Sunday, October 30, 2011

I’ll have snow for my birthday, I think

Yesterday was spent in anticipation of this:


Or, more accurately, in expectation of the all-too-predictable power outages that accompany ten inches of snowfall.

What do you do when you think you might lose power? Mop the basement floor, anyone? Yes, that’s where I start all my big projects. I’m sure there’s something profound in there. I also did a ton of laundry, made beef stew, made sure every last fork, knife, and spoon was clean, filled the bathtub with water, and – at the last minute, as it turns out – made two batches of cookies. One, for my newly-gluten-free sweetpea, and one, for me, that was coincidentally also gluten-free. (Which is what happens when you swap out peanut flour for regular flour. You end up with peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and who wouldn’t want that?)

The power went out around 8:30 pm, five minutes into our Scheduled Evening Entertainment. Fortunately, Kevin had long ago procured three solar-powered lanterns, which sit on windowsills all day, soaking up juice. So we snuggled in with Plan B (our respective Kindles) and were asleep before ten.

The power was still out this morning when the cats’ full-body slams against the bedroom door finally induced me to get up. I was too lazy to go outside until the breeze had already blown the snow off twigs and branches.



Kevin was not nearly so lazy.



He’s more productive than I am, I guess. In my defense, we only have one shovel. (We had two, but one broke – how long should a shovel last? Is ten years good?)

The power was out in the early afternoon and we decided to head out into the big world to see if we could access the Interwebs from where he works. Oh, and we got another shovel. No more excuses, I guess!



Vermont: snow, and photosynthesis, and fall colors, in the same day

Friday, October 28, 2011

snow, sun, fire, kisses.

It started snowing yesterday in the late afternoon. You’d think after literally decades of living in New England, I’d be prepared for this, but I never am. Since I felt like crap yesterday afternoon and had only the energy to sit with a cat on my lap, this was peaceful and lovely. But I did pout.


So pretty, but when you’re not in the right mindset, there’s no way to avoid being late to work.  Oh look, my car’s in the shade…with three inches of heavy snow frozen in place. Where is the ice scraper? In the other car. Oh look, the door to the other car is frozen shut. OK…where is the other ice scraper? (scrape, scrape, scrape.) Damn, this takes a long time. I’m going to be late for work. Why am I working, again? Oh right: for the money. OK. (scrape, scrape, scrape.)


While I slaved over a hot computer at work, the sun came out and made it all go bye bye.


Can you tell that the shared driveway is now as smooth as a baby’s bottom? We got re-graded just in time.


Sweet dreams, white baneberry plant! All your spooky white berries, each dotted with a single pupil of black, have gone into other dimensions.


Mmmmm…cattail seeds…Speaking of cattail-friendly environments, it’s time for an update on the local beaver activity. You may remember that That Bitch Irene stole our pond, by causing the main dam which forms it, to breach.


Our pond, circa ten days ago.

I can just imagine the beavers’ initial dismay. But, being beavers, and thus prone to busyness, they got right on it, building a dam along a small stream that feeds the pond closer to the road. That stream, which really, isn’t a stream so much as a trickle, is now epically pond-like itself.


Here we are out on the road, looking in the direction of the original dam. Our house is off the right, out of the picture. Normally, there’s no standing water here. None. Yes, those are alders and willows, which like living near water. But really, this scene is out of control. Go, beavers! Actually, it’s a problem, as I’ve mentioned before, because if that other tributary backs up far enough, it’ll wreck the field we all drive through to get to our respective homes.



A quick tangent to absorb a treasure trove of bittersweet nightshade berries.



Vermont: snow and photosynthesis, in the same day.


Hm. What could this be for?


Answer: a ginormous bonfire, in honor of the neighborhood high school’s last football game, scheduled to be held tomorrow…in the snow. The team, their supporters, and various and sundry friends and neighbors crowded around. As you might expect, staring into a bonfire is kind of addicting.





No bonfire is complete without a tractor to push the edges in periodically. The fun part is when the tractor stalls and you wonder if it will restart in time to not catch on fire. (Unlikely, but makes for a good story.)


It caved in, bit by bit.


Spirits appeared.


Bonfires are good for making out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

on the importance of oxygen

It’s late and I’m tired – it’s been a long day. An OK day, but halfway through it, at work, I realized I had a headache. Which is not normal for me. Gradually it dawned on me that the HVAC system was screwed up – the room I work in, and the break room, both fed by the same thermostat, were oxygen-free environments by mid-afternoon. I took myself out for a walk in the cold misty drizzle to inhale. I visited some thistle and black-eyed susan and regretted not having my camera.

Then I went to the gym to lift weights. Grrrr. Then tonight I had chorus. I still have a mild headache. Which I can tell by the number of grammatical errors I’ve been making. Oxygen: it’s your friend.  I’m currently undergoing Charlie Lap Therapy as I type – surefire way to get carpal tunnel syndrome. You try typing with a 12.5 pound cat draped over your forearms. See? I’m rambling. Medic!

Some leftovers from the other day:


European buckthorn. An invasive I typically ignore. Weird little naked fuzzy buds.


One Maggie. She is so sleek and glossy – much better than when she weighed 19 pounds and couldn’t lick her own butt. Yes, you can tell my brain’s not working – I just typed something about my cat’s butt. Moving right along:



A failed milkweed pod. Dunno what happened. It should be a supernova of silky fluff. We’ve had beaucoup rain; it probably just got overwhelmed and said f^&* it.



Bittersweet nightshade. Apparently its purple leaves and fantastic flowers outweigh the fact it’s an invasive, because this is a species I’ve been tracking all along. I’d never noticed this particular one before, though, even though it’s climbed up to head height.


False Solomon’s Seal. I had to really look to find this, as the whole plant has given up the ghost and the berries are almost covered up with leaves. This is the very same plant that I watched the sawfly larva going to town on.

I believe I have hot date scheduled now with best beloved. Buh-bye!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Even the plants are better organized than I am

Take the lilac: it’s made and released seeds…

…and they’ve already made their buds for next year.

P1160351 P1160352
Rhododendron: same story. As for me? I haven’t even put away my summer T-shirts yet.
I get complimented occasionally by my slavishly devoted blog fans for how Observant I am, How Great that I Notice All the Beauty in the Ordinary World Around Me.  Explain to me then how I managed to miss this entire huge shrub, right next to the Maybe Arrowwood Maybe Hydrangea shrub.
Huhhhh...? Anybody have any suggestions? It’s a shrub with opposite leaves. That’s all I got.

Deformed magnolia buds are turning red. Did you see the one where I dissected these in the hopes that they were insect galls? Turns out they were growing seeds. Ooops. Sorry.
And now for the wildflower report.
Starflower. The evergreen leaves are vinca – which, incidentally, are still throwing off purple flowers.
Yeah, I know, not as beautiful as you were hoping for, huh? It’s fall, people! Here’s what miterwort looks like when it’s flowering. And here are its positively cute-alicious seeds.
OK, one last bit of news. The other day’s fall dandelion is actually Cat’s Ear (Hypochoeris radicata). Thanks, Arianna, for figuring that out for me!
Mmmm, sweet. Relish this color, cause it’s all gonna fade soon…
The tie-breaking indicator? Fuzzy leaves.
Charlie greets his namesake flower.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

laughter through tears

My sweetie pie comes from a largish family – I believe he has something like thirty-and-a-few first cousins – and they’re all loud and crazy enough to have kept in touch over a couple of generations, such that at family reunions, second cousins show up as well. They’re a lot of fun. In my family, when we vacation together, we typically like to ignore each other amiably while we each read, or go for walks on the beach, coming together at meals. We have fun too – just in a more subdued way. In his family, everybody’s in the same room, generally all talking at the same time.
Sadly, the most spirited and ebullient of Kevin’s cousins passed away unexpectedly last week. Paul was only a handful of months older than Kevin, so it gives one pause. Over the weekend, we went down to Lawn Guyland for the wake and funeral: alas, the fourth such occasion in the past five years. We have the routine down. On Friday, the last of the visiting hours at the funeral home were held. It was pretty festive on the whole, with moments here and there throughout the evening of tears and hugs. Afterwards, some of us gathered at a diner for a very late dinner, yakking, carrying on, stealing food from one another’s plates, and generally behaving just shy of badly enough to avoid getting tossed to the curb by our friendly, but clearly world-weary, waitress.
On Saturday, we gathered again at the funeral home. The presiding attendant asked friends and neighbors to prepare to pay respect to Paul one last time. Then he asked aunts, uncles, and cousins to do the same. About half the room stood up. Giggling ensued. Eventually we made our way over to the church for Mass. Paul’s brother Bob gave a fantastic eulogy. As Kevin put it, when he placed the can of Budweiser on the lectern, he had us in the palm of his hand.
After the graveside services, we toasted Paul with more Budweiser, and then repaired to a restaurant where we stuffed ourselves silly. Once we got to the part where the kids were running laps around the room, it was time to go. The consensus is that Paul’s up in Heaven, firing up the grill, putting the beer on ice, and generally doing what he does best: creating a great party for friends and family, with a lot of food. And a lot of beer.
And then Kevin and I came home.
I finally.finally.finally. got outside with the camera after a lull of rainy weather last week, plus the weekend travel. Charlie was glad to see me, and hopped up on my lap as I attempted to capture the process by which beech leaves go brown.
Self-portrait with cat.
Beech. A rainbow of green all the way to brown on a single sapling.


Yellow foxtail: seeds formed and released.

Miss Lady, aka Maggie, poses for her portrait.

Wild rose. My buddies. Still hanging on to their desiccated stamens.

Drying fern fronds. Notice the dots?

They’re the spores.

Out in the field, a few brave souls are ignoring the memos.
“October, schmoctober”, says the violet.
Black-eyed Susan: “I got it going on.”

One last goldenrod puts on a show.

While the rest pump out seeds.
Meanwhile, in other news, last week a utility truck clipped the end of the bridge.
Someone came around to fix it on Friday, when we were heading out of town.
Much better.