The Hammock

July 20, 2018

Lucy has wanted a hammock for years. Five? More? A hammock has always shown up on her birthday list.

I don’t know why I never found her a hammock, even a used one, but with everything else going on (moving twice, building a house, dealing with an errant contractor) I never did.  I happened to mention it to DH and he bought her an inexpensive one from a street market on last week’s business trip to Guatemala. He gave it to her yesterday.

Today I bought eyebolts, drilled them in, and hung it up. Someday this corner will be a screen porch. It may even have porch furniture. But for now, Lucy is happy reading in her hammock.



Days Are Passing

July 15, 2018

I am aware of the ticking clock. Both sets of bluebirds in my bluebird boxes have left the nest. The clutch of tree swallows in the box near the barn fledged the day before the official start of summer. I happened to be there and spent ten minutes watching the five babies try their wings. The barn seems lonelier now, without all the busy swooping.

Summer is fleeting here.


A Quick Trip Away

July 14, 2018

On Thursday I drove Lucy to the Connecticut coast for an annual visit with one of her closest friends who would only be available for twenty-four hours between college stints in Fiji and Chile.

As I am working on a story set in the area during the American Revolution, I took the opportunity to poke around for a few hours. Though I grew up in the town next door, I have not lived there since 1983 and have not visited since my mother’s death in 2004. After 35 years in the mountains, I wanted to refresh my memories of mudflats, salt marsh, and sea weed.

I also wanted to find a bridge at the head of a nearby harbor. During the Revolution, the wooden bridge at this spot was called the Great Bridge. It was a point of local pride and at the heart of the business district. In 1779 the townspeople pulled up all the bridge planks in an (unsuccessful) effort to keep attacking British soldiers from crossing. For my story I had to see the site. Getting a decent view of this now-insignificant, side bridge involved circling around city buildings, scrambling through a parking lot, and using my zoom lens. Today we might call it the Dinky Bridge.

Still, I looked down at the rocks at the base and thought to myself, You were here then.

My real treat, however, was a visit with my older sister, who drove over from New Jersey for lunch. Though we write regularly I hadn’t seen Newly since Lucy’s high school graduation, which was a blur. It seemed forever since we had really visited.

Of course, we met at the cemetery. I brought sandwiches, Newly brought brushes, soap, and jugs of water, and we scrubbed our parents’ gravestone. I know this would have pleased Mom and Dad. Scrubbing family gravestones is a tradition from our earliest childhoods.

Lucy joined us for the return trip north. Before we left, she wanted to see Grandma’s house. Lucy was six when our mother died and the house was sold, but she had happy memories of playing with her cousins there. I drove anxiously down the driveway, expecting to be lacerated by seeing the house where I grew up.

To my astonishment, I felt nothing. The 1950s colonial that had sheltered two parents and five children had been bought by a single woman who considerably enlarged it, changed the roofline, changed the porch, changed the windows. Every detail was very, very fancy and expensive — and completely unrecognizable to me. In a way it was a relief. This woman was not living in our home. Our home was gone. It lives safely in our memories.

While we were in the cemetery, Lucy took our picture. I tend to be stiff and a little worried in photographs.

Newly doesn’t!

It was so wonderful to see her, even for only two hours.

Lucy and I hit traffic all the way home and I pulled the barn doors closed at 9 PM.

Daily Humor

July 10, 2018

I have been loading my wagon with rocks from the yard. I’ve deliberately thrown all the hundreds of stones in the back, so it would be easier to tip and unload. Nevertheless, I completely forgot this basic fact when I went to drop the wagon so I could use the truck for another chore. Carefully I set the jack, chocked the wheels to keep them from rolling, and drew out the hitch pin. The wagon tongue abruptly rose in the air as the wagon box slammed down under the weight of 400 pounds of rocks.

I was startled — and then I found myself laughing helplessly.

Where was Allen? In my mind I could see his shoulders shaking as he wiped his eyes. He once watched me do the exact same thing, unhitching a trailer with a heavy tiller and having the trailer jack-knife.

My brain works pretty well in certain respects but in others… a definite blank. “You ain’t really dumb,” Allen reassured me.

I now can’t move the wagon — my sitting on the tongue does nothing — and short of unloading and reloading the box, I will need to wait until Damon returns and can push down the tongue with the excavator bucket.

I am working steadily all day every day. I am not making a great deal of progress in any one area but very, very gradually the landscape is becoming tidier. Nothing is happening on the house.


Summer Sales

July 8, 2018

Yesterday was a busy day as I had two sets of buyers at the farm, one for geese and one for lambs.

I had discovered over the winter that four geese is too many for my farm. To review: I had Kay, my bereaved seven-year-old goose who had lost her mate, dear Andy, to a coyote last July. I had Stuart and Serena, my new young gander and goose who I had thought would be “lifers,” on the farm forever. (Serena was a daughter of Kay and Andy, and Stuart was from a farm in Syracuse.) And I had Persephone, an older daughter of Kay and Andy, who, with her mate, I’d donated to a nearby farm and then retrieved after she lost her mate and her eight babies, one by one, to the same coyote.

I’d thought, “Three extra geese? No big deal.” Unfortunately I soon realized the truth of the old saying, “Children learn what they live.” Both Serena and Persephone had grown up schooled by their father, Andy — in his crazy phase. Normally Andy was a very mild-mannered goose. He ignored the chickens and played with Flossie, my barn cat.

When he had babies, however, Andy was a maniacal soldier on constant duty, and chickens, cat, and I were all enemies to guard his family from. He rushed at us, hissing and biting. I am sure Andy died bravely rushing to attack the coyote who killed him.

In a normal year, Andy’s easygoing temperament would instantly resume the moment the goslings were sold. But now he was gone and his babies had learned from him that chickens, cats, and I, the farmer, were all the enemy. Persephone and Serena taught Stuart, the new young gander.

They became the Gang of Three, racing after chickens, chasing the barn cat, and hissing at me. (They weren’t very nice to their mother, either. At one point poor Kay looked like a battered old lady, missing most of the feathers on her head.) Between the geese and my bad-tempered rooster, Ambrose, the barn was ugly with strife and I mourned the loss of my peaceable kingdom.

This past early spring, both Serena and Persephone sat on eggs. Sadly it was so cold that most of the eggs became fatally chilled in the brief moments when they stood up to eat. Only three goslings survived to hatch, two males and a female. One of the male hatchlings wandered under the feet of Moxie the cow, so I was left with a pair.

Almost immediately I decided that I would sell the Gang and keep Kay and the goslings. Kay would teach the babies mild manners. It seemed like a great plan, although I knew it wasn’t perfect. Stuart and the girls were not related to each other, much better for breeding. However my yearning for a happy barn outweighed all other considerations. I listed the Gang.

But they did not sell. The six geese marched all over the farm — no sign of the coyote yet this summer — particularly enjoying the shade of the porches. (In the photo above, they are resting in my tenant’s doorway.) In the meantime, of course, the goslings were growing up with a maniacally protective father and mother and learning to chase chickens and the barn cat, disrespect their grandmother, et al. I knew it was probably too late now for my plan. Still I kept renewing the Craigslist ad. And yesterday a young man from the New Hampshire border drove three hours to pick up the Gang.

As I was also selling four lambs, and the cattle expected to come in the barn to escape the flies, some do-si-do was required to get everyone sorted into stalls before buyers arrived.

First I brought the flock in from the pasture to the sheep stall and pulled out four lambs. It took a bit of time to select three ewe lambs and a nice ram lamb who was not a twin to any of them, but armed with my records and peering at eartags, that was eventually accomplished. Shutting the lambs to be sold into Moxie’s stall, I ran the rest of the flock back out to pasture.

Next I hauled in a gate and divided the sheep stall in half, placing hay bales along the bottom so geese and lambs wouldn’t mingle. Then I enticed the lambs into one half, and opened the other half to the geese.

The geese were interested and stood along the hay bales, talking it over.

The lambs were a bit alarmed.

Then I let the six cattle into the barn, and went out to move the sheep to fresh grass. Moments later the first buyer arrived.

The sales were easy. I was happy to know all my babies were going to good homes. The geese will have a fenced area with a pond. The lambs will have several acres of pasture.

Meanwhile, DH finished his Switzerland work trip yesterday by running a half-marathon in Zermatt. More than thirteen miles, almost all uphill. Pretty nice for a guy who turns 66 in three days!

He’s on a plane now and will be back late tonight. Lucy and I will be very glad to have him home.


The Heat Breaks

July 7, 2018

After ten days of suffocating heat, in the wee hours of Friday morning a thunderstorm blew in and swept it all away with pounding rains. At least I’m told of the rain by Lucy. I heard nothing, asleep in the basement with the roar of the dehumidifier. I mowed yesterday wearing a hooded sweatshirt and was cold. Hooray! It will be hot again soon but with luck, minus the smothering humidity.

I wasn’t able to get as much work done this week as I’d hoped, but I did put up the flag. This flag was a thoughtful housewarming gift from Elaine and Ed last year when we moved in. However the house was in such calamitous condition at that time (as well as having no porch yet) that I could only fold it carefully away for another day. That day finally arrived.

It makes me so happy to look up and seeing the flag cheerfully waving. 

After all these years of dreaming, I have a (partly) white farmhouse with a flag! I am blessed. Thank you, Ed and Elaine!


Long Day On the Road

July 6, 2018

I started this post four days ago but the heat and humidity have been so oppressive I could not write. My brain was not available for download.

On Monday I did barn chores early, dropped the dogs at the vet at 8 AM, and headed to New Hampshire to pick up Lucy at the end of her summer internship. She’d had an interesting experience as a volunteer and a wonderful time staying with DH’s aunt and uncle for two weeks. We enjoyed a happy lunch with Ed and Elaine and DH’s cousin Meghan, and then we were back on the road.

On our drive through Vermont we stopped to see Jon and Amanda, who were vacationing with Amanda’s mother, Judy. The cider mill where we met was barely air-conditioned, so all six of us were rather damp with sweat. However none of it mattered because we were playing with our little star, Ami.

Whenever I picked her up, Ami’s face clouded over and her bottom lip began to tremble. However the minute she was back in Mommy or Daddy’s arms, she was sunny again.

I could have played with my grandbaby for hours.

Unfortunately we still had a long drive so, too soon, we kissed everyone goodbye and were back in the car. We stopped in Burlington to deal with Lucy’s broken phone, and then I mixed up the ferry schedule and we had to sit forty-five minutes at the dock. It was 9:30 PM before we reached home. I turned out the cows at 10.

A very long day, but it was a gift to visit with so many loved ones.