are shot, now, but it's MUCH more comfortable than the floor; now when both the cats are asleep in the sunbeams, I can join them. There are also two chairs, so I will always have a soft option without disturbing Them. They are not getting along very well, but the hole in Marten's back has healed up.

Yesterday Doug, his GFSarah and a mutual friend, Debitage, came over, postponed from last Sunday. Doug is removing the small loom piece by piece from the kitchenette (which, along with the demands of that number of guests, facilitated the insertion of the couch). Last week Debitage and GFSarah missed out on a pineapple upside down cake and a cauliflower cheese pie (with potato crust). This week I offered apricot-pine nut biscotti and Mark Bittman's No-Holds-Barred Fish Chowder. The latter is a fine but bland recipe (onion, bacon, not enough salt, fish, potato, thyme and milk and cream), and I would have used Old Bay Seasoning if I could have found it. Chipotle Tabasco Sauce, however, was wonderful. It took me several minutes to figure out what was missing before I recalled the Tabasco, but the sense of delight and mild burning were perfect.

The Radiance Cable Jacket continues nicely. I had expected to get more done in Boston watching the inauguration, but someone had to look things up on Google ("How old is Aretha Franklin now, anyway?" "Where is YoYo Ma from?") to keep the peace. I could have survived listening to it on the radio in my TV-reduced home, but it was much more festive with other people (the cats DO NOT pay attention to politics, it's hard enough to get them to watch The Middleman) and my parents cared. It did seem as though the country could have made Inauguration Day a public holiday, though, it's only once every four years (usually, thank God). it was strange to leave my parents' apartment, where I had been watching the same thing as many millions of other people, and go outside to feel connected to no one at all.

It was fine as spectacles go, though I saw no actual auguries (if someone messing up the Oath of Office were going to be an omen would it not surely have happened in 2005?). The Obamas are a wonderful-looking family who managed, in what must have been a sleep-deprived, stressed-out coma, to look really happy and healthy, and long may it wave. Here's a link to Garrison Keillor's column, which says it all well.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I have now started the Radiance Cabled Jacket (which I still think of as a sweater) three times. The first time I think I had bewitched (not in a good way, strives to find synonym for buggered) cable pattern by about the second row, and although I had done a gauge swatch and been responsible about my multiplication, a size 48 was something like 64 inches. So I did more math and the second time I pulled it all out (after 7 rows of five panels, I understood the cable pattern, but it had taken some visible fudging and there was an infelicity in the garter stitch border)it measured the same around as the sweater I was wearing. I knit loose.
Anyway, Sarah was here for the snowstorm (8", maybe 19 cm , fluffy) and gave me a good example (and a nicely knitted Flower Basket fichu) so I pulled it all out AGAIN. After she left, I finished listening to the audio of Coraline and started listening to the audio of the Graveyard Book. I have an unwholesome attachment to Neil Gaiman, at least I would if I could. He has a nice voice.

But now I have the garter stitch border and a whole pattern repeat of the jacket and no mistakes, and no desire to do anything else but knit (since I can't get Neil Gaiman into my clutches and offer him fruitcake).

Which is bad.

I thought I was going to have to spend this morning taking Marten to the vet, and that may yet happen. When I left for New Jersey he was in possession of the cat condo Ellie built, which I recently moved into the kitchenette. When I returned it was Willow's, and Marten had a hole in his back. Watching the intensity of the yoga he had to do to lick it would have been fun if I had not felt sorry for him, and my experience with cat bites (Shenzi and Asterix and Pangur....) made me worry he would get an abscess, something I thought would NOT be good that close to his spinal cord. But it's healing nicely today and Marten has been feeling lively enough to knock over the cyclamen (the equal and opposite reaction to a large cat is considerably more than the that to a small cat). If it continues clean I shall be glad. But I shall still have to act like a person and get out of here.

Maybe just half another chapter of the Graveyard Book...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Things are not bad, exactly, right now, and I am not alone in feeling the new year has not brought as much Newness as it might. As Paul told me last week (this would be Friday the 2nd) when I remarked that the radiator pipe bursting in the living room on not even nearly the coldest night so far seemed like bad luck, "No, it's GOOD luck because it's not 16 below and your house won't freeze with the furnace off."

Which is true, of course, and you would be pleased by how little damage a centimeter (2.54") or so of water on the living room floor can do. A few paperbacks were ruined and most of a ream of paper. The floor tilts toward the part of the basement designed for things to drip into, and it did.

A copper pipe with an aneurysm is a strange thing, but there it is. I had just come back to Henniker after a Cultural day in Boston seeing the Assyrian exhibit at the Museum of Fine Art (The Assyrians made really good giant stone strip cartoons with cuneiform captions in small enough fonts they must have expected people to be seeing them quite close up. And they must have expected a fair number of literate viewers, or at least literate tour guides. I was unhappy to see they practiced canned hunting and had 'lion hunts' that began with letting the lions out of a cage). I came in through the kichenette and had a small glass of wine and I was really looking forward to going to bed, when the sound reached me as I walked toward the staircase of running water where no running water should be.

The cats were quite excited and thought the soaking rug was way cool. Marten rolled on it.

I thought it was really nice of Paul, the contractor and plow-guy who sometimes works on my kitchen redo, to come out at 11 pm. and show me the cutoff again, and to fix the radiator the next day. My daughter has suggested killing him, and I can understand that point of view, but it's mean and leads to bad habits* and would not really get the kitchen done.

Anyway, the floor is not ruined and honestly the living room is not much messier. I am not traumatized but I have to admit going up to bed includes a portion of apprehension it never used to. Bad enough with the wolves and burglars under the bed to worry about.

Since then I have returned Toby and the Only Beloved Daughter to New Jersey, which pretty well killed this past week, and I have decided to spend some time working with the easier (if there are any) knotwork cable designs in Viking Knitting, because apparently I cannot do Arwen. I know I have weaknesses (chirality is involved) but I don't seem to be able to read even one damn line without messing up. Maybe Sarah will tutor me. She owes me, because if she had not run out of frog Tree Heather at almost the end of her scarf I would not have stopped at WEBS in Northampton.

My self-control was sapped. Colrain in Navaho Red is very nice. The cable looks easier than Arwen's.

*If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he next comes to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.--Thomas DeQuincey