Friday, August 29, 2008

ready for fall...and not ready

We had our wood stove installed today! It's a Lopi Liberty, best indoor wood stove around. So even if the rest of the house is not finished, at least we have a heat source, which is important when you live around here.

And here is an impressive cloud I saw yesterday. The rain from it just barely grazed us, I guess, but the night before we were doused with two inches. I'm happy, the garden is happy. We have some warm weather in the forecast, so maybe my tomatoes will finally ripen.

The kids and I did the annual ritual of school shopping today while the stove was being installed. Wow. I didn't know three shirts and three pairs of jeans apiece could cost so much! We didn't even get around to the notebooks and pencils and such; a morning at the mall is enough for me.

My dad is coming tomorrow to stay overnight. I'm excited; he hasn't been here for a few years now and I'm anxious to show him our house and all we've done.

It just seems there is so much more I want to say, and so much I cannot find words for. This summer has just passed me by, and we have worked so hard in preparing our house, moved in bit by bit (just moved my glider rocker to the new hearth today), meanwhile the kids have just kept growing up in so many ways, and I have rediscovered running and lost over fifteen pounds in the process. My garden, though neglected, has done as well as can be expected; I had a great garlic and onion harvest as usual. And the nighthawk migration the last couple of days has been spectacular.

Can summer really be over this weekend? I plan to spend some time at the pond playing Retrieving Olympics with Sally (Calvin and I invented this; she is scored on her moves as she retrieves sticks thrown into the pond) and picking up my dusty musical instruments once more. And, when I am ready to write, I'll share it all with you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Just to keep up with baseball

We now subscribe to Major League Baseball on DirectTv. And The Hermit just bought Calvin ESPN's Encyclopedia of Major Leage Baseball. Not that Calvin isn't already a walking baseball encyclopedia himself. This will just enhance his knowledge...

Move over, Embarrass, I've got weather for you!

The short story: we had frost last night. The solidified dew on my car that I felt at about 6:30 confirms it, along with the frost-burned squash leaves in the garden. Luckily, most of the garden survived with no apparent damage, thanks to our diligent covering.

We were not under a freeze warning last night, or even a frost advisory. The frost advisory was one county to the north. But I knew better.

The temperature on our pessimistic thermometer read 28 or so. Brrr! The official low temperature at Embarrass, the cold weather capital of Minnesota, was 27. They made news headlines for it, with the qualification that "this is very unusual weather for here!"

Hmmmm? I believe that in at least three out of the four last summers here we have had a killing frost in August, if not July. At any rate, the garden has been pretty much toast by mid September. So, unusual?

I think this is a very local thing. We're in a bit of a low area. Heidi, how did your garden fare?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

oh for goodness snakes

Starflower and Mr. Attitude found not one but two baby garter snakes under an overturned canoe by the pond this afternoon!

They sure are cute. I told the kids they could keep them in a bucket for a while, but release them tonight near where they found them so they could find food and shelter and just be snakes.

And while I'm posting, and I have been really lazy about that now haven't I? here's a shot of my much neglected garden. I picked about three ice cream buckets of green beans today, best harvest of those ever. But why the shrouds you ask?

We had a touch of frost two weeks ago, the night of the bat. Tonight the National Weather Service has actually put out a freeze warning for some areas north of here, towards the Canadian border, and a frost advisory for other places including the county just to the north of here. The predicted low for here is 38 degrees, which means more than likely we will have frost. Sigh. Can't I just make it into September for once? Covering the garden is a real pain in the butt.

***LATE NEWS FLASH*** Starflower and Mr. Attitude just came back from their evening swim, with one baby painted turtle, which we put into our aquarium. Never mind the outside temp was about 58 degrees at the time of their swim. I'm in my flannel jammie pants and sweatshirt already.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

the living room

We finally have a room. A finished ROOM! I took the day off on Monday, hoping to grout the slate floor by the hearth, but I ended up going to our storage shed with The Hermit and getting that comfy green chair and that beautiful Mission style coffee table, and a few framed art prints and such.

Every time I go out there, I just want to sink into whatever piece of furniture I am on, and and just relax. But the TV will be in that empty corner on Friday, so I suppose I won't have too much time for relaxing. Except for Twins games. :)

Monday, August 18, 2008

take me out to the ball game

Guess where I was yesterday? If you know me, you probably would not believe that I was part of a crowd of 35,000+ at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, cheering on the Twins as they swept a series with the Seattle Mariners. I drove Calvin and his friend 100+ miles so Calvin could experience his first ever major league baseball game. We were going to go as a family but we thought with Calvin's friend the SUV would be kind of crowded, not to mention the expense. We've got a family date planned at the ball park the last weekend in September.

To say Calvin had a great time would be a major understatement. He told me, "Mom, this is one of the best days of my life!" But the big surprise of the day was...I had a great time too. More fun than I ever thought I could have under the same roof with 35,000 other people. I really got into the game, and it was exciting enough to keep me interested, and in the middle of the 8th inning, in a tough situation, they brought in my favorite closing pitcher who saved the day. Calvin got his #7 Joe Mauer T shirt, I got my #36 Joe Nathan shirt. I've crossed some line I can truly call myself a baseball fan.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I nailed it, and a bat story

We installed locally harvested and sawed pine flooring in two rooms on Sunday. We are fortunate to have a source for this flooring, which turned out to be cheaper than just about any other option, and very good looking as well.

In case you're wondering, they still do make square cut nails. If you need a source, you should be able to read the Web sites in the otherwise very traditional looking nail box above.

We went through two boxes of these nails on Sunday. Chris and I were the nailers, while The Hermit and Calvin sawed floorboards to the proper length. Since these were old fashioned nails we were using, there was no chance of using an automatic nailer to do the job. Every one of those ten pounds of nails had to be driven in by hand. I have the blisters and sore knees to prove it.

Here is Calvin's room, just a layer of floor finish away from moving in! I think the flooring has so much character, especially the rows of nails. I'll remember every one.

And here's an update on the exterior stain. It's coming along, and it's time for scaffolding to finish the rest.

We've been sleeping beneath that upper window for nearly a month now, on king sized air mattresses. It's been comfortable and restful, mostly, except for Sunday night. I was tired from seven hours of floor nailing, and after dinner I wanted to head straight to my bed in the loft. But as I settled in I noticed the fluttering of wings near the balcony. BAT!!! Great. I was tired, getting cranky, and I knew it would be difficult if not impossible to remove a bat from the house, and sleeping with a bat indoors was not an option. I ran to the backyard of the cabin to fetch a tennis racket, always a good bat weapon.

Alas, a tennis racket is no match for a bat in a house with a cathedral (or at least Minnesota Lutheran church) ceiling. There is too much high, open space. After fetching a second weapon, a twelve foot stepladder which at this point I have no idea HOW I managed to get in the house, The Hermit presented a third weapon: a long 1 x 6 board. The bat was perched high up on a window frame, and somehow I managed to pin it against the frame with the board. I pushed as hard as I could. I hope you realize, bad as I feel about it, there was no way I could get this creature removed from the house alive.

I felt a slight crunching, then somehow the bat managed to escape and fly across the house into the bedroom. The place we sleep. I saw it go down. Starflower and Mr. Attitude were in one bed, with the covers over their heads as I had frantically instructed them. I walked across to the bedroom, searched the floor for about five minutes, when I heard a scream from Starflower:

"It's HERE! In our bed!"

I looked, and sure enough there it was, not moving much but definitely in their bed. The tennis racket was within reach so I grabbed it, swept the bat onto the floor, and proceeded to crush the remaining life out of it. The Hermit took it away in a rag. It looked so small, so harmless. I felt bad for killing it, but I know they often carry rabies and I just can't abide with flying creatures in my sleeping space.

I'm done with my big project at work. I'll try to post the highlights tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

not around to blog much lately

I apologize that I have not been keeping up with posting, or replying to comments, or leaving comments on the blogs I read often. I have unexpectedly been more or less the leader on a very challenging project at work lately, which has stretched out to nearly two weeks of work, and I have been pretty exhausted when I come home at night. Not that driving a boat around is that bad, but I guess it's that I'm too much of a perfectionist, or that I have years' more experience and do so much better at whatever job I'm called to do that I can't stand the gross incompetence of coworkers, or their second-guessing MY knowledgeable decisions. Or maybe I just don't like pulling dead fish out of nets and wrestling 20 pound snapping turtles any more. 'Nuff said. It will all be over on Thursday, and I plan to drink a beer or two to that. :)

And, my body has been recuperating from a longer-than-ever run Sunday morning, followed by seven hours of nailing pine flooring. Everything hurts now. But the floor looks nice. Pictures to follow soon.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Why The Hermit and I make a good couple

Tonight I got home late from work, and we were making dinner together, we had decided on grilled Italian sausages with fried onions and green peppers, one of my favorites. We were listening to music, as usual, this time The Be Good Tanyas' "Chinatown", which was a pleasant surprise I found at the local library. I have been listening to this album on the way to and from work, letting it grow on me and become one of my favorites, and as I was listening to one of the songs there in the cook shed I remarked, totally off the top of my head: "They sound like a more folky, all female version of the Cowboy Junkies."

The Hermit replied, without a moment's hesitation: "That's exactly what I was thinking!"

I could tell he was sincerely thinking that, not just saying it, after all after sixteen years of marriage I think you can read each other.

Believe me, we are not on the same wavelength a lot of the time, but those times we are are oh so sweet. :)

Sunday, August 03, 2008


That's how I'm feeling these days. It's hard to describe, but I'm feeling a sense of purpose and inner calm that I have not felt in a long time. Maybe it's realizing we are finally achieving the house building goal we set out to accomplish five years ago. Maybe it's the running. Maybe it's my half hearted attempts at yoga, which are improving since I checked out Yoga for Dummies at the library. Really, it's the most concise, readable introduction to yoga that I've ever seen. So I'm a dummy after all, and you know what? I'm okay with that.

We have two rooms wired and connected in the new house now, not to mention the walls are done and painted, and the pine flooring was delivered Friday. As soon as our nails arrive, we will have two rooms FINISHED. As in, ready to LIVE in. We have been sleeping in an unfinished loft bedroom for weeks now, so technically we're already living in the new house, but these rooms will be done!

One of the rooms is Calvin's first story bedroom, which he chose to have painted in "1976 Minnesota Twins uniform" blue. He has gotten to be quite the Twins fan and baseball scholar this year; he even wants a baseball glove chair for the room. I guess they make those somewhere.

Last night we took time out from house finishing to pack up the kids and drive to the 7th annual Highway 61 Folks Festival in Mahtowa, about a 45 minute drive. I may have previously mentioned that one of my favorite bands that just happens to be local are The Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank. They were playing from 6-8 pm, just the kind of hours we appreciate these days; we didn't have to stay out past our bedtime to see them!

This little festival, which is getting bigger and better each year, has a great vibe to it. It is very family friendly, meaning we can bring the kids and set them loose and not have to worry about anything more than them getting sick on the merry go round in the town park. Which they did, at least Calvin could not keep down the bratwurst and Mountain Dew he had for dinner. Nuff said, at least we had an empty box handy in the Mazda. "If you're going to spew, spew in this!"

And they had Boulevard Wheat beer on tap. My favorite wheat beer! The Hermit and I enjoyed a few while we listened to the Hobo Nephews, who were laid back and cool as always. My favorite part was when they played Greg Brown's "Laughing River". I mean, here is my favorite live band outside of Greg Brown himself, singing one of Greg's coolest songs ever! The evening sun was shining, it was perfectly warm with a light breeze, people were happy and relaxed and taking it all in, and we even ran into a few people we knew.

After an evening like that, even if we did get home before 10, I thought for sure I would forgo my morning run. However, my conscience would not allow me such a luxury and I ended up having my best run ever, at least since I started running again. I ran all the way to the end of the road, over a half mile, without stopping even though there is a hill at the end. Then I took minimal breaks on my way back, and I felt exhausted in a good way when I returned home.

Today has been quiet, the afternoon punctuated by an occasional thunderstorm. I was going to grout my slate floor, but with the rain and all I lost my motivation and ended up playing bouzouki for a while. Not a bad thing to do, I guess. I think I'll go play some more, it looks like rain again.

Friday, August 01, 2008

catnip gone wild

Behind that beautiful bee balm, which was invited and welcomed into my rock garden, are the biggest catnip plants I have ever seen. I did not plant them. I thought I had carefully cut the flower heads from the catnip I did plant last year so it wouldn't re-seed, but I have learned my lesson: If you must plant catnip, do so in containers, the further away from your garden the better.

By the way, that tall thing behind the catnip is stinging nettle, which has somehow managed to take over part of my garden. Amazingly I've seen it in seed catalogs. Why would anyone deliberately plant something that will cause immediate agony if it is brushed against? I know, the new greens are tasty and loaded with nutrients when cooked, and some folks swear by the tea made from dried leaves as a "tonic". I even make a "stinking nettle tea" that works wonders in the garden. But when it gets to this stage, I need full body armor to deal with it.

I removed the catnip today to make more room for the bee balm and various herbs on the other side of it, and to try and keep it from re-seeding next year. I did harvest catnip leaves until I had a bowl full, to dry for cat treats and a calming tea. I tossed a few of the leaves to the usual bunch of cats hanging around, and they were indifferent. Perhaps they are unaware of the street value of my harvest to all the true catnip junkies out there.

future catnip junkie