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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October 20th, 2015

Saturday morning we finally had our first hard frost.

And hard frost it was!  I let the indoor/outdoor cat out, and the dog, and then the indoor cat ran out too!  So I ran out after her barefoot and the doormat was frozen solid!  Ruby really likes to make a run for the woods, so it took a little while to catch her.  (funny cat is in the word catch)

The foliage was a full week later than usual.  I know this even though I am going senile, because color is usually at it's height for the FIrebird's birthday, and when he came down to visit four days later it wasn't close to color.

When the frost hit, the leaves that had changed dropped.  Walking down the driveway to the chicken coop (this time in boots) *swish, swish scrunch* ankle deep in beautiful reds and yellows and oranges of the delicate maples that are the first to go.

The sound brings back memories of trick or treating up and down the blocks in towns through the years as the kids were growing.  Inevitably, at least once per year, the leaves in the gutters would hide the curbs to the little faces glued on the next lamp post-and we would be scurrying around in the dark trying to find the loot that went flying in the stumble.

We had another hard frost Sunday morning.  It was so hard that the ice skim stayed on the tops of the rain barrels for the whole day, and I had to declare the automatic chicken water retired for the season.

I was splitting wood in the cold sunshine and the wind kicked up with a dark cloud-and then it was snowing!  Not the big fat flakes of the typical early squalls, but fine little balls that looked like someone had ripped open one of those bean bags chairs.

Yesterday it was drizzly and damp and dreary in the 40's.  The chill was still there this morning, and then the sun came out and we hit mid sixties.

The colors are still lovely despite the rain and wind.  But there's a melancholy feel to the air as the sun gets lower in the sky.  I looked up late afternoon at the tall elm, now almost bare, and keenly felt the loss of my friends the trees, heading off for their long winter sleep.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Almost September

So we finally got paid from the farmer.  I tried calling him frequently; usually I was routed to a full mailbox.  Finally I got through to him and he strung us along for a few days.  That culminated last Saturday when he said he would hand us our checks Saturday -later.

Which turned into him not answering his phone and another full mailbox.

The Firebird had reorganized his Saturday evening schedule, so when the farmer didn't answer Sunday morning, I texted my neighbor, who had referred me originally, and was working the farmstand that day.

I told her to tell the farmer that if we didn't receive both overdue checks first thing Monday morning we would be out there picketing, and I would file a complaint with the labor board. (I already had the form)

Shortly afterward, translated into after coffee, I texted her again and told her to forget it and hoped she was well, because I didn't think it was right to involve her, even if she did and does work for the same fellow (who owes her something like 7 weeks pay)

Low and behold she pulled in Sunday evening waving envelopes-she said they were in the time card slot and she took the liberty to bring them to us.

Which was very strange, because a few weeks ago when farmer said he was doing payroll, we went the next morning to check the time card slot, and then called him, and when he finally returned my call he was quite snippy and said he put the paychecks for "people who worked for him" in the slots, but was to hand us our checks we had to go back after dark to pick up the one check several weeks ago.

I am fairly sure the neighbor passed on my first text.  I am terrible at manipulating people because I am too honest.  I wanted my pay and the Firebird his pay.  I gave farmer the benefit of the doubt (that he was too busy to write checks) and tried calling him to remind him.

 I don't think it was lack of money, because I was delivering huge amounts daily and seeing the invoices, plus he had bigger deliveries on his own truck.  Granted, the big supermarket chain might only pay monthly, but farmer never said it was a money shortage.

Farmer did have a reputation as a spoiled bully.  One person expressed the opinion that farmer just didn't want to pay.  So, the phone calling wasn't working.  You can't bully a bully.  Neighbor told me that farmer had lots of notes on board from the labor board, and he told her, "mothers looking for their sons payckecks"

We were not an isolated incident, by any stretch of the imagination.  But Firebird was heading for college and needed that money for books.

How could I bully an egotistical control freak in a non-violent manner?

The light bulb went off...picket the farm stand at the farm.  Farmer's wife has removed herself pretty much from the business, his teen children are little to no help (I was so proud of how hard the Firebird worked)...and farmer obviously did not me hanging around looking for checks if he wanted us to come after dark and see him personally. 

Picketing. Yep, I figured that would do it.  The last thing farmer wanted at the height of farmstand season was having a couple disgruntled employees waving signs around complaining of his not paying help.

My neighbor even commented on the rain we had that day when she gave me the checks-not good picketing weather...

So that ended well...although we still haven't filled out W-4's to account for that "estimated withholding" he tacked on to every check.

My friend is dying.  My friend with the colon cancer.,  They found another tumor near the original site, but it was big (3x7cm) and aggressive.  If you are squeamish you may want to stop reading.

He was five days in the hospital.  The couldn't get all of it, it was very deep.  And he went home with a drain and a vaccuum pump strapped to his stomach.  Which is a very clever idea, isn't it, with cancer?  To forcibly suck the fluids out of the surgical site where they removed the tumor.  But to read about it isn't the same as seeing your friend on a beautiful summer day, walking around his yard in a tshirt and shorts and sandals-with those comfy hospital socks still on his feet, while the machine strapped to him gurgles and farts (his rectum is sewn shut so those noises had to be coming from the drain in the enormous hole the tumor left in his bottom)

To see your friend, who had finally started to look normal again, and work again, be reduced to a cavernous smoky shadow of himself-yes, I can see the color of cancer, it is dusky black, and my friend has it bad.

Chemo again?  He went through 7 rounds of chemo after his first surgery, confident the extra treatment, although they were brutal and left him weak and sick, would be the cure.  And the cancer has returned.  More rounds of chemo-he says, "what choice do I have?" meaning, "should I just give up?"

He was to see his doctor the next day-I was thinking, has it spread??? I walked around like a zombie for three days.  I drank and smoked like a fiend.  My friend is dying. 

I finally looked up colon cancer online.  65% -five year survival rate.

  My friend said something about getting a pool next summer, when a visitor that stopped in, kept saying he had to get back to his pool ...R said, "I'm getting a pool next summer" but he looked at me and trailed off the end of the sentence.

My friend is dying.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Estoy bien

I haven't been blogging because what a story I have!

How to make it blog worthy, or should it become a chapter in a book?

We quit the farmer.  Adios Amigos. :(

Apparently the farmer has financial issues, or is too busy to do payroll. After waiting three weeks for one day of pay (my first week) we expected to receive paychecks on a regular basis.  HAHA

I made it quite clear, leaving notes..."Paychecks?"

Over the phone, "If we can't get paid in a timely fashion, this might not work out and we can seek employment elsewhere."

and finally, "give me a call when paychecks are ready, I am going to another job in the meantime."

This ultimatium was greeted with the guys circling me and trying to convey in my borken spanish and their broken english the fact that they had been MONTHS without pay, and asking me about "Estimated withholding" of 20% on their checks...I felt like Hugo Chavez.

Many hot hours picking tons of squash and cucumbers and the sweet corn...60 ears to a bag is pretty heavy and one day I had to deliver 47 bags of corn...

Three full weeks of back pay and no paychecks in sight, I quit.  Two weeks ago, and have received one paycheck on the three owed.

And the guys are still owed tons of back pay, and continue to work 14 hour days, although there was some attempt at a strike last Monday, which produced the one paycheck.

Most likely they are here illegally, and one of them has a two year old daughter born here.  They are the hardest workers I have ever seen.  Can you see three guys picking 15 five gallon buckets of green beans in two hours?  I am a pretty good picker and it takes me nearly an hour to pick one bucket.

We had one white teen boy last three hours in the squash field. He went home for lunch and never came back.

I imagine the senior picking beans since he could crawl.

"It's easy, see, see?" (Or maybe "Si, Si" ) he said to me as he brushesd the leaves away coming up with double handfuls of beans each swipe.

I feel bad sticking them with all that work.

But indentured servitude went out of fashion a long time ago. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Como estas?

Me, I have been busy.  Well, I am usually up to one thing or another, but the Firebird kept on that he needed a job, and my neighbor came by awhile ago and asked if I would be willing to help out at a farm?

Sure I said, the Firebird and I had been puttering about at the goat farm, he stacking the upcoming winter supply of firewood and me taking down 7 strands of electric fence which I installed a number of years ago to  contain long gone cashmere bucks.

My neighbor told me she worked 8-2 doing greenhouse work, and said that I could work as much as I wanted, so figured 3-4 days a week would be a good filler with the goat farm.

Bait and switch comes to mind.  I went in , learned the watering routine for the greenhouse, was instructed in the mass planting of cabbage seed.  The following Monday the Firebird and I were handed an EZ seeder and the brief instructions that accompanied it, and the tidbit that none of them had been able to make use of it.

Relegated to the packing room, we read the directions, scabbed a table together, and proceeded to seed 800, 98 cell flats.. (nearly 80,000 seeds). 

The official too late to seed cabbage day came this week, and we moved on to separate chores.  The backbone of the crew are three Mexican immigrant workers we call "the guys".  The guys have aided the owner in a huge major agricultrual production.  Hay, Oats, corn (field and sweet due any day) zuccini, broccoli, cauliflower, greenhouse tomatoes the size pumpkins, cukes and of course cabbage.  The five of us spent an afternoon planting over 9000 cabbage seedlings (only 100,000 to go, because our 80K are still in the greenhouse and there is at least that many on benches awaiting transplanting)

Everyday brings something new to learn to this experienced gardener...running irrigation tape (although my time at the beekeepers gave me knowledge in big tanks and hoses)  sitting on the back of a planter dropping those precious cabbage seedlings one at a time after yanking them out of the cells by the handfuls by their hair...and failing to keep up, and having my co-worker Pablo tossing plants from his racks into my spots as I frantically try and dump the empty tray, or cherolla, and grab the next one...(think Lucy trying to keep up in the chocolate factory)

And discovering that you can take 3 years of Spanish in Middle school (technically 2 years of Portugeuse and one year of Spanish according to my mortified 9th grade Spanish teacher) and still not be able to follow a conversation by your co-workers....

I can read the notes the owner leaves for them in Spanish, and the youngest, who speaks nearly zero English and I have managed to communicate even though I cannot remember proper grammar I have a pretty extensive vocab that keeps creeping in, and I am great at hand gestures although sometimes I think we have a huge communications gap, mostly due to my horrible pronunciation.

Sometimes I ask teen Pablo, "como se dice....?" and he replies in something that I cannot possibly form my mouth around, and I just say the English word...and hope he is learning English better than I am his dialect and we both laugh.

The other two have a bit more English, so I typically address them in English- occasionally tossing in a Spanish verb or noun or saying. Buenos Dias, Hasta Luego, Hasta manana, Salud, lots of SI, SI...

 I go home at night and call the dog perro, and the cat gato, and the occasional "bueno" or mierda slip out... but I have a long way to go.

Today I had a cell phone call from the mejor, who has the most English.

"We need more broccoli!"

"Broccoli?"  I replied, confused, knowing they were picking squash in a field a half hour away, while I was behind transplanting broccolis and cauliflower.

"NO, Broccoli!!" he replied


Silence on both ends.  Then he called across his field to the Firebird, "come tell your mother what we need~"

(waiting, waiting, waiting)

"Hi Mom, we need buckets, (and hear S in the background, and those green things) and those green things"

I couldn't find extra "green things" or totes, and took them five buckets.  I had to pick  Pablo up from the squash field a couple times this week and the yield was 20 yellow squash and 40 zuccini. Today I got sidetracked waiting for a co worker to wash out the truck to take, and then had to show her how to water the 100K plus cabbage awating transplanting...and showed up with  5, 5 gallon buckets to find the three guys and Firebird had picked 8 totes full of zucc and summer squash and cukes weighing over 80 pounds a tote, and they set them in the truck bed under the cap leaving me to figure out how to get the tailgate shut and unload them back at the shop .....

Then running to the shop to give a coworker a lift back from the garage...the company fleet each have their own issues.  Speedometer permanently stuck at 40, no brakes, bad tie rods, check engine lights, airbag lights, my favorite was the day I had to drive 30 miles back to the shop to pick up more seedlings in this giant box truck...never driven something so large in my life...just, "hey, you go back and get more cabbage...NOW"

and I jump in and take off, never adjusting the side mirrors, andfind myself taking the wrong turn right into a rotary in the state capital.

I would have turned around but I didn't think I could back it up or even take a tight turn.

Let me tell you, you think your life is getting stale, have someone throw you into something that you never considered doing while they have complete confidence or indifference in your ability or lack thereof, and then succeed...

well, that's seasonal agriculture for you.

*wanders off humming 100thousand cabbages to plant, 100thousand cabbages..."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Never speak in absolutes

My last post I mentioned how the grey squirrel poplulation seemed a shadow of it's former self.

Today, first thing this morning, there was a squirrel scene out back.  Squirrels running and jumping and chrring and crying.  My heart was pounding, it sounded like a hurt baby grey and I was not sure if the reds had attacked a nest, or what was happening?

The crying sound was coming from the treetops, so I retreated indoors.  Everytime I stepped out today, wah, wah, wah.

After the winter we had , if I am home, I am most likely outside.  damn the tics (I have had 6 bites already) damn the mosquitoes (I don't know how many I have smashed or how much alien blood I have unknowingly injected after smashing a mosquito biting me)

Not today, I could not handle the commotion.  I raised an Eastern grey squirrel from an orphan when I was in about 6th grade.  My mom found two on our front walk in metropolitan suburbia.  One of them had a compound fracture of the leg, so my mother took it to the vet.  The vet, a portly man who incessantly jingled his pockets full of change, thought there was no way to prevent gangrene, so that baby squirrel was euthanized.  The other one, uninjured, we were instructed to feed with...if I recall correctly...squeetened condensed milk warmed and thinned and poured in a saucer on a piece of bread...I think we may have bottle fed prior to the saucer.

Well, it was the funniest thing to see this baby grey with all four feet in the saucer sucking up that milk sopped bread!  Then we would have to clean him up with a warm damp cloth or he would dry all sticky and hard from the milk.

It took him awhile to get a nice bushy tail.  We built him a big cage out of chicken wire, a cylinder about 5 feet high and several feet in diameter that we kept on our porch.

The fall he was about a year and a half old, he bit my sister up pretty good.   She was trying to put him back in the cage after playing with him.

Well, that was that, my mother and I took him to some nearby woods and he climbed to the top of a tree and that was the last I ever saw of "squirrel."

Needless to say, I have been fond of grey squirrels for a long time.  When I moved to Maine I was surprised that I could not speak the Maine grey dialect.  They definitely have an accent!  The same with blue jays.  I have a brain cramp about the northern dialect and when I talk to them I use my mid atlantic version, and I don't think they get that.

Because when the grey squirrel commotion moved to the sunflower feeder and beech trees in the back yard today, I finally had enough!  I had been envisioning bottle rockets earlier in the day (which, even though you can buy huge fireworks now here in Maine, you can't get M80's or bottle rockets ) but I stepped out on the deck and gave those grey squirrels a down home cussing out...tsrrr, tsrrr, chstrrrr!

Two big ones closer to the feeder peered at me and each other.  The smaller one in the treetops hushed for a second.

 The best guess I could make was that parents were trying to teach their young how to protect themselves and find food, and sitting in the treetops crying was a great way to get eaten by a redtailed hawk, and dammit, you're a squirrel, learn to fall to the next branch and peel a stinking sunflower seed!!!!!

PS Once again I am mistaken.  I stepped outside just now and saw 7 large grey squirrels surrounding the sunflower feeder.  Bad weather coming???  Unusual animal behavior makes me wonder-another bad winter? 

Where have these squirrels been for the last several months? DO squirrels just move in roaming bands like a group of Tom turkeys?  Is is a set of parents and juveniles, and they are making the rounds showing the different places to feed?  Did one of my faithful readers drop a basket of squirrels on my head because I was complaining I hadn't seen any? 

Or maybe the wildlife rehab place-in the past I have seen young animals that don't really seem to know what they are doing and no parent in evidence.  Then when I caught the game warden releasing the mink a couple months ago I did feel rather exonerated because I KNOW animals get dumped here. 

I have taken in several cats and even a hen and rooster.  I know folks that went out one morning and found a mean white turkey in their animal pen.

It's the "That looks like a good place" mentality.  I have to admit, one year when I had four roosters and no one would answer my ad for free roosters, I would drive by a place with some pretty hens scratching in the front yard and think, "that looks like a good place...." but it was just a fantasy.

Unlike that game warden and the mink..."That looks like a good place!"

I should have told him during my tirade that when I was trying to trap "my" mink (which I didn't admit to doing) I fantasized that if I caught it I could release it by (where the game warden caught his), and then I thought that would not be nice to those people, and tried to think of a very remote place to release a mink...


I did get very close to a small group of cedar waxings working the ditch when I walked down to check the mailbox this afternoon.  I have seen them before, working the alders in the swamp, and they are quite fearless with their dark eye bands, perching and calling- mere feet from eye level.

Seems early for them, too.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Welcome to mosquitoville

June is moving right along!  Usually by this time of year, I can't imagine everything blanketed in white.  But the memory of ten feet of snow and below zero temps is still burned in my mind.  I can't believe things can survive those kinds of conditions!

The grey squirrel population took a big hit this winter.  Usually we have 8 or ten running around, but this spring we have one that slips in to the feeder at dawn and dusk.  Was it the cold and snow- or hungry raptors that annihilated the population?

Usually we have 4 or more nesting pairs of robins.  I can hear one singing through the open window as I type, but when I mowed the "meadow" the other day, not one came to hunt on the newly mowed lawn.

We don't have a lawn mower, so I borrow one from a friend.  You would not believe this old push mower.  The spark plug falls out.  The brake line is broken. The blades are dull from mowing rocks and stumps.  There are large floaties in the gas tank.  AND he runs it on chainsaw (mixed oil and gas) gas!!!

Prime it about 20 times, pull it twice, and it goes like hell.

So I just mowed for the first time this year.  I love "integrated" lawns.  Except for broad leaf plaintain...grrr. I also love perfect lawns like the game field at the Firebird's high school.  My lawn works for me, because if I don't mow it for a month or so I have a beautiful wildflower meadow.  :)

The dandelions had gone by, but the fescue had started to go to seed.  I wanted to wait until after the fescue set seed, so I could plant free grass seed when I mowed, but I just could not wait any longer.

I noticed a few black eyed susans (one of my favorite wildflowers) were gettting ready to bloom in the lawn, so I dug them up.  I pulled the evening primrose because the mowed stalks hurt to step on with barefeet.

I left the Queen Anne's lace, the yarrow, the red clover (the bumblebees were pissed as that was starting to bloom) the white clover, the gill goes over the ground, the violets, the hawkweed, the daisies.

The dog roses and blackberries trying to widen the perennial border got mowed.  They hurt to step on barefooted, but they hurt to pull up barehanded so it's a toss up. Besides, soccer balls and basketballs aren't supposed to go near the perennial border and a little negative reinforcement of stepping on a mowed over rose or blackberry sounds like Karma to this overprotective gardener.

Because I had let the lawn go to meadow, I set the old mower on the highest setting.  I am not sure why I did that, because the two times I mowed last year (the second time I mowed all the leaves as well....) I had it on the middle height setting.

I think I was afraid I might burn the lawn because it had been hot and sunny and dry, and our lawn has turned to crisp in the past.

 Peko thought it was the perfect height.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Really I think it counts as 668.

After a brutal winter, May flew by, all the flowers hurrying along, racing each other to see who gets flowered first.

The dandelions are now just white ping pong balls of seedheads.  The honeysuckle bush, so overladen with blooms a few days ago, now fading.  Lilacs have peaked.   Bleeding Heart gone by.  Columbine and german Iris in full bloom.  Rocket just starting to open.  Poppies and Siberian Iris on deck.  Ajuga in full bloom.  Basswood blooming, Oak trees have dropped their tassles.

A few days of almost 90's and now frost warnings.

Congrats to the Firebird, graduated from high school with honors and accolades, heading off to college in a few  weeks.

Happy June.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Happy May

Yay our snow is gone and the maple trees are blooming.  A very few special forsythias and daffodial clumps are in bloom where we headed inland today.

The mink story had an interesting twist.  It took me about two months to mink proof my chicken coop.  I had to tear out built in rabbit hutches to get to the windows that were stuck in rough openings and needed to be framed out.  One day I cried the whole project was so depressing and overwhelming in the beginning.

In the meantime, I had two hens and a guinea cock in separate cages IN MY HOUSE, and at night brought the two ganders in and put them in a big pet crate loaded with shavings and hay and changed every other was a living nightmare of extra work, but it was nice to know when the hen laid an egg and pick up a nice warm egg and give her a bit of soft bread as a reward=I have never seen two hens lay at such a steady rate- with that sort of positive reinforcement, no wonder!

And given the fact that we offically had 10 or more feet snow this winter, it might be easier to understand how difficult it was to do any sort of outside work when you have 8 foot snowbanks everywhere you turn. And lucky to have a day above freezing,  Then when it is above freezing you are tramping in 6 inches of snow and mud.

I just roughly estimated in my head that the FIrebird and I must have moved 30,000 cubic feet of snow this winter with snow scoops- that's a lot of scooping.

I digress.  I FINALLY got the chicken house to my point of approval.  I put the chickens and guinea in around midday and worried the guinea might be aggressive towards the hens.  Then the hens got into a full blown cock fight.

I had to break them up THREE times.  Finally I picked up one of the pet carriers that I used to put them in to clean their cages and took it in the coop and shook it at them and said, "Would you rather go back in here or live in this chicken palace?!"

And I didn't hear another peep out of the two hens.

The guinea seems to believe the hens magicicked this awesome place.  He has always had the crap end of housing, and this freshly rebuilt house with three windows and strategically placed perches and shelves....He is funny.  We started calling him Fred (flintstone)

Then that night I put the geese in and jumped at every little peep wondering if they would survive the night out there...and if the mink was still around?

The next morning I was relieved to find them alive.  I headed out with the Willow who needed her 3 foot tall paper mache redwood tree delivered to school.  I pulled out of the driveway and noticed a truck parked over the culvert, and a guy walking to it from our side of the stream. 

I pulled over and asked, "what's up?"

and realized he was wearing a game warden uniform.

"I was just releasing a mink."

I kid you not-he actually did

Well, I lost my cookies.  I went up that guy and down the other, and he kept saying, "sorry" while we watched the little mink scamper up the bank directly towards my chicken coop 200 feet away, and my neighbor/'s coop 200 feet in the other direction...

He did deny releasing any mink there previously...yea right ugh was I mad!!!

I took his number threatening to call him.  That night I was feeling bad about yelling at him.  The next afternoon I watched the mink run along the edge of the lawn behind the coop, about 40 feet away.

The Willow and I found sign along the stream and it appeared the mink had hung around with tracks and dens in the snow, but still the poultry was ok.

I had to resurrect the outdoor pen for the geese during the day, with electric all around.

I fixed my whole goat pasture electricline and we had a blow that night and the next day I had a big windfall on the back line with a birch and a white pine across the whole fence...

I am in the middle of taking down goat fence I put up years ago for someone else who is cutting back.


The last time I saw my mechanic, he told me he was awaiting test results  and had a catheter in.

I had the blazer in there this past week, and asked how he was faring, and he said, "I'm alive."

I didn't want to ask him about the test.  My last words to him had been, "I hope you have good news about your test."

So he stops everything, as usual, and gets me in and gets his guy to start on the blazer, and this other guy comes in and wants to talk to R,. so they go in the office and I can overhear the conversation, and the guy is talking about getting the deed straight, and I wondered if R was selling, and then the guy started talking about estate type of stuff like who gets the truck, and I decided it was time to go out the back door far from earshot of that conversation and have a smoke.

So I know the answer to my question without asking it.


About a month ago I ran into an old friend of mine.  The last time I saw him was over a year ago, and he looked like shit.  He was all happy about quitting drinking and told me the whole deal, about he got pretty bad and his wife finally gave him an ultimatum and he quit.  Well I was pretty impressed , but he still looked like shit.

We fell out of contact for a bit, and about 6 months ago or more I actually searched his name because I wondered if he had died,.

I finally chased him down,   and he looked much better.  He was on chemo round 10 of twelve for colon cancer.  He had a large enough section of colon removed that he will now wear a "shit bag" (his words) the rest of his life.  And he pats it on his stomach for emphasis, permeating the room with the odor of really bad diarreha.

The smell clings to me long after I make my goodbyes.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Is it summer yet?

Finally we have had a few days above freezing.  But, in places where the snow drifted in it is still two feet deep!  So we have aways to go.

The bloodthirsty mink is still around-I found this track a few days ago and even managed to get a few decent plaster casts of the tracks-not easy with old plaster and snow.

I put my keys next to the track to give an idea of the size of the track.  Not a cat track-too large, and the toes would be rounded. Notice the slight pointed/curved tips in the toes, and the indication of the fifth toe.

I can smell the mink in the air when it comes on rounds.
Tree 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Happy Pi Day

Finally, we have had a few days above freezing.  I rushed out last week and tapped the sugar maples, but they are not really running yet.  Not sure what is happening, if there is too much snowpack, or the temps need to get more above freezing.

I gave up trying to trap the mink and started trying to mink proof the coop.  We had about 6 feet of snow on the ground and zero deree temps, so that took awhile to get that project underway.

I had to disassemble the rabbit hutches I put in many years ago to get to the windows.  That was a very depressing job.

Finally today I enlisted the aid of the Firebird to help close up all the little places, and just getting some positive cooperative energy into the space helped a great deal.  After the negative energy of the slaughter and devastation and having to rebuild something I made years ago I needed some fresh energy.

One of the major things left is to dig out the winter's bedding, which was pretty frozen.  Part of the floor will need to be replaced, and I need to re hang and reframe the door and put up some more 1/2 mesh over a window and a chicken door.

Quite a bit of snow has melted.  So much that I barely made it up the drive in 4WD on Wednesday, because I had about 6inches of slush in the ruts.  Luckily that refroze so  I could get out the next morning, and I think it is still gradually melting since a bit more dirt is showing on one of the shoulders.

Of course we are under a winter storm watch tonight, lots of wet snow, hopefully 4-8 inches , which will still require clearing if we are to get out the drive next week.

Our dirt road is coming unglued in the usual places, and I am starting my annual rant about what the road commissioner does to earn nearly 100K a year.  Can't even put a load of crushed rock in the rutty places, and of course we are the last town to have posted our dirt road to heavy loads, a rite of spring in these parts.

My arm is gradually healing; every time I spend a little bit of time working around here I have a set back.  Looking for part time work, or something independent, with the usual no luck.

I could potentially go back eventually with the beekeeper, but my bud working with him down in Georgia got stung 100 times last week moving hives.  Doesn't sound like much fun.  I figure I had about 50 stings all told, but mistakes happen and once the bees find a way in your suit you can get in a pickle pretty fast.

Our snow here is settling-the tromped paths started to thaw, and that was pretty dangerous because all of a sudden a foot would break through up to over your knee...then it re froze and we have these foot sized pitfalls along the pathways.  If you fall when it is soft you find yourself over your shoulders trying to push yourself upright...

I should lay a bet now when all the snow will be gone off the lawn....May 30?

Happy spring!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Snowiest winter, coldest February

Well we passed the snowiest winter awhile back.  I am not even sure how much snow we have had.  The last week we had three storms that went over two feet together. The running average temp for Febrauary was about 12 F highs and lows....the last record was 14 F.

I made a prediction a couple of years ago that climate change would cause more moisture to be put in the atmosphere, by melting ice in the arctic in the summer, causing a cooling and more precipitation in the upper mid latitudes.

Gawd sometimes I hate to be right.

The projected prediction then left the upper mid lats in a dry tundra and the moisture cooling to travel southwards..

Once that point is passed we are really screwed. Basically the water locked in the poles will be re-distributed, gradually meeting at the equatorial zone.

Beyond that point I am not so clear, perhaps warm moisture will cause intense storms in the mid lats, drought in northern lats...earthquakes from weight distribution, perhaps my life does not span that time, and the reason I cannot foresee what will happen at the time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mink update

Well, I decided the only recourse for my remaining poultry was to get them out of here for the time being.

I made arrangements with Boss to board them at the farm 10 miles away until things get squared away.

I just could not keep them in my kitchen forever, and didn't even dare let the geese out during the day, and the two of them were crammed in a large dog crate by the bathroom for a night and half a day.

We packed up the two ganders, the one remaining guinea, and the two hens and set them up in a back stall at the goat farm.  The injured rooster is still in a cage in the house, and pecked at some food today, but I have not a lot of hope for him.  He was just too much of a mess to take to the farm, and I didn't want Boss to have to deal with a hurt rooster in addition to the others.

I warned my neighbor I had borrowed the live trap from, told her I got mine out of here and she might be next, and she called me early evening to tell me the mink had gone across the brook and hit her chicken house and killed five.  She got some of them in cages into HER kitchen.  One of the roosters flew out in the dark and commotion and she found him beheaded in the snow this morning.

I went over to check in with her this morning and they were trying to secure their coop for tonight.  I was a bit not too encouraging, because their coop is older than mine with its own security issues.  I had read if you can stick a hot dog in an opening a mink can get in.

I checked in with her via phone this afternoon, and she had gone to the local has everything store and bought fox urine to sprinkle about hoping to deter the mink.  I told her I had read that there was no deterrent to mink, and that she should check the coop because it was about the time of day the mink first strikes.

She called me tonight and had gone out right after I called and found five more dead and has two left, again in her kitchen. 

I promised her I would go over in the morning and we would make a plan for tomorrow night to try and take care of this thing once and for all.  I lost 9 and she lost ten in 4 nights work.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

St Valentine's Massacre, or Trouble comes In Spades

UGH.  Can I just say that again? UGH!

While Valentine's Day is traditionally the day that birds choose their mates, we had devastation in our poultry yard.

Yesterday afternoon, the Firebird met me as I was going out the back door and he was finishing up the poultry chores...
"We've got a problem...a guinea has been decapitated."

The four guineas are kept down the ridge in the old outhouse.  I went down and found not one but two dead guineas with heads pulled throught the gap under the door.

I cast around for tracks..."MINK!"  I exclaimed.

After some debate, I decided to secure the old rabbit hutch for the two remaining guineas.  It had served as last year's winter quarters, but once I knew I was dealing with a mink, I knew I had to secure every last gap.

Finally fixed to my satisfaction, I moved the two guineas to the hutch and we finished night chores.

About 10 pm the Willow called down, "don't you guys hear that?"

Some commotion from the guineas mere feet from the kitchen window had awoke her, and I heard a feeble vocalization and dashed out with the Firebird to investigate.

We saw both guineas prone inside.  I realized one was still alive and grabbed it and brought it in.  WIllow suggested the cat carrier and provided a towel and I gently placed the guinea in the carrier, after noting two puncture wounds on the neck....mink

The Firebird assured me the other bird was dead, and then I wondered what to do about the geese, on the ground in the very unsecure chicken coop.  The Firebird had raised looey from a hatchling.

I crawled under the house and retrieved a large animal kennel I acquired-free!- last summer, made some room in the toolbox area by the bathroom, and the Firebird and I each grabbed a gander and stowed them in there for the night.

Pluto wasn't very happy, we acquired him several years ago from a neighbor who acquired him from a livestock auction, so carriers meant doom to the poor old guy.  Still, we knew they were safe for the night.

The Firebird had seen the mink at one point, and noted that it had made a tunnel in the snow, so after we secured the geese I went out and stabbed the snow shovel and he with the firepoker.  I believe in live and let live with the wildlife, but we were on the verge of a serious problem.

Today I borrowed a live trap from the neighbor...not as easy as it sounds, they are elderly and it was in one of two outbuildings that had over four feet of snow between us and them.  I took my snow shovel (with my golfer's tennis elbow if you have been following me) and dug a knee deep path and we finally found a trap, her husband who suffers many health issuse pulled himself out of his recliner and got down on his knees and showed me how to set it.

The Firebird was away for the day , so the Willow an I baited it with a smelt an rubbed some canned chub mackerel on it, and set it in the rabbit hutch, the last known location of the mink.

I had let the geese out for the day, and although I usually block them off the back deck bcause they sit there and poop all day, I made allowances today.  Louey spent the day snugged up to the back door, and several times they honked and I burst out the door expecting to see the mink at their throats, and they ran off the deck because I usually yell at them to get off the deck....

Around 3 I heard a commotion in the chicken coop and ran down to find our only rooster on the floor covered in blood, and a mink in the coop.  It jumped out a gap in the chicken run door. and I waited.  It jumped back in and I held still.  I grabbed a rather long stick, the only thing nearby, and waited.

The mink looked at me, looked at the bloody rooster, and started for the rooster,.

Well, I am old and mink are fast, and twice I tried to smack it and twice it jumped out and then back in, and finally I gave up and grabbed the bloody rooster and ran to the house and stuck him in the other cat carrier.

Then the Willow ran out with the dog and the firepoker but the mink had left.  So we had some discussion and finally decided to take the live trap and stick it over the run door.  Then I blocked either side and disguised the pedal with some hay and feathers...yeah, feathers everywhere... and apologized to the hens on their roosts and said a prayer the mink would go in through the trap and be caught.

Pluto honked alarm from this point I had grabbed the ganders and put them back in the big vari kennel in the house.  So I went out and checked the trap from outside and it wasn't tripped and the chickens were quiet so I went back in and waited.

Around 9 tonight I had to go pick up the Firebird, and when we got home I had the light from the blazer on the coop and I thought I would just check things out....and opened the door to see a pile of dead hens.  I could see movement so I knew at least one hen was still alive, so I parked and we reconnoitered and I armed myself with the gravel rake and headlamp and ran down to the coop.

I opened the coop up and there was the mink on top of one of the cages.  The coop is a small building and I used to house rabbits in there, so I have several suspended cages with plywood tops.  The chickens usually roost up there. 

So there was the mink, and I started trying to get it with the gravel rake.  I don't like to harm animals, but this thing had blood lust and was just killing every single bird and drinking the blood and grabbing the next one.

I had called my grain store earlier in the afternoon to ask for advice, and one thing she told me was if I was going to go after it to make sure I hit it hard and got it by the second try or it would come after me.

Well, that's what happened.  I missed a couple times, and that thing launched off the top of the hutch straight for my face.  I gave a yell and jumped out of the way, and it fell at my feet and dashed around the coop in a flash.

So then we had to see what was left.  I found one barred rock hen, and grabbed her, screaming bloody murder, and ran her up to the house and stuck her in a box.  Thenn I went back and counted the dead.  I was missing one white hen...I turned around and she was perched on top of the door frame, still alive!  I had an old canary flight cage and yanked that out of the snowbank and made that cozy and put her in there, and then put her sister the barred rock in with her..  Yes, they were the last of the chickadoos that I had hatched in a homemade incubator and raised myself.  I had put them in with the main flock this summer, and they never quite fit in, which probably saved their lives tonight.

White wing the crippled guinea had been in one of the separate rabbit cages, and I had thought him, the mink had found a way in there and white wing was lost as well.  5 dead hens and white wing.

I put them in a bag and the smell of blood and dead was soooo strong....I was out of bags and in a panic decided to do what all the locals do and go find a place to dump them along with the three dead guineas from yesterday....

I couldn't risk every predator in five miles being drawn to the scent here.The goats are rather unprotected with the electric fence shorted out, and the snow deep enough to walk over the four foot fence in places.

We have coyote and bobcat in the area, and with this deep snow and bitter cold everything is looking for its next meal.  We have had mink around for years and years and I never had any trouble.

So I loaded up the carcasses and drove around...finally thinking I found a good spot and chucked the bags over the snowbank.  And there they sat on top of the snow bank.  Over four feet of snow and thirty pounds of chicken and it stays on the snow in plain view. I drove down the road and found a better spot, so I went back for the bags I had left, over shot them, had to turn around again, thinking if anyone was one awake at that hour I was being very suspicious.

I waded through the snowbanks &reloaded the bags, and headed back down the road.  Then I overshot my dump point.

So I went along and picked another spot far from houses and got out and slung the bag as far as I could, and then the three small bags with the guineas along into the woods.  I searched the ground figuring with my luck I would have accidentally dragged my wallet out of the car and dumped it on the road.

I finally made it home.  I have a:  probably-going-to-die rooster, a bit guinea that might recover, two hens, and two ganders remaining....all in my kitchen...and a psycho mink running around outside the house.

I KNEW I was dreading this winter for a reason.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

We are forecast to receive 18-26 inches of snow between now and Monday, with 40mph+ gusts and windchills -20F.

I have completed 35 bee pallets and been diagnosed with tennis elbow..and also have golfer's elbow which the young lad who examined me missed. IOW the tendons in my right elbow are shot.

I drilled and screwed 40 pounds of screws and shovelled upteen pounds of snow in the last few weeks.  :(

Boss came back from GA with several bees in his bonnet. I tried to walk before lunch Thursday but he stopped me, so I managed to finish the day,. After frying my elbow on his behalf I will happily be looking for other employment, although I have to admit, I will miss the bees. 

Bees are little angels compared to this Boss.

Found out you have to have 1500 a month outside income to become a permanent resident of Mexico.  Dang.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Got snow?

yup all that and more moved by  myself and the saplings in the last ten days

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Jupiter and the Snow Moon

Want snow?

Be careful what you wish for.

A week ago we had a blizzard that dumped about 2 feet.  The Firebird and I scooped the 300 + foot drive twice for that one.  We all had a snow day.  The state was under a state of emergency.

I got to work the next day and the snow drifts against the doors were 8 feet high. Yes the outdoor kitty gets to shovel.

We had four inches or so before the blizzard we had to clear last Sunday.

Then Friday we had snow.  That was about a foot.  Then we had snow yesterday and last night, another foot.

The weather forecasters are telling we will get 2-6 inches tomorrow night.  We all cringe when they point at an area and say, ..."and the jackpot," will be....

My goats won't even come out of their goat complex.  I kept chucking massive amounts of hay in there and shoveling off the roofs. The Willow and I managed to get them out tonight for their grain.

They are just saying on the news that we have had about four feet of  snow in a week.

I spoke with the Boss today and he is heading back from Georgia in a few days.

I told him he will pass half the state of Maine heading south on his way north.  Even old timers have had enough.

BTW Jupiter is the planet of expansion, and I am not sure I like seeing it sit right next to the "Snow Moon"

Friday, January 30, 2015

Blizzard, Winter storm watch, active weather pattern

Welcome to the end of January in Maine.  I used to want to see snow falling on Christmas morning when I awoke, and have resigned myself to the fact snow will probably be falling on my birthday-or it

 will be 20 below zero.I

I have pledged that once before my years come to pass I will spend my birthday someplace warm and sunny, and one has to be careful what they wish for, because that may mean spending a birthday in Georgia moving 100 pound hives onto a truck bound for the California almond pollination.

This week we had an official blizzard on Tuesday, we think we got around 2 feet.  The Firebird and I spent three hours midday in the teeth of the snow moving the snow out of our 300 + foot driveway.  The wind was howling and like idiots we were revelling in it.

Wednesday night we had to move the last 6 inches of it to make way for today-our area to have "the jackpot" of 12-18 inches.

I crawled up to work today while the saplings slept in-their third snow day of the week.  I made it to the shop on Wednesday to be greeted with eight foot high drifts in front of the doors which needed to be cleared-after our drive, and then work, and then our drive again my legs were pretty sore yesterday.

I have to take comfort in the fact that I must be pretty ripped for my age-once I get out of these sixteen layers of clothes sometime around April I will be able to tell...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

RIP Cricket the Beautiful

Cricket passed Friday.  Willow and I found her at evening chores;the the does were all riled up.  Cricket was always tied last because she was at the bottom of the pecking order, always submissive, always going to her spot when it was her turn.  Lately she had been lingering in the houses in the morning, but when it came to tie her that night, Willow said, "where's Cricket?" and found her stretched out on the icy ground.

She had been failing of late, picking at her extra helpings of grain, so I had been trying to prepare for the inevitable.  She was such a good goat, that she died on the least inconvenient time possible-the evening before my only day off.  Willow and I interred her against the rock wall in the upper pasture, since the ground is too frozen.  The Firebird had a track meet that day.  Cricket's daughter Anna and the other goats as well as her human friends are all mourning her loss

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Framed and Floored

So what happens in the northern beekeeping realm after all the bees have shipped south for the winter?

Making new equipment of course.

Initially I was thrilled to hear, "we have a bunch of new equipment to build".

Then this translated into 3,000 deep-or brood-frames. 

Frames parts consist of a top bar, a bottom bar, and two side pieces.  each top and bottom bar has to be attached, in our case, stapled with a pnematic air gun, and glued, to the side pieces.

Then plastic foundation is snapped into each frame, and each frame gets a counter staple on each side.

I was a bit apprehensive, since I once had a job at a woodworking shop assembling wooden windowboxes, and we were supposed to meet a quota of so many an hour, and I had a penchant for blowouts, whereupon the person at the receiving end had to fix the nail jutting out.

Now I had the pleasure of being under the tutelage of a college attending employee on winter break, and we got into a bit of competitve mode.  She made 18 perfect frames in 8 minutes.  I followed with 18 in ten minutes with two minor blowouts.  Since my "quota" was 40 in an hour, things were looking good.

Until days stretched to weeks and I woke each morning to a half hour drive at sunrise to staple frames all day arriving home at sunset....the days are supposed to be getting longer, and they certainly appeared to be never ending, frames after frames after frames....

I recognized I certainly am a victim of ADHD, because I would have cheerily stapled my hand to relieve the endless monotony of standing in the same place doing the same thing.

Luckily for me, my outdoor kitty co-worker, who normally did whatever he could do to avoid doing anything involving work, took a shine to the repetition.  he stapled perfectly.  I assembled, he stapled, we listened to the radio and disagreed about every song, (he being a semi professional musician, and me having extensive music recording experiece, but favoring different genres), but we still banged out the frames.

Then the boss reappeared and put J back on a picky little task and stuck me solo on frames, which was a disasterous combination, as I grew grumpier and grouchier by the day while he sauntered in and out to the woodshop pretending to cut wood for his project.

Finally the day arrived that Boss and J left together to join the other J in Georgia, leaving me to start assembling hive pallets.

Boss went over the dimensions prior to leaving, sketching out a few drawings.  My eyes lit up.  I am the type of person if you ask me for directions I have to draw you a map. I love architectural drawing.  My job was to build jigs for pallets, and then the pallets.

Boss left me to the jigs and proceeded to rip up enough pressure treated two by fours and 1 inch stock to make 100 pallets.  The jigs are done and two proto type pallets are finished. 

Just 98 pallets to go.

*wanders off singing, off key, "98 pallets of bees on the wall, 98 pallets of bees....*

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas Miracles

Happy 2015!

So what's all this about miracles?

Well, the last few years I seem to manage being able to dig potatoes for Thanksgiving, which is really unusual for Maine.

This year we had a huge snowstorm November 2nd, and a big freeze shortly afterwards, so there was no digging potatoes for Thanksgiving.

I resigned myself to the fact that last row of Kennebec whites was lost.

Then we had rain Christmas Eve day.  

I walked by that last row of potatoes at nightfall coming in from night chores, the digging fork stuck in the ground next to row, and gave the fork a wiggle,  The fork moved! 

I started poking around, flipping frozen earth crust in large pizza sizes...and lo and behold, the potatoes below were not frozen yet.  I kept digging and digging, and this is what I ended up with-enough for Christmas dinner and a hearty serving of homefries a couple days later.,  Best potatoes evah!

These were also "freebies"-descendants of the 50 pound bags for 5.99 I bought fall of 2013, leftovers that had started to sprout.

Follow up number two-the bow building.  I failed at that attempt, the oak twisted horribly and I couldn't string a good piece out of it.  Willow in the meantime took matters into her own hands, cut a good sapling, tied on a string, and was shooting Jeruselem Artichoke stalks in lieu of arrows.

I picked her up a real arrow for her birthday, and she got a lot of use out of that with her little homemade bow.  It had a pretty good draw strength-more than this 15 pound draw I bought her for Christmas, along with a handful of arrows.

Here her brothers are taking their turns along with her on Christmas afternoon:\

The Firebird has had a goal to break the school record for 55 meter dash, which he did this past Tuesday.  Here's a pic of him on the long jump, one of his other events:

courtesy event photographer

Me?  Having the winter blahs, underpaid, underappreciated, overworked...but at least I have some money coming in-can't have everything! (don't we wish)