Tuesday, March 16, 2010

how I spent my day

Alert the media. I have – gasp – chosen to paint over an orange room. Avid readers will recall that Kevin just pulled up all the carpet in the batcave. While the subfloor is exposed is the perfect time to paint, so I got busy today.





I went with the same shade of white that we’ve got in the stairwell of the addition and in the bump out – that way, it’s easier to handle touchups and whatnot. I left the darker orange wall, at right, alone. (Can you even tell there were two shades going on here? Probably not.) I listened to podcasts of “This American Life” and stuff from Radiolab.org while I worked. Time flies when you’re having fun…

In other deeply exciting news, Maggie discovered a new place to sit today.


And, I kept a log of the solar panel today – I recorded the time of day, the temperature at the collectors, the temperature at the bottom of the tank (heated by the panels) and at the top of the tank (heated by the boiler, and by heat rising up from the bottom of the tank). I’d get up from my chair and go grab my data, so I could give you the exact details, but Charlie is monitoring my typing skills, and he says that I can’t get up right now, as he is in the middle of computing my words-per-minute. So I’ll just stay put here, and try to remember it from memory….um…

The panels were able to get the tank up from 60 degrees (following a morning hot water wash), all the way up to 120, all by their little selves today. Ain’t it cool? The hottest I saw the panels get was 142 degrees at 12:30 – the next time I checked was 3:30 and they’d gone down to 126. I don’t know if they got any hotter than 142; I suppose it’s possible. I dried some laundry out on the deck as well, so I’m paying attention to the sun and shadows. This is all part of the master plan to construct Dave-Henge. No, I don’t know what I mean by that yet.

Charlie says nice work, but keep practicing.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

but I don’t want a cold shower

Daylight Savings Time has arrived, and with it, complete and utter chaos. OK, not really. But remember how we have the solar/boiler system set to be efficient? The propane-fired boiler only kicks in for a couple of hours in the early morning, and a couple of hours starting at 6 pm. The sun’s supposed to take care of the rest. On overcast days – like today – the Sunday ritual of washing the sheets in hot water has drawn the temperature down in the tank to something like 50 degrees. Brrrrrr! And the timer on the boiler doesn’t know about daylight savings time. I was just about to take a delicious shower to rinse the sweat of a six mile run off, and realized that the timer still thinks it’s 5 pm. I’ve just now adjusted the thing, and now I’m waiting for the boiler to get the water up to something a little more tolerable.

Ho hum… another fifteen minutes ought to do the trick... Kevin’s now on the treadmill. We calculated that his little adventure of ripping up the carpet yesterday probably burned about 2,200 calories. Wow!

Tomorrow, iPod Shuffle #3 should arrive. That’s right: two defective iPods in a row. Fortunately, this is all covered under warranty.

Oh, while we wait for the water to get hot, let me show you the coolest thing: my dear friend Kristen, and her husband Mike, are into Revolutionary War re-enactments. Her husband plays in the basement making musket balls, and she’s gotten into glass blowing in the style of the times.

100_1437 Here are a few she sent me. I’ve got one other, filled with vanilla, in the cupboard. These are filled with sand and seashells from Important Places. Aren’t these the coolest things, EVER?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

more home improvement, after a lapse

Last October, when we were down in New Haven for my cousin Rebecca’s wedding, we made an IKEA run to get flooring for the batcave and the front room. We knew we wouldn’t get to this project until the addition was all wrapped up, but we had no particular time frame in mind. We figured our part would be to remove the old carpet, and Our Hero Michael would install the new flooring. So this morning, sated on a breakfast of whole grain pancakes spiked with bananas, blueberries, and – in my case, walnuts and chocolate chips – I belched happily and asked Best Beloved when he wanted to get moving on our end of the deal.

Kevin’s never been one to shy away from a project. He’d already bought a small crowbar, to remove the baseboards. So he picked it up and went into the batcave … just to see how easily a small section of baseboard would come up.

Five and a half hours later, he was done.


This carpet used to cover the living room as well, when Kevin first saw this house. I don’t have words to describe how much I hate it.


The dark part: what is that? Is that dirt? Is that mold? Oh my god, I don’t even want to know.


What I like about Kevin’s style of work is, he gets things done. I’m much slower than he is on this type of project. If I had been the one doing this, I would have removed everything from the room completely…then I would have seen all the dust on the knickknacks…then I would have dusted them all…then I would have contemplated all the stuff in this closet – things like purses I never use – and I would have started in on sorting through it all…you get my drift. In the meantime, Kevin’s just MOVING.


All swept up and vacuumed.

While he worked on the batcave, I got started on the basement. Of which there are no pictures. I did pretty much what I described above: the GOAL was to sweep and mop the front room of the basement, which has gotten disturbingly grimy over the past few months. But I WOUND UP filling about four trash bags with junk and reorganizing some stuff. And then I swept and mopped.

Feeling super virtuous, I headed back upstairs only to find that Kevin had started in on the front room.


He started at the back corner, just nudging the furniture aside as he went. He quickly made an unfortunate discovery…underneath the sorta gray industrial carpet was another whole layer of carpet – a dingy yellow. Horrors!

Undaunted, he kept going. As you can see, by now he had shed the flannel shirt, as well as the surgical scrubs he sometimes wears around the house.


That’s the underneath-carpet he’s wrestling with here.

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Here he is, in the corner where we throw our hats, mittens, and boots. He’s prying up the nail-studded board that the edges of the carpet were nailed to. And at right you can see just how many garbage bags were generated. We may as well get this over with now – in a few months, our town is going to a “pay as you throw” deal, where you have to purchase special trash bags (at maybe two bucks a pop). We’re actually all in favor of that – there’s nothing like being connected to your actions via your wallet to make you steward your resources more carefully – but hey, let’s get this stuff out on the curb before that new policy kicks in! 

The mildewy smell from these ancient carpets is incredible – I’m really glad we’re doing this. I’m also convinced Charlie will be happier, as he’s got kitty allergies.

Tomorrow, I have a six mile run planned. Yippee! Believe it or not, even though the snow’s pretty much melted from the sides of the road, I’m going to do it on the treadmill . I’m really loving fiddling with the speed and tracking things in my training log. While I’ve recovered from the overtraining of a few weeks ago, I’m still not particularly happy about my overall speed – I’m faster than 10 minute miles, but not by much. But, as per my guru, Galloway, I’m now being a good girl and not running more than three times a week. The one thing I’m still cheating on is my walking breaks – I’m not walking as frequently as I’m supposed to be. Ego, ego, ego.

In moments like these, I have to remember why I’m going with Galloway to begin with: my long-term goal is to be running 5 and 10K’s well into my sixties or even seventies. This is a trait I get from my paternal grandfather. In 1995, I was visiting with him, and he wanted to join me on my run. He was 85 years old, his brain riddled with the Alzheimer’s that would end up nailing him two years later; he’s wearing old-man pants hiked up to his sternum and a bright red Mr. Rogers cardigan, but I’ll be damned, he was running. Atta boy, Sumner.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

it’s mud season! hooray!


I’m only sorta kidding. One of the joys of warmer weather is that for once, I don’t have to wear boots – I can wear Actual Shoes. I’m at the point in the year where I don’t even lace up my boots, anyway – I just shove the laces down in there (as shown above) and clomp around.

Let’s go for a drive!


First, the pleasures of the driveway. Here’s one of the yellow birches up the hill from the house. One of my favorite trees! They glow.


Looks like the compost barrel lost out to the snow plow. Ooops! That’s OK – it was starting to crack, anyway. From here, I can hear redwinged blackbirds out on the margins of the pond. That’s about ten days earlier than I remember hearing them last year. Don’t know what they sound like? Click here. The males get here first, and they’re busy sorting out turf issues before the females show up.


While we’re over here by the compost, let’s turn around for a view of the house.  We are experiencing Deck Lust these days – we’re really looking forward to spending time out there!


OK, here we go: heading out toward the main road. I’m in the Escape, I’ve got 4-WD turned on, and I am still shimmying all over this road. My Civic coupe is in the garage, where it’s been since mid-December – it wouldn’t be able to hack this.  I’m headed out for groceries, by the way. And various other errands. We’ll skip over all that, and pick up the journey on the way home, in downtown Putney – about seven miles from here.


Here’s a cool project that started last summer. The left-most part of this entire huge structure – the part with four big windows, and one up in the gable –  is the original house. It used to be right up against the road, under a huge sycamore tree. They gutted the whole thing down to the core timbers, dug a new foundation, and moved it away from the road at least fifty feet. Then then built that enormous barn to the right, and the long, low piece that connects the two. You so seldom see new construction that’s in the style of the oldest houses around here, so this has been pretty fun to watch.


We’re probably a mile or so at most away from all that, and here’s one of a couple examples in a row of what I mean: farmhouse on the left by the road, with a long stable connecting it to a huge barn.

After this we dip into the woods for a while.


Like so. This is one of my favorite parts, heading the other direction, because it’s slight downhill, just a little windy, and you can just let it fly.


Eventually, we come out of the tunnel of woods. I know this picture doesn’t look like much, but this is a wonderful little place. There’s a tiny wetland on the right side of the road here, and when it’s time for the spring peepers, this place is just singing at night. Click here to hear what this will be like. 


Just past this, we come to the dividing line between Westminster West, and Putney. That’s what that blurry blue sign on the right is all about.


We go for a while along the edge of a hill on the left, with working fields on the right.


We come to High Meadows Farm. These guys raise herbs, and some veggies and flowers. We are entering Jersey Cow territory here – this spot is where they cross the road from the barn to the pasture in the summer. Jerseys are the sweetest looking cows of all.  Their milk is super high in butterfat, so it’s used in premium products – cheese, ice cream, etc.


Here’s a Jersey heifer, in case you haven’t seen them. This particular girl is a local – this picture was taken from the annual Strolling of the Heifers parade in Brattleboro. Hence, the flowers around her neck. Isn’t she adorable?

Moving right along, we skip past a turn off for another couple of farms – one of which has a CSA we’re planning on joining this year. We then come to the Ranney-Crawford House B&B.


Just past the B&B is another farm, Livewater – this one, devoted to organic, grass fed goodness. A couple of years ago, we were driving along at night and we saw a heifer hoofing it along the road right where this picture was taken. They get an itch to wander, I guess – a few years ago, a handful of heifers busted through a fence and disappeared for a few weeks. They were roughing it.


The view from Livewater Farm. This is an incredible view in the spring and summer – wherever you see snow, here, those fields are just a brilliant, emerald green, well into November if there isn’t snow by then. The curve of hill in the distance is part of Patch Farm – they make a wonderful sheep cheese, Vermont Shepherd. The matriarch of the family is a Westminster Justice of the Peace – she’s the one who married us. Thanks, Beverly!

Both Livewater and High Meadows offer raw milk for sale. I haven’t worked up the courage to drink it. On the one hand, I’ve had the most delicious raw milk before – in the Asturias region of Spain when I was a kid – but on the other, family lore has it that my mother’s mother nearly bit the dust from ungulate fever caused by drinking raw milk way back when. Anyway. Back to our drive.


Swooping down the hill after Livewater we come to South Valley farm – veggies and flowers – we signed up with their SCA last summer. This is the owner’s house, here. By now, we are within two or three miles of our house. This is where I turn and go on a dirt road when I’m doing my five or six mile loop runs.


Getting even closer to home – a big white barn, until recently part of a working dairy farm. The guy that owns it stores MG’s in it and I see him tooling around in them on pleasant days.


Entering the homestretch, before the booming metropolis that is the hamlet of Westminster West… We’re a mile from home…


Tread carefully here at this time of year – the side of the road is littered in dog poop…










Voila! Downtown Westminster West. Just to the right of the snow pile is one of those signs that tells you how far away NYC, Rome, Timbuktu, and the South Pole are. Very helpful – I do tend to get disoriented easily. The tiny cottage in the center of the picture is the library. We proceed – we’re a half mile from home.


There, on the hill – can you see it? It’s our house!


Here, I’ll crop it to make it easier. It freaks us out a little that you can see the house from the road. A few years ago, the original house was much darker, smaller, of course, and hidden from view by dozens and dozens of 80-year old pine trees that we’ve since had removed.


Here’s the final approach to our driveway. These puddles are deep – the splashes go as high as the top of the windows.


It won’t be worth going to the carwash for weeks. When we tell potential houseguests it’s not worth visiting until May at the earliest, this is what we’re referring to.




Sunday, March 7, 2010

home again, home again, jiggety jig


In another “I love the internet” report, here’s proof from mapmyrun.com (the backup strategy for those of us who have not yet purchased our first Garmin) that the journey from home to the end of the island is 3.25 miles.

My trip home on Friday was uneventful, which is how I like my flights. What did I do yesterday? No idea. I believe I slept for eleven hours. I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave the house. Yeah, I vegged out. I’ve heard it said that you should never travel faster than a camel can walk – otherwise, your soul will have trouble catching up to you. There’s something to be said for that: I find that even easy, hassle-free travel is somewhat discombobulating to me.

But today is Sunday! And we all know what Sunday means: it’s the week’s long run! This past week, culminating in today, has been the first week that officially shows up on my half marathon training plan. Today’s run, done on the treadmill, was a lovely 5.5 miles. Mmmm, mmmm, good.

Tonight? The Oscars.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The internet is such a weird miracle. Here I am in Hilton Head, and there are pictures of the condo my mom rented, available via google.

Align CenterThe view from the balcony. Happy sigh. The full moon the other night was particularly delicious. I'm not used to a 180 degree view of the ocean from this height - it's cool. You can see wave patterns out beyond the breakers, but you can't tell really see the topography of the dunes themselves.

The kitchen, site of various dishwasher-related disasters. My mom has a knack for terrifying garbage disposals and dishwashers. It's not that she breaks them by putting bad things into them. It's just her aura. She will deny this, of course. But I have proof. No worries, though - a guy came and fixed it. Moving onwards...

The dining nook, where I am currently seated.

And the living room!

I'm here for just a few days; Mom's here for the rest of the month. You will be pleased to know that so far, I'm on track with my half marathon training - I ran 53 minutes on Sunday, and a half hour today, as planned. And since today's run consisted of running straight out in one direction, and walking back on the beach, I got extra exercise today. And this, despite the fact that IT'S COLD! It's cold, I tell you!

For the wildlife report, we have the following:

1. Two smallish alligators in the lagoon by the Sea Pines gate near Armadillo.
2. Nine - count 'em - nine - anhingas drying their wings by the Academy on Lawton Drive, where in the past we've seen a ginormous alligator.
3. Seven anhinga in a lagoon on south beach road.
4. Seven egrets in a flock in the next lagoon down.
5. Various great blue herons.
6. A boatload of sand dollars on the beach - washed up by the tide, still alive, and making actual trails as they wiggled around getting themselves half-buried to wait for the tide to come back in.
7. Various starfish, engaged in similar pursuits. I tossed many of 'em out into the surf.
8. Your usual pelicans, solitary.
9. Seagulls. They swarmed me yesterday when they confused me for this other woman who was feeding them yesterday. I set them straight.
10. Not so much the orange beaked birdies this time.
11. Only one dolphin so far!
12. At least one bassett hound, a couple of Rhodesian Ridgebacks, an array of dropkick dogs, some scotties, a bunch of labs, and a couple of springer spaniels.
13. One white feral cat.
14. Mourning doves, cardinals, and little twitter birds. Plus the cute little guys, sandpipers.

Speaking of sandpipers, I think Douglas Adams said it best (and again, isn't google great? I read this two summers ago in a collected "Hitchhiker's Guide", and I never would have been able to find it, just thumbing through it.)

"There were little sandpipers running along the margin of the shore which seemed to have this problem: they needed to find their food in the sand which a wave had just washed over, but they couldn't bear to get their feet wet. To deal with this problem they ran with an odd kind of movement as if they'd been constructed by somebody very clever in Switzerland."

Tomorrow: Mom and I go look at a place she's thinking of moving to in a few years. And, to recover from the experience, a mani-pedi treat.