Sunday, July 29, 2018

July


July has been a difficult month.  Nothing bad happened; it is just hard to sell a house and think about moving somewhere else.  It is hard to have to constantly anticipate someone stopping in and judging what you love. It is hard when no comes by to see your house day after day.  It is hard to look at houses and find one that will be good enough to make you okay with leaving your old place.  It's hard to find a house like that and be rejected because your house is still for sale.  It is an odd limbo land and I will be glad when it's over.

One thing I do love though--my house is CLEAN.  I am naturally a tidy person, so I have LOVED having a decluttered, tidy house.

Tomorrow I go back to school. Yes! In JULY. Unbelievable. I will be glad to get away from this house business and focus on other things. --At least, I think I will.

Somehow this month, I managed to crochet a scarf.  It has been a long time since I made a simple crocheted scarf and this project was just the thing to ease my mind after that complicated forever-taking sweater.  I always love mohair too, so that was fun.  It is a silk mohair blend, very light.  I love all the fringe on this.



I am now wending my way through my first ever pair of knitted socks.  I am following the Winwick Mum pattern.  So far, so good.  But I know I'm just at the easy part.


The garden this year has been going like other years--some vegetables do better than others.  This year we lost all of our tomato plants to some kind of pest who gnawed through the stem at the base and killed the whole plant in one go over night. Awful! The beans, eggplants, and peppers have done well.



And the zinnas are really starting to bloom.  Flowers always lift my spirits. I can't imagine a garden without flowers!



It has been good to spend time with my boys and with my two dogs.  I've been on dog rotation all summer and worry a little how this will play out when I am working so much away from home.  When I was teaching summer school and taking out the dogs one at a time, it was nice to be up right before daybreak when the birds where chorusing in full.  I guess I'll be back to that.  Which it nice, though early.




I hope I will be back next weekend rather than at the end of next month! 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

How June Flew By

June was the craziest month!  

School got out at the end of May and I finally had time to finish projects that were hanging out there for what seemed forever.  One was a Hitchhiker scarf, which I worked slowly on when my other project just took too much brain power.  I made it with two skeins of Manos del Uruguay Serena which is so lovely.


My brain power project was this little fair isle cardigan in a size 2-4.  This was my first foray into a fair isle sweater and I wanted to use it as a learning project, so I made the child sized.  This was my first ever steek and first integrated pockets and first a lot of other things.  In the end, I am really pleased with it.  I love the cuteness child sweaters! 




My son works with dogs and part of what he does is rehabilitate pitbull breeds.  These are sorry little dogs left in dumpsters or wandering the highways, full of mange or half-starved.  He had a particularly problematic one called Keno that he was keeping along with his other dog and his girlfriend's dog.  He also has a constant revolving group of boarders he keeps. So, he has a lot of dogs. 

The trouble was that Keno does not get along with other dogs, so he was having to spend a lot of time shut up in his crate. I volunteered to take him for the summer since I would be off and could rotate him around my other elderly--(read--most often sleeping)--dog.

So Keno came to stay, and I don't know if he will really be just a visitor or if I will keep him.  He is such a dear.


Along with this, I taught summer school half days for three and a half weeks.  This was a four hour class where each hour carried what was covered in a day during the normal year.  15 days=15 weeks. So--even though it was a half day in the classroom--the planning was intense.

I loved the kids--all English language learners.  On the days when their country was playing the World Cup, they were pretty much not focused, but who could blame them?

Then--and most emotional of all--I put my house up for sale.  My dear little house that I have lived in for 30 years.  !!  But now that my kids are grown and do not need the "all star school system," I am free to escape the tax burden and move on.  It is my next adventure.

I am hoping someone will come here to live and love this house and maybe expand it, but not tear it down.  I have worked to keep it ship-shape because I thought I would retire here, but I now see that that is not going to be the case.  I mourned a little at first, but now I am excited to be moving forward.



Sunday, June 3, 2018

Road Cruising: A Night Hunting Snakes

Late afternoon we drove out of the city and into the countryside, way out into the lands of scattered pastures and woods.

The first snake we saw was a crushed mole king, and when D. swerved the car to do a turn around after he'd identified the snake and cursed that he had had to see it dead, the shoulder of the road gave way under his front tire, and we found ourselves stuck in mud.  D. went round to the back of the car and searched out an old half of broken skateboard and shoved it under the spinning tire, but it wasn't much help.  Rain had soaked the ground well the previous day and the mud swallowed the flimsy wood.  Lucky for us, a guy with no shoes and a dog in the back of his car pulled over and anchored a cord between his car an ours, knowing just the place to fit the anchor because he "did this stuff all the time."  The cord broke away on the first tug, and our car slung back even further into the muck, but after re-affixing the cord and giving one more focused lunge, mud spraying over the hood and windshield, we were back on the road. D. thanked the guy and gave him a fiver and a mini bottle of gin (!), and we headed to wash off the mud and fill up the tank, using both of the neighboring available gas stations to get this task accomplished.



While it was still daylight, we drove into the woods and parked the car safely on an asphalt turn-out and followed a hiking trail for a ways, and then went off the trail for awhile too. D. took pictures of his previous finds from two days earlier--a milk snake and a scarlet snake--while I roamed around turning logs and poking through brush hoping to spy something interesting.  The air was thick with humidity and runnels of sweat poured down my face and neck.  No breeze blew.


The photo shoot accomplished, we began to ramble the road, taunted by a dead hognose snake, and meeting a fellow herper on the way.  D. put a little rubber snake in the road as a winking joke for the others to find. Twice we stopped and I jumped out to rescue box turtles on their slow passage across the pavement. We saw no snakes as the sun sank, but I enjoyed the golden hour across the silos, barns, and pastures of cows and goats. Once a pea-hen in the road scrambled awkwardly back behind her fence, though D. believed it was a turkey.


As darkness fell, although I did not learn the route, I was aware that it was circuitous and began to recognize the landmarks we passed--like someone's shoes in the road, or the dead fox at the side, or the mailbox I mistook for a deer. And we did see deer, and frogs, and toads, and spiders with glowing eyes, and creepy crawling cave crickets, and an armadillo (or maybe a raccoon), and white cats, and a mouse, and one thin live snake which was quick on the crawl and slipped into the green at the verge and disappeared.

Music played loud and constant and varied and we drove with the windows down. Frogs croaked. My sweat cooled to a clammy almost chill. Damp mists hovered over the land. D. rubbed cinnamon scented balm over his shoulders and back which were tense from the way he gripped the steering wheel and leaned forward to scour the road.  From time to time we passed a fellow friend who frustrated us with counts of sighting ten or eight snakes, or of two snakes sighted just after we last passed. D. began to lament his joke rubber snake, saying it had brought him bad luck.



Near midnight, we all met up on a bridge, and everyone compared notes and looked at the collected snakes and spent time taking photos.  Many more snakes had been sighted than collected--big rat snakes for example were considered too common and uninteresting to collect, and had merely been photoed in situ. Copperheads, being venomous, of course, were not collected. A few common little snakes had been picked up just for my sake--a little rat snake, a garter snake--so I could see them, which was thoughtful. (The garter snake unhinged his jaw so that he could keep his teeth attached to my knuckles, which wasn't very friendly.) Some snakes were in bags or old socks, and some had to stay separate from others because they are snake eaters, and one was freshly dead, but held anyway so everyone could get a look at him. The sky was full of stars and the moon was behind the hills so it was very, very black.  Occasionally, a truck or two would pass and I wondered if they wondered what we were doing.


Can you count 5 different snakes?





And then it was time to head home, but first everyone went off to return any snakes they had picked up to be photographed back to where they came from, which everyone (except me of course!) surprisingly could identify. In fact, some of the people talked about getting the same snake from the same location two years in a row.  We retrieved the little rubber snake from his bad luck inducing spot on the pavement (ironically, he remained unspotted by anyone) and chucked him back to his place on the dashboard. And as we drove the roads one more time, we passed a dead milk snake, and a dead king snake still twitching from being hit by a car who had just passed us with its lights on too bright.  Maybe if we had been a little quicker identifying the dead milk snake we could have got him before he was hit. What are the rules of fate? Someone sent a text that he had spotted a bobcat.

The road home ribboned out in front of us and turned into a highway and we talked about the gods and the random rules and lore of snake hunting. 



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!!