Anniversary Shower

October 21, 2017

Boy! It’s been hectic! In the midst of the non-stop schedule, however, DH and I were able to drive to Vermont last Sunday for a beautiful anniversary luncheon thrown by Amanda’s mother, Judy, at the Trapp Family Lodge, where Jon and Amanda were married exactly one year ago.

The meal was festive. Judy made a delicious squash soup and served crusty bread. There was cider and champagne, and everyone had a slice of saved wedding cake. It was great to see everyone from the wedding and to reconnect with our great old friends, Jean and Jerry, whom we’ve loved and admired for over thirty years.

Since Jon and Amanda’s firstborn is due at Christmas, we celebrated the anniversary with a baby shower.

This child is destined to be very stylish, like Amanda.

Jon seemed a bit incredulous as he unwrapped some of the tiny items.

They also received almost all the classic children’s books — the baby will be well-dressed and well-read!

In my practical vein, we gave them a car seat. (The giant box had barely fit in our car and DH had helped me repair the slightly squashed wrapping paper in the parking lot before it was carried in.)

Too soon, we had to leave for the long drive home. Before departing we took a few family pictures:  DH, Amanda, Jon, Judy, and me…

… and: Jean, DH, Amanda, Jon, Judy, me, and Jerry. Jerry was head of the school where Jon and Amanda met at age 6.

A bright and happy day — thank you, Judy! — and I did my best to keep my germs from everyone. A week later, my cough is finally almost gone.



October 11, 2017

Fall apples and sheep.

Even sick, coughing and sneezing, rushing against a too long To-Do list, I am so grateful to be living on my farm at last. My heart lifts.

As it did last night. I was at school until 9:15 PM, showing my 8th grade history students an edited version of the film Twelve Years A Slave.

I show big-screen movies at night a dozen times a year, baking loaves of chocolate chip bread and spreading pillows on the carpeted floor of my classroom. It’s a lot of extra work every few weeks — baking, moving all the desks and chairs, showing the 2-3 hour film with pauses for explanations, then cleaning and restoring the room for another half hour — but I love to see the children make emotional connections to the material we’ve learned in class.

Last night as the students filed out after the film, they stepped over a piece of paper on the hall floor outside the doorway. I leaned down to pick it up.

I smiled. It clearly had been placed there by a ninth grader leaving his evening study hall. A 9th grader who was one of my heedless 8th grade history kids last year.

I love my job.

Who cares about coughing and to-do lists?  I am so lucky.

Radio Silence

October 8, 2017

I apologize for the dearth of posts. A lot is going on and some progress is being made on the house and on the farm, but mostly I am aware of the horrible cold that has my head stuffed and my nose raw as I go through the days coughing and sneezing. And not sleeping.

More anon.


September 30, 2017

This was a busy week with late nights of work, afternoon appointments, and not enough sleep. However, the great news is that DH and I signed a foot-high stack of papers and WE HAVE A MORTGAGE!

The house is not quite finished, and, realistically, will probably not be until next spring. Our contractor, Nick, has had to move on to other jobs and for the past couple of weeks has come back for a few hours every other day or two to build the front mudroom porch while his girlfriend Amy paints the lower half of the outside of the house. I am hoping that before he quits for the winter, Nick can get at least one coat of the exterior paint on the entire house, finish our shower, finish the stairs, and finish the kitchen cabinets. The final coat, the last interior painting and trim, the fireplace, the mudroom floor, the chimney, the back porch, etc. can happen later. Currently I’m very happy at last to have closets.

Meanwhile, to be done with jumping through hoops for the bank is an enormous relief. I found it hard not to be annoyed by an unexpected $400 charge from the lawyers for drafting a single page reassuring the bank that I would be responsible for maintaining the dirt driveway. (“He had to do a lot of research!”) I had the nagging sense that some of my tougher friends would have objected to this last-minute surprise. However, I was so exhausted by the long, impossibly fraught process that I simply initialed it and moved on.

The lawyer informed us that the mortgage payments would be deducted automatically from our bank account starting next month and ending… in 2047.

DH would be 95 and I a sprightly 88. I’ll cross my fingers.

Auld Lang Syne

September 24, 2017

Yesterday was a hot, sunny, sweaty, tiring, wonderful day. Allen’s son Damon operated a bulldozer for me for five hours.

Since losing part of his foot and then his lower right leg, Damon has not been able to hold a job. Sometimes he has not been able to get out of bed. Yesterday he was in constant pain; he was quickly exhausted; but he was determined to work off his end of a trade we’d made last year for beef. Though I repeatedly asked if he wanted to quit, he refused. So we had our day.

Remember all the fill I was blessed with this summer?

Damon came to spread it.

The area below the south field, north of the pond, has been a wasteland for years. Back in 2005, Allen and Damon had excavated an enormous pond site, using the gravel to build the driveway and then underlay the barn and garage. However the giant pond — having a gravel base — did not hold water. Thus in later years Allen and I had decided to fill it with the stumps (illegal to burn) and boulders from clearing the back field, digging a smaller pond off to the side. The original site was covered with a skim of dirt but was far too rough to mow. More than an acre had grown up as a useless jungle of briars and weeds over broken logs. Now Damon was going to spread the summer fill.

“You’re creating new land!” I shouted happily over the roar of the bulldozer.

Damon made a face. “They brung you nothin’ but rocks!”

There were two or three… thousand. The job seemed enormous and the bulldozer very small.

After watching him get started, I had to spend an hour moving the sheep. From the east end of the property I could hear the warning beep! of the bulldozer as it was backing. The sound filled me with happiness. I was wearing my baseball cap and lightweight blue summer Dickies. If I closed my eyes I could imagine it was ten years ago, Allen and Damon were working at the bottom of the farm, we’d soon have lunch when they would joke and tease, and Allen’s eyes would twinkle at me over his thermos cup of coffee.

It wasn’t ten years ago and Allen is gone, but the echoes were still happy. Even Damon’s needling felt heartwarming.

When I came back, I brought him a diet soda and a sandwich. He had already accomplished a tremendous amount.

He had dropped the blade as close to the pasture fenceline as he dared.


I ran to get my weedwhacker while he went back to work.

From a short level stretch, the ground still slopes steadily down to a hole. Damon says that to level it completely we could use almost as much fill all over again.

But as he back-bladed the new clean surface, I wanted to tap dance.

Damon also spread a load of fill the men had dropped in the back field, near the remains of a gully where he himself had trucked loads of fill four or five years ago. While there he also pushed some boulders into a pile. My goal, as always, is to make the entire farm mow-able.

I’d been feeling rather stuck and discouraged but this giant burst of progress has filled me with joy.


Calling for a Second Wind

September 20, 2017

I need a second wind.

I have been feeling overwhelmed and without motivation. I’m tired physically and mentally. I yearn for a break from pushing and lists. I haven’t taken a day off in six months. However there is still so much work to be done on the house, so much unpacking and organizing, painting and building (I must start paneling the mudroom!) and fall farm chores loom. There are still shabby boxes stacked in every room. The truck has to be inspected and bills clamor to be paid. All of this in addition to teaching classes every day and getting paperwork organized for the mortgage closing next week.

Yes, after constant setbacks and alarms, threats of steep fines from the bank, and many lengthy meetings and phone calls, I’ve won! We are going to close on our mortgage! The appraiser came back ten days ago and not only approved the work but asked Nick if he would be available to build a house for him.

I love our new home and I can see how wonderful it is going to be. I just need to put my head down and gut out these next few weeks.

To get past the “no motivation” factor, I find myself writing tiny lists, task by task, for before and after my school day. “I can do this for fifteen minutes,” I tell myself firmly.

And I can. Incremental action will get it done. Onward.

A Dash to the Northeast Kingdom

September 18, 2017

Yesterday I did my chores early and set off with truck and trailer for the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. (“Kingdom” is an odd word to find enshrined in Yankee Vermont, but the stretch of state by the Canadian border certainly is beautiful. On the drive I also passed through “Eden.” The taciturn Vermonter must be a creature of myth.)

I was on my way to buy a heifer.

For a while now I’ve known I was going to move from dairy cattle to beef.  I do not need more than a couple of gallons of milk per week and my time has become more limited. My dear Jersey cow, Moxie, had a rough summer — I must write about it soon — and while I pulled her through, for seven straight weeks (while simultaneously coping with our move), I spent many daily hours sweating to save her udder. Moxie is eight years old. It’s been clear that even with the best care I won’t have many more years with her.  Thus I have been watching ads on Craigslist and debating the various merits of Herefords, Linebacks, Anguses, and Galloways.

In the end I was convinced to go with an Angus by a great deal on a bred heifer — and also by the fact that this little girl greatly resembles my beloved first cow, Katika, shrunk in the dryer.  Angus cattle are from Aberdeen, so I am mulling Scottish names. Here she is in the trailer, coming home with me on the ferry.

Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, over the sea to… Plattsburgh.

The heifer stepped off the trailer into my barn with no fuss. Moxie was greatly excited, the calves bucked and frolicked, and I kept them all in the barn overnight to talk between stalls and settle down.

I let them out early this morning and they are cropping grass peaceably. I will get the chain collar off her neck tonight.

A new chapter begins… and another of the big chores on my list is successfully crossed off.