Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Happy Mother's Day

Many moms probably don't like the idea of getting up to leave the house at 6 a.m. on their day off.  And many moms probably don't like the idea of knocking around in the woods looking for reptiles and amphibians.  But I love it!  And I am so, so lucky to have had this wonderful day out with my son!

Being outdoors is good for my soul and so is talking and walking with my son.  The air was cool this morning, and the insects weren't pestering us.

We found a few animals to take pictures of.  And even though my son had hopes of finding a few copperheads, I was totally fine with only seeing one dead on the road.

It was wonderful to take pictures of wildflowers I don't know the name of and sit around on moss covered rocks listening to water falling and birds singing and breath everything in.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Spring Flux

Old man winter seems to finally have given up and moved on.  The best of spring's blossoms have passed and now it is the sweet, swift slide to summer.

Life is in flux right now--like the season--and I am trying to keep myself calm and reasonable.

The flux:

  • School is almost out and the students are like ponies anxious to leave the stable.  It takes all I've got to keep them engaged. 
  • I am hunting for a new job closer to home, and my window of opportunity is closing in.  
  • The bathroom re-do is still in the works.
  • My youngest son is having housing problems in a town far away where I can do little to help.  
  • The house next door, connected to many nostalgic memories, is scheduled for tear down later this week.

  • Also, the house on the other side of us sold and may be torn down as well. 

These tear downs unsettle me.

Our part of town is a hot little market right now--little houses on lots of expensive land.   I called this blog 'Notes from the Buffer Zone' because this neighborhood was a street of small, old houses smack between a few streets of stately old homes and a street of scraggly unkempt and condemned houses.  When I first moved here 30 years ago, we laughed and called it the Buffer Zone.

Well, of course the condemned houses were torn down (along with the woods behind them) and developed and now my street itself--which used to be students and artists and senior citizens in the Buffer Zone days is rapidly becoming something other.  It is odd to watch this transition.  I never would have thought that houses on my street would sell for over a million dollars.  It is a disturbing kind of gentrification.

But, on the be calm and reasonable side of things--I am very happy in my little house. And happy that at last, the garden is in!

It is not too lovely to look at with fencing all around, but I've spied wild rabbits in the yard. Last year they devastated our beans and cowpeas right as the seedlings came up. So, what better way to keep bunnies out, than to use a pen (well several pens) designed to keep them in? 

While gardening, I found this little nest made partly with soft rabbit fur.  I wonder what kind of tiny birds lived here?

Also, I have been s-l-o-w-l-y knitting this little fair isle cardigan sweater. I am finally up to the yoke.  I need to finish this as I have lost some of my motivation for it.  It really shouldn't take as long to make as it has taken me.  It's just that I only get to do a few rows at a time because bits of it take focus--like sit in a straight backed chair at a table kind of knitting focus--and I just don't feel in that mood very often.

I have also been knitting another hitchhiker shawl at the same time which has slowed progress on this little cardigan as well.

I am sure that by my next post here in the blogisphere, many of my concerns will have played out.  I'll just keep my eyes on the small delights of the season, keep breathing, and have faith that the universe will smile kindly on us all.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Old House: A Trying Last Few Weeks

     I love living in an old house.  Thankfully, it is a small old house, built in the 1940's.  I say "thankfully" because old houses have to be repaired from time to time and these last months have been one of those times.

     It all started because the heat and a/c ducts needed to be cleaned.  A man came out to give us a bid on how much it would cost and he said he could not clean them.  He said they needed to be replaced. Not great news, but okay.  They are over 20 years old, so.  Okay.  But--by the way--he had noticed a water leak under the house.

     Well, this turned out to be a major problem due to an old sewage pipe that had worn out.  So, that had to be replaced at quite some cost. But, these repairmen noted, there was still water damage caused by something else.

     This turned out to be a leaking bathtub. A NOT old bathtub because the old bathtub had been replaced only 10 years ago because of water damage.  This tub appeared to have a manufacturers defect and cracked along the underside so that water seeped out into the sub-flooring.

     So--many weeks and many repairman appointments later, some guys came to fix this problem which involved tearing out the whole bathroom (same as 10 years ago), repairing and reinstalling everything.

     Here is the trouble.  This is a small house.  So, we have one bathroom.  Thankfully however, we are town-y types and there are several hotels/motels near, and we were able to get into one without much trouble and not too much cost.

     But, the sub-contracted tile guy did not really know what he was doing and installed the wall tile all slip-shod and so they had to tear it all out which added an extra week to the process.

     To our contractor's credit, he came every day after that and redid everything himself and it all looks very good now.  It was just a long trying road.

I got tired of the perpetual dust, walking on the grit covered paper covering our hallway and kitchen, and trying to stay out of the workmen's way while still being near enough to answer questions.

I am glad that I didn't have little children in the mix, and I'm glad the dog could stay at home, and I'm glad that I could afford to do this.  I felt grateful many times that it was just a bathroom and not a whole house project!

The duct replacement will have to wait.  I am house projected out for the time being!!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Cemetery in Spring

Spring is here and bursting with flowers.  I don't suffer from allergies much, so this festival of blooms is a wonder for me.

All of these pictures are only phone pictures, but I thought I would post them anyway.  I didn't set out to take pictures, only to walk and do some outdoor tai chi, but the force of the flowers made me pause to snap a few photos.

I was over in the cemetery, a popular place for people to walk.  I guess that may sound weird, but it is peaceful and green.

It also has good hills for sliding down in winter if it snows.

The cemetery adjoins to a park and a large semi-managed green space.  I love to walk here.  I love that this is so near my house in the city.  Of course, there is often the wail of sirens around or the rhythmic beep of a backing up truck, but it's equally full of bird calls--the chirr of flickers and crazy impatient switch up calls from mockingbirds.  This morning I heard the barred owl as he went off to bed.

The dogwoods are blooming and the gentle sweet smell of wisteria floats on the wind.  I love wisteria.  It is nostalgic for me.  A big wisteria grew in the front of my childhood home. It would tangle against us as we went up onto the front porch, and several times we discovered a praying mantis on our heads or backs who'd hitched ride with us into the house.

Walking in the cemetery makes me think of the circle of life.  And today, I was glad to be here on the earth, breathing the fragrant flower scented air, feeling the sun as it pushed away the last little chill of winter.  Just being.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Solace in the Outdoors

I have mentioned before that my oldest son is and always has been quite a naturalist.  I always love when he invites me out with him to wander the woods and hunt for reptiles and amphibians.  Spring is in the air here. Salamanders are breeding and snakes are beginning to poke their heads out of their holes and come up to bask a little.

 To find these guys, you have to put on your "snake eyes" and move slow. 

King snake

Ring neck 

Of course, for a lot people, this is NOT a fun way to spend the day.  But my son and I have done this since he was a little boy.

Spotted salamander

3 Lined salamander

I remember when I was a little, the school librarian read our class a book about a girl who sat very still in the woods and little by little animals approached her.   I always wanted to be that girl, and in many ways I was.  Or, I am.

Fire ant hill

I know when I saw Eliza Thornberry on TV, she was exactly the kind of kid I had wanted to be.  The outdoors girl who had adventures and could secretly talk to animals.
In real life, I love to watch insects at their work, or hunt up frogs in the night with a flashlight.  Many times I have pulled off the road to look at a run over snake or fox, or watch a heron stab a lizard on a tree, or a coyote lope across a field. I have chased after hedgehogs under bushes, and sat in my backyard watching as flying squirrels go from tree to tree.
Somehow there is solace in being outdoors.  And these days I need a lot of solace.

Like these daffodils.

Great banks of them were growing in the vicinity of the crumbled foundation of what was once a house some hundred years ago.  The bulbs, carried over time by soil and rain, divided and divided and divided I guess.  So, although the people are long gone, and time has moved on, the flowers proliferate each year, popping up their shoots and showing their bright faces to the early spring sun.

And somehow, that raises my spirits.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Winter Slow Zone

The big moon came up on that last night of January, and as I caught sight of it through the trees in my backyard, I felt my heart rise with joy.  I smiled at it shining down, my old constant friend.

I breathe the air, and these trees breathe with me.  I know it sounds corny, but I think it is true.  I feel it is true.  These old trees, older than me.  This old moon, older than me.  And I, temporary, move beneath them and feel grateful to share some time and air and space with them.

I made another Banff hat, a larger one with a longer band at the bottom.  This time I paid attention to color dominance (thanks Mrs. M!) when I held the yarn so my tree branches are better connected and everything is a little more even.

My second little rabbit died. She lost the use of her hind legs and could not sit up without me holding her.  The vet said she and my other little rabbit were probably holding each other up more than I realized.  Sweet girl.  Both of these rabbits had comfortable long lives.

It's foggy and wet today.  I've knitted up a few swatches to try to get gauge for a sweater I am going to try.  I'm in the winter slow zone for sure.  All I want to do is sit and knit and read and watch detective programs in my pajamas.  Drink warm drinks. Stay under covers. Hibernate.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Salamanders and A Well Loved Bunny Rabbit

It's raining here today.  The kind of day I love, rainy but not too cold.  A good day to be cozy indoors.

Unless, of course, you are a salamander hunter.  If you are an amateur naturalist, you are very excited right now because it is salamander breeding season and in the night and early hours of the morning salamanders are crossing the roads to their breeding locations.  So! If you cruise along the roads at midnight or get up very early in the morning, you will see them!!

I know this, because I am related to a young naturalist.  A few weeks ago, when it wasn't raining, he and I went salamander hunting.  We found a lot of salamanders, except for the elusive spring salamander which looks like a hotdog.
I always think I am bad luck on these trips.  He found many of those when I wasn't with him--and always seems to find the best of things when I'm not there.

As you see, my son has a much better camera than I, and his salamander pictures come out waaaay better than the one I took with my phone.

And then, there is Pippin.

We lost our little tan rabbit Pippin early this week.  She has not been well for months, and recently took a turn for the worse, so her passing was not unexpected.  These two little rabbits lived together for ten years.  The healthier of the two continued to huddle against Pippin as she died.  So sad.

We have a little boy rabbit to keep our old girl company, but he is only a pest to her right now.  When he gets calmed down, I think he will be a comfort to her.--Maybe.