Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Spring 2016

Spring seems slow coming despite our relatively mild winter.

This time last year I think we still had snow on the ground, so I am not sure why I am complaining!

The Phoebes came back around their usual time, the beginning of April.  Apparently they did not find things to their liking, because they moved up the neighborhood until the last week or so.  Now they are back, nest building under the eaves.

The first summer I started building the house, they went right through the framing and built a nest on the top plate under the second floor joist!  They have returned every year since.  I know spring is finally here when I hear the pee-wee, or kiss-it, call of the phoebe.  I miss them when they move on.

We planted peas. I bought a pound of peas seed, and we have planted peas everywhere we can think of, and it does'nt look like we put a dent in that pound of seed!  Guess I got a bit carried away.  I paid $4.99 PLUS tax for that pound of seed.  I couldn't believe they tax food seed now.  This state is just getting too much.  We pay tax on newspapers now as well.

I have seen daffodils blooming here and there, but ours haven't opened yet.  The red maples are just starting to bloom, and the alders have put out their catkins.

We have had a big red fox harassing the geese.  He's made two grabs for them.  I have a pen to lock them in during the day, but when I let them out in the morning I let them splash in their big puddle and nibble some grass while I am tending the goats.  A couple Saturdays ago I let them out and then went back in the house to hang on the internet for awhile, and then I heard their distress call and the dog lept off the couch barking.  I looked out the window to see Mr. Fox running across the lawn, so I grabbed the cam and snuck out hoping to get a pic of him.

He skirted the treeline, unaware of me, circled around across the drive when I took a chance to creep closer with the Blazer between us blocking his line of sight-then he made another dash for the geese on the other side of the blazer!  I jumped out and he fled through the woods out back, so no pic but the geese are ok!

I say he when referring to the fox, it may be a she, but I suspect it's a big dog fox.  They both hunt for the kits, and it is possible there are hungry baby foxes nearby.  The foxes come yipping around the house at night-I step out and holler at them to move on, but they are not as skittish as the coyotes.  The neighbors must think I am nuts.  Still, I know I can be scary because if the cat is up to no good and I yell, "HEY!!!"  I scare the pants off the Willow on occasion.  LOL

We had a light rain last night and the sun is just coming out.  Things had been very dry with extremely high fire danger because things have not greened up much yet.  6 acres of Marsh burned down in Old Orchard beach last week.  The old grasses are very dry, and we had big winds to go along with it.

I think I will head outside for the rest of the afternoon  The biting insects will be out any day, and that makes playing in the garden a lot less fun.  In fact, it is a frequent sight in Maine spring to see folks in their gardens high stepping and waving fist fulls of seed around their heads.  It's called, "Doing the Black Fly."

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Update

well, my weekly newspaper column is going pretty well. I have managed to get one in every week since the beginning of February.  My April Fool's column, ironically, almost didn't make it in.

I did extensive research on April Fool's Day.  I used several books out of my own library, and spent a couple hours online chasing down Wikipedia sources.  One of the origins of April Fool's Day was "April Fish" in France, so I spent additional time searching for a public domain fish photo to go along with the column-the idea being the reader could cut out the fish and stick it on the back of their victim, an old tradition.

Things went awry from the get go.  I sent the photo link, but forgot to attach the column.  I rectified that, and then several days later, an hour before deadline, I happened to check my email to find a letter from my editor saying my column appeared to be cut and pasted from Wikipedia.  I was quite offended, and sent off several responses defending my research.  My nose was quite out of joint, to say the least.

The next day we exchanged a few more emails, and finally my editor sent my column back to have me take another look at it.  I did not recognize it, so I quickly fired off my column to him again, figuring it was 24 hours past deadline and the paper was going to print-there was no way the column was going to make it.  And I had added a birthday message to my oldest in it as well-which what may have been what saved me, because I had mentioned it to the editor and he didn't see that in the "column" so kicked it back to me.

On closer inspection, I realized what I had done.  I had sent him MY NOTES on my research, and not the actual column !! Talk about wanting to crawl into a hole and die!  Incredibly, the column did make it to print-but he forgot to put the fish photo in so the whole paragraph about snipping out the fish photo didn't make any sense!!!

Wow that was a big joke on everyone!

Well, I have lots more amusing anecdotes to share, but the beautiful spring weather is calling me to go play in the dirt!  Hope everyone is well!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

RIP RICHARD

I just received word that my friend battling colon cancer succumbed about two weeks ago.  RIP Richard.
Your grandson is amazing.  Miss you bro'.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Let Them Eat Cake

The Willow and the Boy Who lived in the Tree both made me cakes for my birthday!  Here is a pic of the one the WIllow made:

homemade light as a feather chocoate with a cooked vanilla frosted.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Publishing

Since I have rather unsuccessfully been beating my head against a wall trying to generate income (don't they hide 100 dollar bills in walls?), I thought I might have a go at trying to get something published.

(I just shared this -what I thought brilliant line- with the Willow, and she said, "what, do you think you are smart?"  and I repeated the lines and explained the metaphor, and she thought if you beat your head against the wall your brains would splatter out and if you are smart they would be worth money.  Gross! ok... teenagers)

I suppose I was sort of inspired by a book I found in a free pile-maybe this should have been a sign-.  A compilation of shorts by a woman from Vermont.  Some of them were posts she had had published in local weeklys.

I pulled out my -also found in a free pile- 1993 Writer's handbook, which I had never opened, and started doing some research.

I wrote 650 words on the current ice conditions in a quaint little narrative telling about an adventure involving the Willow and myself last Sunday.  I knew the deadline for the local weekly here was Tuesday, so I laborously went over and over my composition and flew to my search engine looking for the contact info to dash it off to the editors of the weekly and a local daily.

I went for the weekly first, dutifully filling out a form briefly describing my intent, then fired off a copy to the daily.  By the time I got back to my inbox, I had a response from the weekly asking me to fire them off the copy.  WOW.  I sent it off and went about doing some errands, thinking things were looking pretty good!

When I got home, I checked my email and found a response from the weekly.  Apparently there is a weekly of the same name on the other side of the country, and they don't have any ice there.  HAHAHAH!

The editor was very nice, and I was grateful to find out my error, so I quickly thanked him and fired off an inquiry to the real local weekly.

While I was waiting for responses from MAINE papers, the editor of the weekly on the West coast and I exchanged a few delightful short emails.  He even said my piece was "nicely written".

Then I got a polite but firm rejection from the local weekly.  I wasn't even sure they had read the piece.  I slept on it, then fired off the piece again as a submission pitch, citing my google publishing numbers and views, and even daring to quote the editor's on the West Coast's compliment on my submission.  I was pitching for a guest column.

I was more favorably received- a guest columnist would not receive any compensation, however, and they would like me to be sort of specific to my town, and submit a few more examples of my work.

Today I went through this blog and picked a couple of posts and sent them along...if I get accepted, it will be a bit different than my anonymous gig on here, and I still won't be getting paid...but maybe I will make some connections and at least have something else to put on my writing resume in the future.  Or, maybe this will turn into a paid gig.

Or the household will be going hungry.

Say your prayers for me, I think I might be heading in a good direction.

Thank you faithful readers!




Monday, January 11, 2016

Goodbye David Bowie

Goodbye to David Bowie.

Anyone else hear the Trump ad and think for a  minute it was an ad by the Democrats against Trump? Some of his ideas are really out there...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Seasonally Occupied

Living as I do, out in the middle of nowhereville, I find occasional employment where I may, usually with a small business owner.

I was running errands a few weeks ago, wondering where the funds to survive the month were going to come from, and happened by a help wanted sign at a Christmas greens operation.

A few years ago I worked several weeks for a big operation running a wreath machine, and while it was one of the worst jobs I have ever had, needs sometimes overcome common sense, and I pulled in to talk to the owner.

The owner was a relative of my former employer, and promptly asked me to come to work the next day and put me on making wreaths by hand.

Several things are required to  make wreaths.  A wreath ring- a circle of heavy crimped metal of various diameters.  8 inches, 10 inches. 12, 14 16, 20, 24, up to 72 inches.

Also needed is wreath wire, it's typically coated green and comes on a spool like thread, but the spool is long enough to fit across your palm.

Lastly are the plant material, called "brush", most commonly balsam fir.  Brush is bought by the stick from "tippers".  A stick is typically a straight sapling 3 inches in diameter about 6 feet long.  The brush is snapped off the trees by the bough, and stacked and jammed on the stick, and when the stick is full it is then secured by rope or twine tied at each end and buried in the brush.  Sticks of brush weigh about 100 pounds.

To make a wreath by hand, I put the ring on the table and secure the wire around the weld by wrapping several times.  I put an armload of brush on the table, pick up a bough, and snap it several times down the stem to make a "bouquet".  Holding the bouquet in my left hand with the stems against the ring, I wrap the wire several times to secure it to the ring, and then flip the ring. And repeat.  This makes a "double-faced" wreath.

When starting off, the bouquet should be longer than the rest of the bouquets to help hide the finish when it comes around. 

SO, "snap, snap,snap!"  "wind wind wind" flip!

snap snap snap wind wind wind flip!

and on and on and on.

You'd think that would be the worst of it.  No.

I was assigned space in a tiny room, about 6 feet wide and 20 feet long.  At one end is the only wreath machine, claimed by a 70 year old women who has been making wreaths by machine for 20 years and worked other production type jobs for her whole life.

The table I am working at runs down the other side and I am at the other end, with the only heat source one foot from my head blowing dry air.  We stand on rubber mats on an unheated cement slab.

Typically when I am asked what type of music I prefer, I say "anything but ______" (edited so as not to offend fans of that type of music)  My co-worker has brought in a tiny tinny clock radio and blasts that type of music at a high enough volume that after an hour I feel like I am at the dentist having work done with no novocaine.

She is of course a very sweet hard working lady, whose opinions on topics are completely contrary to mine.  Typically this is not a problem for me, I understand people have their own opinions, but on several occasions she hits a nerve and I get on my podium.

We get paid by the wreath.  We do nothing but 14's and get 2.45 a wreath.  WIth good brush I can make a wreath in 15-20 minutes.  With bad brush,  it takes me a half hour.  She easily outwreaths me 2 to 1 on the machine.

She insists that making them by hand is as fast as by machine.  The machine does the wrapping of the wire-you place the brush and step on a pedal-grrr, grrr,grrr done.  I wrap wrap wrap, having to lift the ring each go round and set the spool down each wrap to pick up the ring.

When the brush is big, the stem bigger than a pencil, I have to pull each wrap really hard to make it tight to the ring.  I have to bend that handful of sticks into shape.  Sometimes I pull so hard I break the wire, and then I punch myself in the stomach when the wire lets go.

We do agree on some things.  Like when the brush is crap.  You would think brush is brush, but it's not.  It can be flat, it can be full, it can be yellow, it can be nosey, it can be sprucey, it can look like hemlock, it can be old and dry, it can be wet.  It can be frozen. It can have random yellow needles.  It can look like it has mittens.  It can look like green caterpillars. It can be impossible to yank off the stick. It can be impossible to snap and you find yourself having a wrestling match. If it's bad, it needs to be mixed in.  That means every bouquet you have to hide  the bad pieces behind a good piece-if you can find one.

The brush has been so bad the last three days, when one of the guys who helps with the rest of the work put some brush one her bench for the little old lady today, she threw it on the floor and kicked it right out the door after him.

We also agree on pain.  Both our hands go numb.  I start wearing my wrist brace at night because I can't sleep.  She doses herself up with tylenol every morning and can't sleep.

My schedule gets turned upside down.  I get up in the dark and do the outside animal chores before the sun rises.  I drop the Willow off at school and drive 20 miles to get there.  I make wreaths for 6 hours and drive 20 miles back to pick up WIllow.  The dog does not like the new routine.  One bitter cold morning he didn't do his business before I left-I know this because he left a big pile for us when we got home.  Today he found a partial bag of chocolate chips I had been snacking on and ate them, and we spent an hour trying to figure out what a toxic dose of chocolate was for his size before realizing he would be ok.

I have nightmares.  I dream I am talkiing on the phone to my dead grandmother and say, "I will see you soon".  I dream I am at the top of a huge pile of shavings and my car falls down, and I see people dressed in suits walking along a sidewalk on the other side of the construction zone I am stranded in.  I wake up with tears in my eyes to find the cat on my chest gently wiping the tears off my cheeks with her paw.

Wreathmaking sucks. Ho Ho Ho.