December 11, 2013

in the snow

Yesterday the strom that has been shutting down the rest of the East Coast finally swept past us, dumping five ro so inches at our house between the time I dropped the kids off at school and pick up time. Light, fluffy snow. The skiers are in heaven. So far we've had mostly wet soggy snow which is, I understand, as nasty to ski in as it is to drive in. But this was nice snow. It's too fluffy for snowmen but there was a lot of dragging feet through to make drifts and kicking or throwing it up in the air. All around the house it's wintery and white. Much better than the starkness before the snow. It's so quiet outside. The snow dampens what little sound there is in the woods right now.

The chickens don't seem to mind the snow much. We've started feeding them cracked corn in addition to their normal food, in theory it helps them keep warm. And we've also put a lamp in one corner of the coop to help make a warm spot (and to help keep the eggs from freezing). The bees are hibernating. I don't hold out much hope that they will survive the winter. When last I checked they were low on food. I'll give them a cake of fondant to try to keep them fed but the wet, cold summer did not give them a very good start. I suspect we will be starting over with a new colony come spring. Ah well.

Will has been taking down trees and here and there we have small stacks of logs drying for spring, or maybe next winter. Our trees have been neglected for so long we could probably heat the house for several winters just on what needs to be taken out to keep the land healthy. But felling and cutting up wood turns out to be pretty time consuming work, so we've barely made a dent in it. The area we have thinned looks so much better though, the house looks tucked into the woods now instead of overwhelmed by them.

Inside we are nice and warm. I love the woodstove but oh, it's nice to have a heater this winter as well that can be turned on first thing until the woodstove heats up the house. My Christmas knitting list does not seem to be getting much shorter, although I seem to be knitting all the time. There are just too many things I want to knit, all at once.

November 27, 2013

the chambers

I don't think I've been so excited about a project since the lockers-inset-in-the-wall incident. Or actually, even that wasn't as exciting as my new baby. My Chambers Stove.
Ahhh, my Chambers Stove! I can't even tell you how long I've wanted one of these. At least a decade. I've tried to pick one up in every city we've lived in except Dublin (where I briefly switched my longing to an Aga. Because, well, who wouldn't want an Aga?) but have always been foiled. For a long time I just couldn't convince Will that it was a good, or safe, or efficient. And then once I had (because for a 70 year old stove, they can be remarkably safe and good and efficient. You can cook with the gas turned off once the stove has been heated to the right temperature. I'd like to see a modern stove do that) they were suddenly popular and hard to find for less than an arm and a leg.
I've been watching Craigslist since we got here. Not obsessively, but just checking in every now and then, waiting. Which is how I found our friend here. Practically for free, totally rusted and perfectly located between a lecture Will was giving last week in New York and home. He was going to drive by it why not. Which is how I came to be in possession of my very own Chambers B model (although it may be a BZ, the serial number is so grotty I can't read it yet).
She is probably from the mid 40's. My guess, from looking at lots of photos of similar stoves, is 1944, but I'll be able to figure that out better when she is a little cleaner. And she's got some pretty cool features. That whole cook with the gas off, a deep-well burner that is like a built in crock pot. The griddle pops up and is a broiler underneath. Swanky, right? She needs an overhaul, but we need a new stove anyway and it will be cheaper to do that than to buy a new one. Or that's what I keep telling myself. And Will. It will take some major shifting of the kitchen to make her fit. We actually came up with a renovation plan that included one of these stoves when we first bought the house but scrapped it thinking we wouldn't find the stove. So that is possibly back. Or we may do something different. Either way it's a long term project. And if we ever leave this house, she's going to have to come with me. Unless we are going to a house that already has one. Or an Aga. Because, like I said, who wouldn't want an Aga.

November 21, 2013

it's funny

I spent a lot of year, a LOT of year, terrified at the idea of going back to work. I'm not sure why, really. I loved being a teacher. Or at least I loved teaching. I didn't always like the politics of teaching. Or the dealing with parents part. But the teaching I liked. The other teachers I loved. And then after Briton was born I started feeling panicky about leaving him, leaving the house, leaving the routine of being a stay at home mom. And every time I got close to thinking about it, I'd start panicking again and decide that it wasn't time.

So it's kind of funny that last year, just about now, I spent a whirlwind day ridding one child of lice with Nix and a very short buzz cut, bug bombing myself and everything washable in my house and then flying down to the library for a job interview.

Have I told you that I work at the library? I don't think I have. Which, again, is odd. Because after years and years of having no interest in working outside the house. I. Love. My. Job. I love it. And it so quickly became part of my everyday that it didn't seem mentionable, I guess. Or maybe I've said something in passing over the last year. I'm not sure, and the search function on Blogger is down, so...there you go. I'm going to guess that you didn't know that.

I kind of feel like being a librarian is, for me, a sort of "duh, well of course" kind of thing. I'm not sure why it took me so long to find it. I love libraries. Always have. I used to try to alphabetize my books and make my friends check them out. I took my kids to the library almost every day when they were little. And one of my first hero's other than my parents was the Children's Librarian at the Coeur d'Alene Public Library. She encouraged me to write and read and her story times were wonderful and I loved her. In that way that kids love great Children's Librarians and Kindergarten teachers. So it seems pretty natural that I would end up here, now, looking back. But oh well, here I am, now. Library Lady. And I love it. The highlight of my week this week was a little boy stopping me in the hall at school and saying "Hey! I know you! You're the LIBRARIAN!"

Which is all a long way of saying that I'm not blogging as much because, well, I'm busy. I'm still freelancing and writing patterns and cooking dinner and renovating the house (oh wait till you see our newest project! Soon, soon, it's still in the back of the car) and being a mom but I'm also weeding the children's section and running makerspace classes and taking books and storytimes to preschools that can't come into the library and taking classes on how to be a librarian because, well, I'm learning on the job. And I find myself dithering about if something is interesting enough to blog about. This blog that has been cooking and cleaning and crafting and toddler raising, can it also be book buying and class organizing and hey, there's a flock of chickens that thinks the front steps of the library is a great place to hang out instead? Or in addition to? I'm not sure. So please forgive the lapses. I miss this old blog. But I'm not always sure what it is about anymore. Maybe just life. And life is full (and great) now.

November 7, 2013

the trouble with chickens

On the whole, I love keeping chickens. The cleaning out the coop isn't my favorite but in general they are gentle and sweet and often follow us around the yard, softly clucking away. And the eggs, well, you can't beat eggs fresh out of the coop in the morning. Especially, according to the kids, when they are blue. Which are apparently more tasty than the brown ones. But...


Sometimes one of your lovely, beautiful gentle Buff Orphington hens turns out to be a rooster.

A mean rooster that likes to chase people (and dogs) around the yard.

At least he protects the ladies. I hope. Actually, he's so darn mean, he would probably sacrifice every one of the girls to save his own skin.

What's a good name for a mean old rooster (who may be heading to rooster heaven soon if I have to fend him off with a boot again when we go check for eggs)?

November 4, 2013

stick season

When I was little, probably not much older than Evie is now, I wrote an essay or a poem or a story on Seattle. I remember this because in my poem/story/essay I said that Seattle had only one season, gray, and someone told me that that wasn't a very nice thing to say. I wasn't trying to be rude, it was more of  a poetic observation. I'd only been to the city a few times and it had always seemed gray when we were visiting. I thought it was kind of romantic, to be honest.

It's not true, of course. Seattle, and Portland do not have one season. They have two. Raining, and Not Raining. The Not Raining season being so spectacular that it makes up for the much longer Raining season. And thank goodness.

Vermont is the complete opposite. Instead of two season, or four, we have six. And I'm pretty sure that anyone who live here, or in New Hampshire, and probably Maine and parts of Massachutses and New York, would agree. We have summer and spring and winter and fall, and then we have two more - mud season and stick season. They are the inbetween season. The not quite one and not quite the other seasons. Mud season streches for the weeks when the snow has gone but spring has not quite sprung. And stick season, where we are now, falls after the leaves but before the snow.

Sometimes I think they are trail run seasons. Nature saying "Are you ready? Are you? You don't seem quite ready, how about a few days of frigid weather and then a few balmy ones to kick you into action on all those winter chores." And so we do. Chop a little more wood, clean up fallen trees after a storm, stuff steel wool and then insulation into crevices to keep the mice and the wind out. And then sit around the woodstove and enjoy the stark light and the snugly animals and children.

In the cold and wind this weekend we finished shingling the new room. Stiff fingers dropping nails all over the place, dashing inside for tea and to warm up by the fire before heading out again. There is still more to do, finishing touches. Paint and stain, if we get a few more warm days, trim and edging along the porch, drywall tape and mud and paint on the inside. But the big job is done. I think it makes the house look more balanced, as though it was always meant to be this way.

We still have a few more weekends, probably, to finish up the out of doors work before we move in and switch modes to winter. There are places that still need insulation, and more down logs after a big storm that need to be cleared. And the chickens need to be moved and the bees need to be wrapped to give them their best chance of survival over the winter.

The cold is coming. Although I enjoy stick season, enjoy spotting houses and views that are hidden when the trees are leafed out, I'm looking forward to the snow. But not yet. I'm not quite ready yet.

October 18, 2013

raising eleven

So it's been, what three months since I found myself in possession of an eleven year old boy? Yeah, that seems about right. Three months so far of eleven. Eleven is good. Mostly. Not that we don't have horrible, terrible, very bad days. Not that I don't wake up some mornings wondering if I am really old enough to have an eleven year old. And not that I haven't said "Shut your hatch and go to BED" at least a million times these past three months. Hatch, by the way, being literal. As in, he climbs up a ladder and through a hatch to get to his room. Trust me, he loves it. And I don't have to look at the mess (or smell the stink that is eleven year old boy) unless I decide to climb the ladder. Which I don't.

But you know what? I love eleven. It reminds me of four. I love four. Its that final year or so before they make that next big leap. From toddler to elementary schooler. They are independent but still lovey. Eleven is like that. Almost a teen, but not quite. Still young enough to want a hug and a cuddle and to have a story read at night. Old enough to get up and make his own breakfast. Or move furniture when Dad is working late and mom is impatient to finish the bedroom switch. (No, really, he and I moved that great honkin bed up a flight of stairs. In that moment, eleven wasn't just great, it was awesome. It helps that he has an engineer mind and can say things like "If you swing it that way mom the angle will be right to not break the lamp when we go by")

Old enough for serious conversations. About life and hopes and struggles and even sometimes death.

Yesterday, ahead of a big school function, we had a long talk about bullying while we did the dishes. I'm not going to lie, the story out of Florida has really touched a nerve with me. Twelve years old. That girl was twelve years old. One year older than Briton. I have a hard time grasping that someone just a year older than my crazy, leaping, sweet, lovely boy could be that desperate about her life. Or that another child could make her so.

But it wasn't just that. At the last school event, Briton stood up to someone picking on him and got smacked in the face for his trouble. It was awful and terrible and I spent several days so angry at this KID who DARED to touch my son, I still have a hard time not growling when I see him everyday at pick up time. But some good things came out of it. First, my faith in our school was upheld when the teachers, principal and staff took swift and just action. And second, Briton learned that he had friends in his corner, which was probably worth a fat lip. Friends who stuck by him and dusted him off and came to find me and spoke up about what had happened instead of pretending they weren't there.  And that's what we talked about yesterday.  Not about the poor girl in Florida, because while I'm pretty open about things with him, I don't think he needs to know that, not yet. But about what to do, about being a friends. About how even if it's the kid who hit you who is being bullied, you still stand up and say, "Hey, come with me, let's walk away. I got your back." You know what it feels like to be hurt and look up and find a friend. Make sure you are that friend to people too.

Sometimes I feel like every new step in this parenting thing is like walking on a frozen lake. Pushing your toe out to test the ice, hoping it will hold, hoping you wont fall into the freezing water. Hoping you are doing it right. Or at least not so terribly wrong. Eleven is so very close to being grown up. It feels closer every day. I want to freeze time and keep him safe and away from everything that is horrible, but instead I have to send him out there and hope, oh please, that we did enough right. And also to enjoy eleven while I've got it. And I do so enjoy raising eleven.

October 15, 2013


When Evie turned two, she got a new bedroom for her birthday. Well, not exactly a new room, it was the same room, but new furniture, a real bed, new sheets and blankets, a newly painted dresser and a spindly vanity table. I'm sure she got other things as well, clothes and toys, but her big gift was the "Big Girl" room. The bed and vanity we picked up from a neighbor, they just seemed, even at two, so very Evelyn. And the dresser, which had been Briton's once upon a time, was repainted and re-knobbed to match. The over sized (for a wee little thing) bed was excellent for those nights when mama or daddy needed to lay with her, and the vanity, which we've always called a desk, made an great work surface for her "projects".

And then we moved and the kids needed to share a room, so the "big girl furniture" got put away, exchanged for a simpler twin bed. It wasn't until we came here that it emerged again. And while it made for a very pretty room, it didn't, in the end, leave much play space for her. So this weekend we had a little furniture switching dance.

Up from the new room came the bed that was Briton's, and before that my brother's and before that mine. The perfect bed, in my opinion, for kids. With drawers and a shelf and no possible way to junk up the under bed area, it's almost the only furniture a girl needs. Almost. Because up from the basement came my old roll top desk, just the right size for my little artist, who needs plenty of drawers for her markers and paints, and a place to work, and nooks and crannies for "precious things" as she calls them.

Her furniture was rerouted to our room, which makes me happy since I've always been a little jealous of that bed and vanity set. And our old bed and dresser headed down to the new room, where it will make a much better guest bed than the twin. Lots of lifting and shifting and a little painting and digging in the closet for better fitting blankets and sheets for new beds. Everyone is happy. Especially the Calico Critters who now have a whole neighborhood set up in the now wide open corner of her room.

Next, Briton's room (if he'll allow it).

PS.  Please excuse the pictures. The lens on my DSLR that I use for indoor photos got dropped by the "cats" and so I've been playing around with instragram for indoor shots. Fun, but not my long term solution for photos.

October 10, 2013

desert island appliances

Once upon a time, when Will and I were young and crazy (as opposed to now, when we are middle aged and totally sane) we packed up our ten month old for a backpacking trip around Ireland. It's one of those vacations full of nutty stories. Like the time that I got off a train in Cork to buy a scarf and the train, my husband and my baby left for Dublin without me, resulting in one breakneck cab drive and one mad dash through a countryside zoo to get to the next train station so I could catch them (this was pre cellphone - how did we survive?) Or when we waited in line at midnight to buy the next Harry Potter book from a bookstore in Limerick. When the newspaper came to interview us for being among the first three in line I told them I really wanted to read the book before my other friends, so I skipped a few time zones (which was not entirely true, but I did read the whole thing before the sun came up in America). Or how Briton learned to walk on the green in Wexford and insisted on spending the entire flight home walking up and down the aisles. Also, sharing a 12 bunk hostel room with 10 drunk Australians and a toddler who wakes up at 6 am turned out not to be a great idea.

See? Bat shit crazy.

But that's not the point of this story. Before the trip ever began, we stood in an REI trying to decide how small of a backpack we could get away with to hold everything three people, one of whom was still in diapers, needed for the trip, and listened to the woman next to us explain to her boyfriend that she needed a bigger pack because she could not possibly go to Europe without her hairdryer and her curling iron and her flat iron and her curlers.

I'm not that kind of traveller. In fact, I'm not that kind of girl. You could take away my hairdryer or my curlers or my hairspray forever and I'd be ok with that. I'm not bragging, not at all. Because although I may not be soft and wimpy in that way, I'm soft and wimpy in other ways. I can live without hair products, a dishwasher, a dryer, all those things. But what I could not live without is my electric kettle.

You laugh, but it's true. I've had a plug in kettle since high school and I use it Multiple times a day. In college I could make a fantastic array of food items with a kettle and a rice cooker. I wouldn't have survived without them since I tended to miss meals in the dining hall.  It was the first thing I bought when Will and I moved in together. And the first thing I bought when we later (after the backpacking trip) moved to Dublin. It stays with me during moves the way our social security cards, bank info and birth certificates stay with me.  It's my desert island appliance. The one thing that plugs in that I would take with me (you know, if desert islands had electricity.)

So when my kettle up and died on me in the middle of making a cup of tea two days ago I nearly cried. No tea! No coffee! (And to make matters worse, we though we had a propane leak and had to disconnect the stove for the same 24 hours so no stove as a back up).

It was not a pleasant day and a half before the UPS truck arrived with it's replacement. (I love you Amazon Prime) I've never been so happy to see a brown box. Not even when it's full of yarn.

OK, maybe I'm still bat shit crazy.

Anyone else have a desert island appliance?

October 4, 2013

little fox, little fox

My oh my, these mittens have been a long time in coming. If you're not a knitter, well, sorry, this is a knitting post. Over on Birch Hollow Cottage I've (finally) released my Little Fox Mittens pattern. While the pattern was a lot of work to get polished and perfected, the knitting itself is easy, fast and fun. I hope some of my knitters friends give them a try!

October 2, 2013

in progress

As always, we've got several projects going right now. Will and I both have a hard time sticking to one project at a time. We've been puttering away for months at the sing area in the kitchen and still haven't gotten much further than getting most of the time in, but not grouted, and the new shelves up. There is a wall in progress in the basement to create a seperate utility room and trim to be put up around the new drywall in the living room. Lots of little things to finish. Which did not stop us from starting on a big thing, which now needs finishing. The new room and smaller porch, which were both once one long underused sun porch is, as I mentioned, habitable, but not done. The inside needs tape and drywall mud and paint. And furniture. and the outside needs the rest of the trim and shingles. But it's coming. And already the house feels more balanced. The porch had been an add on after the rest of the house was built and I don't think it ever really worked well. When we looked at the house it was used as storage. So you walked into floor to ceiling boxes and then into the house. The new room will be a guest room/craft space we think, but only after we cycle everyone through it while we overhaul the upstairs bedrooms over (I hope) the next month or so. Much easier to paint a room without Legos all over the floor.

So we are still in progress. But making progress. Also in progress, but stalled, is our coffee table cart. I like it the way it is, cleaned up a bit from when we first brought it home, but eventually we will get some new (old- we're looking for barnwood) boards to replace the planks that are plywood and not really sandable and we hope to get the random bits of spray paint off the metal. Someday. For now it's fine as a functioning work in progress.

The leaves are in progress too. Every day, more yellow and red. Today I could smell the leaves, really smell that dying leaf fall smell. It's one of my favorites. Fall in progress. House in progress. All good things.

September 30, 2013

all the fall things

I didn't intend to take a two week break there, honestly. But it's been busy to the point of chaotic at our house. Fall always is, but this year more than usual. There are fairs and dinners and events and so many things to enjoy and also to get done before the weather turns and we retreat inside to hibernate by the stove.

The new room is habitable. Not finished. There is no paint, the drywall is not taped and the shingles are only half up but it's a usable space now, and a few more evenings work of hammering shingles and finishing walls and adding paint will see it done. The garden is offering up potatoes, and lots of them, although not much else. I was more than a little jealous of the long, lush, full of goodies beds in the school and master gardens during our Community Harvest Dinner. One of these days I'm going to have a real garden that can grow more than potatoes and lettuce. Although even that is better than nothing.

We've been to old fashion fairs and modern funky fairs and apple orchards and farmers markets and had visitors and have all come down with colds and gotten well again. Last night Will and I chased a raccoon out of the chicken coop. I usually think raccoons are kind of cute, but not in the dark when they are trying to snatch my favorite chicken for a midnight snack.  There is still wood to be stacked and garden beds to close up and grass seed to lay down. So much to do in the fall.

The leaf peepers are arriving in their shiny cars. Local cars are dusty, or more often downright dirty, the tourists are the only ones with clean and shiny cars. We joined the trend and drove through the hills down to Woodstock which really might be the prettiest town in America as they claim.

Even with the busyness, I love fall. Especially fall here. The weather is crisp in that wear-a-sweater-look-for-pumpkins kind of way in the mornings and evenings but warm enough in the middle of the day to go back to t-shirts. My knitting love becomes, if possible, even greater as I start to see the kids pull on scarves and hats on cold mornings. We use the woodstove but don't really need it, which makes it a treat instead of a chore. My wool skirts have been rescued from summer storage and are getting plenty of use. They are my favorite thing to wear. I used to wear wool skirts all winter but there comes a time here where it's too cold for anything buy pants, so now is the time to get my tweed on and rock the skirts. And the apples, oh the apples. Everywhere, everywhere here, there are apples.