Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year in Review

Karen and I often sit down this time of year and list the year in review, as if we were editors of a newspaper or magazine.  I never really thought about where this tradition came from, perhaps our experiences with Citicorp back when we had to prepare weekly and monthly reports.  Some day maybe I'll tell you about those weeklies and sitting down with Carl Levinson and his other direct reports to review them on Monday morning, afternoon, sometimes into evening.  No, I don't think I will.  I understand he's retired, so maybe he deserves to be let alone.  In case you're wondering, that was 17 years ago, before what's now called Citigroup got into its current mess (and after it had worked its way out of the last one -- it had almost failed before, more than once or twice, did you know?).

Anyway, this year's list would include adding on to the goat barn for turkeys, which joined our herd for a while until we put the "tur" in the freezer and replaced them with "don".  Which reminds me Adam lost a "key" to our Volvo wagon.  He thinks it may be hiding in the bottom of our famous local swimming hole, the "Straw Pond."  We haven't bought eggs in a year and a half.  Yesterday, Karen bought milk for the first time in almost a year.  That skim milk tasted almost like water on my oatmeal this morning.  Come on girls, have your babies!  "Maybe that's why you got sick," Karen suggested this morning.

Yes, I need the healing, anti-bacterial life force of goat mammary emissions, which brings me to Hellgate, an important lesson for me this year.  That "race" helped destroy my running regimen for December.  Having rested the week before, which basically eliminated any mileage at the beginning of the month, the 46 miles I finished battered me down and probably yielded my immune systems to this cough/cold I've been fighting for a week and a half when I haven't been running because a little exertion sets me into a coughing spree and we've pert near run out of goat milk.  So, after 11 months of fantastic running that put me on track to complete my first 2000-mile year in years, I'm ending up shy with 1940.  Shy, did I say Chy?  That's our jenny (a new word for me in 2010).  Or "chi," pain-free running, which I did experience all year until my falls during Hellgate.

"What's the lesson?" says Virginia. 

Relax, run for the joy of it, and don't complicate it with visions of heroics, award jackets or age division trophies.

Gosh, I only barely got started on the list, didn't I?  My musical highlight had to have been playing the first movement of Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor with the local orchestra in early March.  Thanks, folks, for that opportunity.  People who play like me don't often get to do something like that.  The monster concert holiday singalong wasn't too shabby either, plain clean fun (not counting "Santa Baby," unless we agree it was sung by Mrs. Santa and not that other girl).  Meanwhile, banks have been buying the "Practical Guide to the Wall Street Reform & Consumer Protection Act," released during the summer after a mad dash.  Thank you, readers.

More later, maybe -- greenhouse, court appearance, visits with friends and family, just read through old blog entries.  The next step for Karen and me, according to custom, is to try to predict 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lettuce Sprouts and Greenhouse Heat

"You should have posted photos yesterday," says Virginia.

 There's still time.  Here's some baby lettuce.
Here's where the lettuce is planted:
I set up two of these beds side-by-side in the center of the greenhouse.

I'm blaming a cough and a cold for the fact that the compost bin isn't full yet.  When it's full, it may be steaming....

I haven't put all my eggs in one basket.  I'm also using some water storage, hoping it helps regulate temperatures.  Here are two walls of water, donated by Susan, one wrapped in black.

Monday, December 27, 2010


Little rows of tiny green plants reach toward the plastic roof of my greenhouse, jeering at my absence of faith.  It's too early to discount the possibility of miscarriages, but we just might be picking lettuce near the end of January.

"How's the compost bin?" says Virginia.

I still have high hopes for the warming effect of the compost and manure cage, but I'd better not forget to soak it now and then, as I did until a week ago.  All it was doing was drying out, snow everywhere and none inside the box, the christening of an indoor gardener.  I'm sure Will Allen, the man who said he uses manure in each corner of his 100-foot "Growing Power" greenhouses in Milwaukee, figured others would be smart enough to remember it rarely rains inside most greenhouses.  For more on manure-heated greenhouses, check out

Note the naysayer who says "if manure worked, commercial greenhouses would use it," implying it doesn't work.  Nonsense.  White roofs help keep cities cooler, but painting roofs white has only recently begun to catch on.  Others say that before modern heaters, commercial greenhouses used "HM" (horse manure).  How did they do it?  We'll find out, and we'll do it better.  We're going to rediscover all sorts of things in the next 10 years -- despite the efforts of firms over-invested in products they want us to wastefully consume, such as oil heaters for greenhouses and black shingles.  More and more people are going to raise their own chickens and goats, gather eggs and make their own cheese.  Bet on it!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Back-Seat Rider

Headed for Pennsylvania and some home-made pumpkin pie, I plunked myself in the backseat and stayed there.  I've sometimes said that if I win a lottery, I'll hire a driver.  I guess I won.  Two-thirds of our family love to drive, allowing me to work and take a nap.

So here we are in William Penn country, full of old stone houses and a lot of wind, but no snow.  Virginia's getting the white stuff this year instead.

Tonight I caught the evening news on ABC, one of the features being criticism of Kate Middleton's likeness on a British coin.  Newsworthy, certainly.  I learned how difficult it is to represent a human face 10 years ago when I hired a sculptor to catch our son, Adam, in bronze.  The poor artist had to put up with repeated objections, "something's not quite right; I can't put my finger on it."  (Actually I could, but that didn't help.)  Seldom can I recognize the real-life version of what I've seen in a photograph, much less a human's attempt to mold a ball of clay.  I remember the brouhaha about Peter Hurd's Lyndon Johnson portrait.  So yes, we need to be reminded every 40 years or so that a coin or portrait isn't a person.  Big news.

"Sometime you should ask Virginia about this," says Virginia.

Or Dennis.  I think I will.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

King for a Day

Back at the castle, one day between trips to Ohio and Pennsylvania, the Lady of the Manor, a/k/a the Queen, greeted the King and Prince with venison lasagna.  Several of the subjects quacked, a few whined welcomes, and the Boxers begged for belly pats.  The egg layers couldn't care less. 

Or were the whines expressions of suspicion?  My day began with unfinished business, a return trip to the abattoir.  When I arrived home with two full coolers, I glanced at the goat paddock with a twinge of guilt, not yet a full-fledged farmer.  Tonight's dinner plays out the deal I mentioned in an earlier blog -- continuing carnivore versus virgin vegetarian.  We sort of agreed that if we could not eat Shasta and Dodger, then meat markets would become off-limits.  Unlike the protein most of you eat, I like to think they were happy from birth to death.  In fact, not too many birds, butterflies, rabbits and other creatures suffered as they traveled from farm to table -- which is not the case with the out-of-season produce that graces grocery shelves throughout the year.  Tears have been shed, something that most likely can't be said for most of the hamburger and green beans (look at them under a microscope sometime) devoured here and around the world.  We, kings and queens, sit on the top of many pyramids.

My trip to Bluffton often reminded me that big rocks to little children are simply stones to adults.  On the morning I ran past the Community Market to buy a couple "expensive" navel oranges for my mother, the house that guards the entrance to the skilled nursing facility surprised me.  Not only could I see it from the town hall, it was merely blocks away.  My 4-mile trudge through waist-high sludge to elementary school had shrunk to less than a mile. Today I ran to our post office and local bank before launching my 8-mile round-trip to Arrowhead Lodge, reminding me that we live near a small town, too.

"You smell like gasoline," says Virginia.

She's right.  This afternoon I cranked up my Stihl and divided a few logs into firewood.  Welcome home, King!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Time Machine

When I was a kid, we referred to "old folks,'" "nursing" or "rest" homes.  Now sixty-, seventy- and eighty-somethings often settle into "retirement communities." I kind of like the term "autumn" care.  Too soon my name will be eligible for waiting lists.  I find myself visiting these places more and more often.

Kendal at Lexington, with its very nice little concert hall, repeatedly invites the Arrowhead Trio to test our repertoire of music composed in the past 100 years.  My own mother, about a year ago, questioned whether "anyone really wants to hear that kind of music." They seem to enjoy our explanations of what we're about to play.  On the other hand, I must admit I've been known to smile and nod while struggling to hear someone in the middle of a crowd.

Speaking of Mother, she frightened her children -- we will always be her children -- two weeks ago when she entered St. Rita's after fracturing a few vertebrae.  While at the hospital, her heart rate slowed perilously and persuaded her to accept a doctor's recommendation that she abandon independent living, at least for a while.  After a few days in a skilled nursing facility (SNF), tomorrow she's scheduled to claim an assisted living unit.  So we children have been exploring retirement living with new interest.  Reality therapy, I guess.

As I walked with her through the floors of the SNF, I found myself stepping back in time.  Name plates on doors returned me to 4th grade and junior high math (Mrs. Steiner), City Savings and Loan (Mr. Bauman), typing class (not mine, Miss Duffield), music history and choir (Mr. Lehman), and other venues.  When I accompanied her to the home's beauty salon, my brain frantically searched and finally connected the wet head under a hair dryer to the mother of a childhood friend (Mrs. Vercler).  If all these good people have made this place home, it can't be too bad.

"It's hard getting old," says Virginia.

Several other people have recently told me that.  My mother, now approaching 89, said, "I guess this must be what it feels like to get old."

I couldn't say.  I don't know.  I imagine I may entertain that thought before I'm 88.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dream On

I love to dream of different tomorrows even when I'm content with today.  I think it was Jay McDaniel, somewhere in Living from the Center: Spirituality in an Age of Consumerism, who suggested that contentment is dangerous, a sign of stagnation and laziness. 

I don't mean dreaming of more of this and that, things I might find in a store like WalMart or Bloomingdales. Rather, I'm dreaming of different experiences, such as living in a "tiny home" (see,+pat+foreman&source=bl&ots=VQ-VCT_6-6&sig=UmA59AThAnVOzbez4An9HgOtDKg&hl=en&ei=v9sOTefQD4Sclgf1vqTYCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false), in New Zealand, in New York City or a small town.  Or trying to get along without a car.  Or growing trout in my greenhouse.  Or building a round barn in our field, with living quarters above the livestock.  Or filling the field with vegetables and sitting at a roadside stand in my eighties, offering free produce to passersby.  Or traveling here and there to give a few dollars to people in need.

I liked the name "DREAM Act" (the Development, Relief and Education to Alien Minors Act) given to the proposed federal legislation that would have allowed illegal immigrants to earn permanent residency status and eventually citizenship after high school graduation by completing military service or college education.  Unfortunately, yesterday the U.S. Senate dashed the dreams of students who had hoped the Act would help them. 

"You're spoiled by foolish dreams," says Virginia. "So am I."

So what?  And I don't believe they're foolish or useless, or we wouldn't be living on Elk Cliff Farm. Maybe it's time for a national (or international) campaign to spread dreamfulness.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Jingle Jog

A few days ago, my sister invited my oldest brother and me to join her this morning at the Jingle Jog in Pandora, Ohio.  It sounded like a plan to me, except for one thing.  She predicted a temperature of 17 degrees (F) at the 9:30 start.  She may have been right, but a stiff breeze sank the real feel much lower.

"Who cares?" says Virginia.  "You guys are plain nuts anyway."

I guess she's right, carrying us back to an old theme.  Half the world, or more, probably always thinks the other half is crazy, so when we start talking about things we don't have to do, even more think we're off our rockers.  In this case, we're talking about a short road race, with a cop car in the lead, another following, and 50 or 60 people in between, covered with layers of high-tech fibers.  Although nothing was unusual, other than the temps and occasional snow drifts, most people would prefer to stay home and watch the nincompoops through glazed windows.

"Totally useless," says Virginia.

Some day I'm going to define that term, "useless," and rant about the usefulness of uselessness.  Not now.  We, three, crossed the finish line holding hands, after 25 minutes of conversation and no interruptions by text messages, phone calls, television sidebars, or page-turning.  Probably not useless.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Let It Snow"

"Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" found its way onto our set list for last night's "Monster Concert Holiday Singalong" and became a reality show today.  I wore a GPS watch as I shoveled our driveway twice, a little over 2 miles in 3 hours.  To be honest, I "swept" the driveway with a wide janitor's broom, finding it more convenient than a shovel for pushing away 2-3 inches of light snow at a time.

"How'd it go?" asks Virginia.

If the Singalong -- 4 pianists playing 4 pianos, with perhaps 90 people singing -- were on my bucket list, I'd circle it in red and refuse to cross it off.  Based on the number of people asking for it to become the "First Annual," I may not be alone in rating it as more fun than any other musical event I've attended. To say people sang is an understatement.  According to Linda Krantz, hostess and co-impresario, something about four pianos going at once ran shyness out of style even better than too many drinks.  Too much alcohol would have broken the silence at the "Silent Night" conclusion, and that didn't happen.
This picture shows the quartet warming up beforehand, with Susanne Fitzgerald (on the left) getting ready to practice "Santa Baby."  Perhaps you can picture the seats full of warbling revelers.
From right to left:  Tim Gaylard, Betty Bond Nichols, Kirk Luder, and Santa.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bit by Bit

As I watch my solar electric fence, disconnected for the winter, shivering madly to brisk winds, I'm thinking what to try with the field garden weed patch next season.  I'd like to fill it with grains for the farm animals and sweet corn for the human animals.  Before that can work, the ubiquitous Johnsongrass rhizomes must be conquered.  I could arrange several 2-3 week passes by a tractor or I could gradually cover it with cardboard, topsoil and manure.  I'm inclined toward the latter, which I could start any time and would nudge it toward a rich organic environment.

"That would take forever," says Virginia.

Forever is a very long word.  It's true that gardening is forever, at least the kind I have in mind, but like anything worth doing in life, bit by bit eventually gets the job done.  By late spring, that 10,000 square foot patch could be a neighborhood attraction, for humans as well as deer and ground hogs.

"Bit by bit" -- a lasting slogan, motivator of the mighty.  "How do you run 50 miles?"  "Bit by bit."  "How can you read a book as long as "Les Miserables?"  "Bit by bit."  How did you make it through college/law/vet/med school?"  "Bit by bit."  "And how do you write a book?"

"Bit by bit."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Confession of a Quitter

Hellgate handed me my first "DNF" (did not finish).  I ran according to plan, with a conservative start that brought me to the first cut-off with 10 minutes to spare -- 12:20, 25 miles, Headforemost Mountain.  Staying upright had proved to be difficult.  By then, I was ahead of Dave Moore, my running partner, in falls, 2 to 1.  In the darkness, headlamps sometimes changed rocks into leaves and leaves into rocks, and snow on top of both completed the disguise.  My first trip was slow, gentle and leafy.  My second was not, but I bounced into forward progress and urged everything to return where it belonged.

The weather was almost perfect, other than the evidence left by its past.  The midnight start, at 23 degrees (F), felt comfortable in the midst of 130 bodies.  Even at the high elevations, the air was relatively still.  Fingers that stiffened on downhills quickly warmed when we headed up.  The inevitably wet feet from "Hellgate Creek" (the race nickname; its actual name is Elk Creek, the same creek that borders our farm) never felt cold, although whoever said "they'll quickly dry" was wrong.

"So why did you quit?" says Virginia.

I missed the second cut-off is the easy answer.  I arrived at aid station 7, Bearwallow Gap, mile 46, after 12:30 p.m.  My third fall had taken its toll.  I hit my right shin pretty hard.  I rested for thirty seconds or so, then rose and resumed running.  Forget the details.  How much is weak mind over matter is anyone's guess.  I'm sure someone like David Horton, race director, or David Goggins, top ultraman-plus who ran and finished the race 3 months after heart surgery (see, might say it's no guess; it's clearly mind over matter.  I might protest in a high, whiny voice, pointing at the swelling in my right leg.  In a way they would be right -- I probably could have finished, maybe not by the 18-hour deadline.  My wimpy wish had been to beat the second cut-off by an hour or so and walk, if I had to, the rest of the way, maybe even enjoying the scenery.  With that wish ditched, so went my motivation.

I like to think that at age 57 I'm finally man enough to figure out and admit when I've had enough.  In 1992, at mile 24 in Chicago, I found myself "cruising" to a sub-3 marathon.  Then I hit the proverbial wall.  I was very disappointed and Karen, having seen me giving a thumbs up shortly before the wall, worried like crazy until I finally finished in 3:09.  The year before, in Toledo, less than six miles into the Glass City Marathon, my stomach wouldn't cooperate.  I finished the race by running until I felt like throwing up, walking until I didn't, repeating, ad nauseam.  As it turned out, I had the flu.  This time Karen didn't have to worry.  I had a cellphone and it worked.

Hey, 46 miles still looks pretty good in my running log.  I suppose it even counts as a marathon (almost two of them).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day of Hellgate

Weather predictions anticipate a pretty day tomorrow, real feel at midnight of 25 degrees, gradually rising to 46, with a high chance of rain late in the day after Hellgate is over.  According to David Horton, the race director, the southern section of the Blue Ridge Parkway is likely to remain closed because of 2 inches of packed snow at the high elevations (aid stations 2, 3 and 4).  Maybe the conditions will be almost perfect, except for the risks presented by snow and ice.   Perhaps the melt queen will slip in and clear all that away, please do, dear.

Karen provided an awesome dinner last night, with salad and calzones, preceded by 3 cheeses courtesy of our goats and her hand-made rosemary crackers, all shared by a few friends who kindly asked a few questions about running 66 miles.  As it turned out, at least two of our guests hold record "firsts."  When I asked if they were in the Guinness Book of World Records, they suggested that firsts don't get into that book -- what get in are the successes in beating the firsts.  Bob and a colleague were the first to spend 24 hours underwater below 7 feet of Arctic ice.  Bob and Gerri and a friend were the first to spend 7 days at full nitrogen saturation 50 feet underwater.  Dennis took multi-month bicycle rides by himself, traveling up to 120 miles per day. No one accused anyone of being crazy. 

All boded well for a rich sleep, which ended at 9 this morning and may complicate my hopes for a couple good naps before midnight.  I hunted down an old blue Citicorp gym bag and filled it with things this runner might want after the sun rises -- shoes, clothes and a pair of new contacts.  Called a "drop bag," the Hellgate volunteers will make it available at aid stations 4 (Mile 22: Headforemost Mountain) and 7 (Mile 43: Bearwallow Gap).  I'll rely on the 9 aid stations for food and water refills.  According to the race director, the first aid station open to "crews" (i.e., friends of runners who want to offer support) will be aid station 5 (Mile 28: Jennings Creek) -- unless the Forest Service reopens that portion of the Parkway.  A forest ranger said the Parkway may be opened south of Bearwallow Gap (Mile 43: aid station 7).  So, crews might as well sleep in and forget about driving around in the dark.

Karen called me out to the greenhouse, thinking I might like a diversion from whatever I'm thinking about.  "Hmmm, what could that be?" asks Virginia.  She's adding fuel to my hoped-for greenhouse heater, the compost/manure bin, which so far I don't think has raised the temperature very much.  I should get a thermometer with a probe and figure out what's happening under that pile of crap.

See, her ploy worked.  Now I get to label this blog posting "Gardening" and "Greenhouse" as well as "Running" and "Hellgate."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day Before Hellgate

"What does a runner feel like the day before the day of a race?"  asks Virginia.

It's not a race, I tell others and I tell myself.  As usual, it depends on what you mean by "race."  By the first definition in my 1981 version of Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary -- "the act of running" -- it is a race, although most of us will be doing a lot of walking, especially on the uphills, which are many, with an estimated total elevation change of over 13,500 feet.  As for the verb form -- "to compete in a race," "to go or move at top speed or out of control" -- for me, it's not a race.  I'm sure some of the fellows far ahead of me will be competing.  I won't be, and I hope not to be "out of control."

At this point, "being out of control" is my biggest concern.  I like to be comfortable when I run, not too warm and not too cool, cruising along, enjoying the scenery and sometimes the company of other runners.  The biggest challenge on Saturday will be finding that comfort zone, despite the possibility of snow, ice and cold.  And darkness at the midnight start!  I have never run a marathon at night.  Even if I cover the first third of this course as slowly as I hope, I'll nearly finish the 26.2-mile marathon distance by sunrise.  In light of the snowfall that probably remains on the highlands, "slowly" will be a key to not falling "out of control."

More directly on point regarding Virginia's question, today is my 7th consecutive day not running, except for a 3/4-mile test last night of my headlamp and flashlight.  I haven't gone this long without running in years.  It's all because of my former running buddy and 60-plus ultra veteran, John Zerger, who suggested I rest the last week.  Anticipating the objections of a compulsive recordkeeper, he said, "Don't worry.  You'll be able to log 66 miles on Saturday, very good total miles for a week."  On one hand, I understand the psychology of the racehorse waiting for the starting gate to rise and the physiology of resting after months of hard training.  On the other, a certain insecurity arises from not having used my legs for a week.  "Will they still work?"

It's been many years since I've slept as fitfully as I have this week, which probably results from muscles that aren't used to resting so much and nervousness about the physical challenge of running farther than I have ever run in one day.  Last night I dreamed I missed the starting gun, began running an hour or more late then realized I'd forgotten about packet pickup (i.e., getting my bib number and other paraphernalia), suddenly remembered I'd have to run like crazy to make the first cut-off which I then missed by far, got lost on a trail leading to Roanoke, where some crazy old coot in a big Cadillac almost hit me, stopped his car in the middle of the road, and chased after me.  A nice young couple came to my rescue and drove me part way home.

Speaking of sleep, remember that the race starts at 12:01 a.m.  I'm usually in bed before then.  I imagine anticipation and adrenaline will keep me alert at the beginning.  Will I be running with my eyes closed by 6 a.m?  I hope to head that off by catching some shut-eye tomorrow afternoon and evening.  I'm sure you can imagine how restful those cat naps may be. Meow!

This morning when I retrieved my usual 3 armloads of firewood, I smiled at 25 degrees, a clear blue sky, and bright sunshine.  At 12:01 a.m., Saturday morning, I intend to smile at the black night, near-freezing temperatures, and the sounds of 120 people running together into the night.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What the Law and Gardening Have in Common

The last couple days have done a number on the arugula.  I should have covered it with a little hoop house.  Mark it up as another gardening lesson.  I can read all sorts of stuff about gardening, but it doesn't sink in until a live, visual, and tactile memory accompanies my recollection of the written word.  Here's a secret:  don't tell the wilted arugula, but if it had been a thriving colony of buttercrunch lettuce, it would have been hooped or cold-framed.

Every day I wander out to the greenhouse for two reasons.  One, to see what the thermometer says early in the morning.  This morning I tapped it in disbelief.  Sixty degrees (F)?  Two, to see what's happened in the raised bed I planted late last week.  I keep imagining a few little green leaves.  Oh, a third reason lately has been to retrieve the stapler to refasten the yellow plastic fence that keeps getting dislodged by our ambitious winds.  Karen informed me this morning that one whole side had blown off the winter wheat garden around the older greenhouse, the one the chickens love to visit.  A hundred feet away, sheltered by hundred-plus-year-old American boxwoods, my more expansive wheat planting is proving much more successful, knock on wood.

Other than trips to the woodshed and mailbox, that's been about it for outdoor recreation this week.  Resting before a "race" is like trying to resist a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. To keep my mind cluttered with other things, I'm wending my way through court decisions and helping Virginia grow up.

Today I came across a robo-signer opinion by Judge Arthur Shack of New York, sort of a hero of mine.  If you've been following the foreclosure crisis, you've probably heard of robo-signers, a vocabulary word invented this year to refer to the people hired by mortgage servicers to sign 750 or more loans' worth of mortgage-related documents per day, certifying their accuracy in 30 seconds (about enough time for me to grab a stack and sign one "J").  Speed-reading is not an employment requirement.  In this case, the judge was very frustrated with Ms. Johnson-Seck, her employer (OneWest), and the handful, maybe more, of firms that supposedly had endowed her with the authority to sign their names.  Embarrassed by nationwide publicity, OneWest asked the court to allow the withdrawal of its request for an order of reference (to allow foreclosure).  Judge Shack granted the request, but went a bit further than OneWest wanted -- dismissing the entire case while allowing renewal of the request for an order of reference within 90 days ONLY IF: (1) Ms. Johnson-Seck explained how she happened to be a "vice president" of 4 or 5 different firms; (2) OneWest provided proof of authority from the original lender to MERS (Mortgage Electronic Registration System, Inc.) to IndyMac to OneWest; and (3) OneWest's attorney provided an affirmation that he had personally reviewed the documents and records and confirmed their factual accuracy and the notarizations on the documents.  I imagine that's a tougher row to hoe than a few miles of winter wheat.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Black and White Day

Today was tough for this pseudo-ultramarathoner, thankfully today instead of a week from today.  This morning I tried to imagine running 25 miles by the time I woke and couldn't.  My stomach felt as if someone had kicked it.  I couldn't find enough handy blankets to get warm.  After 3 frigid trips to the bathroom, I felt better, but far from good.  Now, near the end of the afternoon, I've enjoyed a 9 a.m. rise and two long naps. For the first time in months, maybe years, I haven't been outside.  Wait a minute...there, cancel that!  I just let a few snowflakes melt on my tongue.

When Karen slammed the back door this morning to fetch firewood -- you must slam it or it won't latch --  I found comfort both in her willingness to pinch hit for me and Chy's foghorn.  Also, it must have been almost first thing, Karen put my overalls in the wash.  A few hours later, she delivered them to me, toasty warm from the drier.  Finally, there might be sweat somewhere on my body.  No hanging out the laundry today.  See why?
Lately, I've been thinking about how fortunate we are to live in this home, especially on a day like today. All but one of our walls, interior as well as exterior, are at least a foot thick, made of brick from clay harvested and fired on-site.  According to a neighbor, his grandfather lived for a while in a train car and walked across our field every day to bake bricks.  More than 140 years ago, someone knew a little something about passive solar construction, facing this house north and south with tall, wide windows that allow the sun to warm much of our living space, including the walls.  Nevertheless, on a cloudy day like today, it might be nice to build lofts up under our 9 1/2 foot ceilings.

"So what?" says Virginia.

Just being thankful.  No one other than perhaps me is going to be terribly disappointed if more snow and ice coats the Blue Ridge next weekend and I choose to stay in our little castle.

"Certainly not me," says Virginia.  "You might work on my life, as you did today.  Thanks."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Farm Music

Do you hear what I hear? Loud snorting, like a giant pig.  Maybe soon it will develop into a foghorn.  Chy, our jenny, just like me, gets very excited when Karen comes near.  Maybe she's bringing something special, some arugula (for Chy) or some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (for me).

If you think roosters only crow early in the morning, come for a visit and you'll learn the truth.  Which reminds me -- since the rooster born last Spring spent a few hours at a slow bake, the barnyard has sounded different.  I sort of miss the crowing duets, back and forth, back and forth, usually in the afternoon.  Lately, too, the change in seasons has caused most of our hens to abandon their egg-laying squawks, taking us down to two eggs per day.

Each time either of us slams the back door on our way out, a chorus of baas calls from the goat paddocks.  I must admit it's great to feel loved.  Don't tell me they only want me for food because even after they know I'm carrying none, at least one of them crowds me and massages my glutes.

Today and yesterday, underneath everything, inside or outside, is a low rushing sound.  Not like the random rumblings of motor vehicles or aircraft passing, it's constant, continually up and over and down.  Sometimes when I step outside, my first thought is it's raining, then I remember it's not, it's Elk Creek after rain.  I'm reminded of Opossum Run, up by Arrowhead Lodge, which happens to feed into Elk Creek -- we moved downstream -- after a hurricane, rushing so fast we heard it rolling huge boulders.

Even seeds talk to me, as you already know if you read my blog posting two days ago.  Thanks to Susan, I no longer feel self-conscious talking back to the plants that schedule much of my life.  More accurately, perhaps, it's not the plants scheduling me, it's the result of me tracking my holodynes.  Lord knows, I do not, what this is all about, but sometimes I think there may be something to it.

"Listen," says Virginia.  "Do you hear what I hear?"

I hear her, too, but probably not what she hears.  I always hear.  Pillows pressed against my ears, I cannot escape chirping, sizzling, humming and pulsing.  Just now I heard a mouse trying to slip unnoticed through our heating ducts.

Oh, how could I forget?  The chattery quacks of our rambling ducks rarely fail to draw a chuckle.  

I loved the movie, "August Rush," always music everywhere.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Zero Day

Zero day.  I don't mean nothing happened.  Appalachian Trail through-hikers sometimes visit us as they pass through this area and refer to their stays with us as zero days.  Likewise, runners have zero days.  If they're like me, they often glance through the glass, half-wishing they were traipsing a mountain trail.  Our back windows offered choice views of Elk Creek turbulence, following the robust rains of yesterday. No champion kayaker here, the moment wasn't wasted.

Instead, I turned to a January deadline.  I also worked on the song sheets I'm preparing for the Monster Concert Holiday Singalong on December 15, when four pianists on four pianos will accompany a roomful of winter warblers.  After years of soloing with party guests, it will be fun for pianists to party, too.

By the way, our winter wheat is coming up nicely, despite a few interrupted attacks by chickens who, before we clipped their wings, sailed right in, and afterward crossed droopy fences felled by strong winds.  I'm developing a habit of circling the two garden beds with a stapler to make repairs.

"How about the greenhouse garden you planted yesterday?" asks Virginia.

She knows me too well.  Of course, I checked it even though 24 hours is too soon for sprouts.  Good gardeners do things like that, to stay on top of troubles.  Yesterday's overwhelming smell of ammonia, from recent goat and donkey deposits in the compost bin, had dissipated. 

Some days I enter your aura expecting
invaders, fingers itching for a fight,
other times on the verge of surrender
to the villain I will challenge
through the end of my time, blaming you
before I remember it is like exercise,
showering, brushing teeth, trimming fingernails,
to me endless as the end comes nearer.

I kick myself. "Don’t be a fool."
What are you and I, but an endless
cycle of same-ness, if we so choose?
No, I refuse, we are much, much more.
I brush my teeth and clip my nails
because tomorrows are different.
Let another crowd take euthanasia;
we shall insist on life support.

--from "Conversations with a Garden"