Thursday, September 27, 2012


This past weekend, I was looking forward to having a whole entire day (Sunday) with nowhere to go and nothing to do, but then plans with friends for Saturday afternoon got shifted to Sunday, and I had to shift my mindset a bit.

After a rainy soccer morning, we cleaned the house and decorated for fall,

and I made our traditional autumn feast for dinner, which worked out better on Saturday, since C worked the fair Sunday and didn't get home until very late. I was planning on baking bread (for the first time in a gazillion ages) and making a lot more food, but instead made a stew of garden vegetables, quinoa, chick peas and Indian spices (I'd just read about turmeric being good for viruses, so I decided we all needed a dose with the onset of school cold season) and applesauce muffins (last year's applesauce).

Sunday morning, I wanted to go for a walk to look for signs of fall, and they wanted to do anything but what I wanted to do.

Finally I got mad and dropped a big Guilt Bomb, telling them that all I do is things for them and can't they do one little thing for me, then stormed off into the woods.

They caught up to me and we found a few signs of fall and they had fun throwing stuff in the river and hauling around dead trees.

But me, I didn't have such a great time. How do all those blogging moms do it? Their kids always so smiling and cooperative?

Later, we went to this cool ropes course where M and his friend and his friend's mom climbed and swung and zipped. E, Z and I stayed on the ground and read books and later we went out to Sarah's for dinner and had cupcakes for M's friend's birthday. I'm still waiting for a nothing to do all day day...

Directions for the leaf banner here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Garden Roulette

Gardening seems to me like some kind of elaborate game of chance, into which you insert seeds in the spring and then spin the wheels of sun and rain and bugs and at the end come out with some mysterious combination of vegetables and failures.

Every year, it seems, our jackpot is different. Like the amazing pepper crop four years ago (which we've never replicated). Or like the year it rained nonstop and the only thing to come out of the garden were big, beautiful onions. Two hundred dollars worth of big beautiful onions. Can I make a recommendation? Don't ever compare how much you spend on seeds with what you actually produce for crops. Especially if it rains all summer and all you get is onions.

Of course I know there's a such thing as planning, and controlling with things like irrigation and pest management, but around here we pretty much leave it up to chance (I should probably not speak, since I'm not the actual gardener, but I am not complaining, just observing).

This year we got some lovely potatoes; approximately exactly as much poundage as the seed potatoes we put in. We had great and early peas (but just enough to eat fresh; which is OK since we're not huge frozen pea people). We got a good crop of garlic, but left it in the ground too long so that many of the cloves split out of their skins. We have a gorgeous row of Russian kale, which we mostly admire from afar, rather than actually harvest and cook (although a gardening friend says it's sweeter after a frost, so perhaps we'll just pretend that we were waiting for that all along). And amazingly, we have had almost no slugs, thanks to the chickens, despite their untimely demise. C accidentally killed many of the seedlings he started (don't ask––let's just say it brings up the sticky and irreconcilable topic of whether or not toxic chemicals should be kept in containers intended for beverages; you can guess which side of that argument I am on), so our tomato and pepper and tomatillo crops were small, and the tomatoes, as usual, dropped from the vine due to some mysterious blight.

Z and E brought home seedlings from school in little cups, which we unfortunately did not attend to quickly enough, so they died off, but then after a few days of rain, one revived and Z and I planted it quickly in a corner of the garlic bed, not knowing what it would become. It turned out to be a very prolific slicing cuke, and Z proudly harvested two or three green fruits each day for the month of August. Our pickling cukes did well, too (unlike the year when from all the cucumber plants the only thing that emerged was a single, golf-ball-sized cucumber; but oh, what a delicious little green ball that was!) and I did up a quick batch of Catherine Newman's refrigerator pickles. I had to use dried dill, because dill was another crop failure this year (mainly because we didn't plant any), so I'm afraid the results aren's as good as could be (but I keep thinking I could add some later). I don't know how long they last in the fridge, but they take up a crapload of space, so we need eat them up quick, regardless (M can be counted on to down four or five pickles at a sitting; E and Z have developed an unaccountable aversion to them).

We're still waiting on the second crop of beans, which C planted in early August, of all times. He claims they'll be ready before the frost, but now they're on a race agains fall. I'll let you know how it goes.

How did your garden grow this summer?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Digging In

It's feeling downright fallish around here, with a morning low of 37.5 yesterday morning, and frost on the neighbor's field, followed by a tropical storm that shook the house like an army of giant ogres trying to gain entry.

Everyone I talk to glories in the weather and says what a relief it is and isn't it beautiful, while meanwhile I cling to the last vestiges of summer like a jilted bride clutching the tatters of her veil.

Autumn can be beautiful, I know, with its technicolor leaves and high blue skies, the big full moons and the pumpkins and apples, the acorns and seeds, asters and sunflowers. I'll give you that. But it's all just a show. A sleight of hand intended to distract you, to trick you into forgetting it's really a prelude to winter, and that's something I'm not ready to face.

Already I have visions of getting stuck in the driveway, and of leaving in the dark in the mornings and getting home in the dark in the evenings, almost like daylight never even happens for four or five months. I'm facing the impending season with a combination of denial (maybe it was the dark, March-like gloom left behind after a night of wild rain, but this morning I saw a black ant on the floor in the kitchen and thought to myself, "The ants never went away all winter," literally thinking for a second or two that we had already come out the other side of the long season, rather than just beginning to gird our loins in anticipation) and digging in, clinging to summer with all I'm worth. Which is, as we all know, a futile exercise.

I'm trying to be more positive about the turning season, I am. One thing I'm looking forward to is re-centering after a whirlwind summer of weekend trips and visitors and chasing the sun. This weekend I've decided to skip a certain fair that everyone else in the state will be attending, in favor of just spending a day at home, for the first time in I don't know how long. I have household projects that have been waiting patiently in queue for months, and much writing to catch up after too many weekends of beach or lake or friends or fun winning out over work.

If I could picture myself this winter curled up next to the fire (on the new couch that is on my list of things I must do this fall) with a book of poetry and a cup of chai, rather than digging my car out of a snowbank in the dark at five a.m., maybe, just maybe, I could face the season with a little more equanimity.

How about you? How does the change in seasons make you feel?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I can't remember on which blog I first read about the book Elevate the Everyday by Tracy Clark, but I immediately ordered it from my "local" indy book store. Unfortunately local means twenty-five minutes from my house, in the opposite direction from work.

So it was a few weeks before I actually got my hands on it, after my parents picked it up for me on one of their expeditions. But, oh my goodness, it was worth the wait. I'm loving reading it, and even though I'm only partway through, I'm already having a wonderful time playing with my photography.

I have been trying to read a couple of other photography books, but when they get to the exposure part (which usually comes first) it's all math: each F-stop is double that of the previous F-stop, so you're letting in twice as much light, but the settings on your camera may not be full stops, blah, blah, blah. Talk about taking the fun out of something.

But Tracy Clark deals with focal length and shutter speed and ISO in a very casual, non-technical way, addressing the results changing each will achieve, over the mathematics of it all. I'm not saying it is not useful to have a complete technical understanding of those settings--some day I would like to take the time to fully understand it all--but in the meantime, I want to take pictures and experiment without being overwhelmed by F-stops, if you know what I mean. So, I've been taking my camera off of automatic setting (dipping my toes into either focal length or shutter speed, keeping the other on auto) and playing around, having fun and making some mistakes, but that's the beauty of digital, right?

What I really love is this idea of telling a story with a photo, rather than just taking a snapshot. Why have I never thought of this before? Now it's something I think about whenever I'm taking pictures. I can't recommend this book enough!

On the other hand, E piled all of the sofa pillows on top of this book one evening. When I asked him why, he said he didn't like the picture on the front, of the little girl with the tiny camera necklace, because it made him think of spies. So, as long as you're not freaked out by things that make you think of spies, get the book, and if you are, maybe a brown paper book cover would help.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What We've Been Up To

My parents have been visiting us for the last few weeks (I just dropped them off this morning), so I haven't been making my evening library visits (thus no blogging--we live in a broadband black hole and I can't deal with upload times using my cellphone as a wireless modem--and not much writing, either). Instead we've been busy taking in the tourist sites, including quite a few on my Summer To-Do List.

The Major Reuben Colburn House, which was not open, so we peeked in the windows. There were some guys painting the barn and they let us go into that building, which houses the batteaux that Benedict Arnold's expedition rowed up the Kennebec.

Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve (just in time for the 50th anniversary of Silent Spring).

A weekend at Camp with another set of grandparents.

A stroll through the Arboretum.

Saying goodbye to summer at Pemaquid Beach.

The WW&F Railway Museum (they really got to ride that pumper car).

While C and I went to work, my parents took the boys on all kinds of adventures, like the State Museum, the Botanical Gardens, the Aquarium, the Windsor Fair, two book stores, about eighty-five ice-cream shops. And they took some solo trips to Acadia and other coastal spots, searching for lighthouses.

Meanwhile school started up,

And soccer, too. 

And our next three weekends are filling up with friends, parties and fairs. I don't know why I thought I'd be able to take a breath this fall.

I was able to get a packet out to mentor amid all the fun (not a great packet, but a packet no less), and now I'm in that "I will never have another idea again" mode. Hopefully inspiration will strike soon, because October is looming, and with it packet #4 and two workshop pieces. Maybe this brrrr fall weather will encourage me to stay inside, pen in hand (47.5 degrees this a.m.!!!).

What have you been up to lately?
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