Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dime Time

One of the truths I've heard about self-employment is a tendency to work when there's work to be had to the detriment of spare time, which cannot be called "free time" because time is no longer "free" (as if it ever were), all of your time being on your dime. Those who work for others, feel free to disagree and brag about all the hours you put in. I remember that not being able to count on someone else giving me a paycheck of a certain amount every period took some getting used to.

My morning run pointed out the cost of dime time.

Although I didn't run as far as I often do, I was out there longer. First, I ran into SJ walking his dog and we got to talking, about the 22 pistol in his hoodie's pocket, which he was about to pull out when he heard my feet pounding up behind him (had I known that I would have yelled hello SJ earlier), twisting the necks of rabbits destined for pan-fry, building a windmill near a mountain cabin, the increasing affordability of solar power (now at par with the grid in many instances), reading Mother Earth News for 20 years, digging gardens by hand, using Subaru parts to fix a 1952 Ford 8N tractor like the one at yesterday's Effinger Auction (yes I could learn some engineering at our advanced age, both of us being within a year of 60), finding enough manure (for which I offered a solution because I know a guy who will load you up for free), killing wiregrass with agricultural vinegar, using muriatic acid to clean the two-thirds full 5-gallon bucket of copper pennies he found next to the dumpster over near the Natural Bridge (who would abandon so many pennies because they were too dirty to roll?), a wife who's apparently become addicted to online gaming and says she exercises on a treadmill while he walks but probably doesn't (48 years younger than a certain person I know who recently finished something like her 18,000th game of FreeCell and still exercises at least three days a week), the mammoth "jacks" in our field, spaquaponics, and white roof coverings reflecting sunlight to keep houses cooler. 

No sooner had I left SJ than I stopped in the Trading Post parking lot among four fifty- to sixty-something males soaking up the sunlight that had just broken through what's been a dependably gray sky (actually it was the beginning of a clearing that led to a blue-sky afternoon). "Did Karen like her cake?" I asked KC, who we'd seen waiting at the Wal-Mart (oh no, I let that one slip) cake counter yesterday. "Yep, she ate some for breakfast." "Good," I said, "that's what cakes are for, like donuts." "This is the first time I've seen those steel legs stopped," one familiar-looking fellow said through the window of his pickup. I responded, "My Karen suggested a couple days ago that maybe they don't stop enough."

"Is that what you meant by the cost of dime time?" says Virginia.

That's part of it. Hide away working and you'll never hear the compliments of strangers. More important, you'll miss out on life passing outside your window.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Status Report

Monkey off my back (that is, 5 months of heavier book update deadlines than usual) took me to the piano for a couple hours, a disappointing auction, our greenhouse, and the end of Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom, which our book club has been reading this month. The book club is down to two devoted members who read a "classic" each month, "discussing" it via emails as we go. May will be our first foray into science fiction, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I suspect will be an easier read than Faulkner. If that author of some of the longest sentences in English literature were around today, I'd bet certain Confederate flag worshippers would like to aim their muskets at him.

"What about me?" asks Virginia.

No, they wouldn't aim at her. That's not what she means. Poor Virginia, she gets little attention these days, but she's always hanging about. Her turn will come.

While Karen installs an aquaponics system using our hot tub (see -- she's always up to something, isn't she? --  I'm trying to fill our greenhouse with life. Over 100 heirloom tomato plants wait for new homes. They are so ready, but I refuse to risk their well-being by transplanting them in this unpredictable spring weather. A frost last week stung my potatoes, although they're bouncing back. My pomegranate grove also took a licking this spring, having leafed during the early Spring fake-out. They're inching back, no pep in their resurrection. Carrots? What a disappointment. Three separate fine starts were nibbled to the ground by, I think, bunny rascals, who also did a number on a thick, even, kohlrabi stand. I may need to hook up our portable electric webbing.

Oh, but we have parsnips! I let them go to seed at the end of last season, then they sprouted in the fall, and now they're thriving all over the place. You won't find me complaining about volunteers like them, arugula, cilantro, lettuce, bok choy, and this year, salsify. Maybe someday my garden will plant itself. With Karen's aquaponics, we might not be pulling weeds, either.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Lexington/Rockbridge Studio Tour: 10 to 5 April 21

When I heard that eleven artists and craftspeople would be opening their studios to the public, I thought a tour sounded like an interesting way to occupy a Saturday. I figured if I got started a little before ten, I'd be back home by 3:30 or 4:00. The brochure promised a 20-mile road trip.
I began on schedule, parking at the Lexington Inn Restaurant and running out to Thorn Hill Farm, where Bill Johnston has his pottery studio, number 11 on the brochure's nice map. I think 20 cars filled his lane. One of his assistants stamped my Studio Lotto Card (visit all 11 and you might win $300).

I viewed his and a guest artist's works, then aimed for number 10, another pottery studio, this one owned by a friend, Lee Taylor. A little road-side emergency, in a pine forest, began a day of crime. Then, I turned onto his road and committed a second.
What to do? By this time, I was sopping wet. I didn't have a towel. I decided, heck with the stupid sign.

Here he is. Darn, I didn't get a full body shot to show the kilt he was wearing, A kilt and a kiln?
Lee had two guest artists at his studio. Here's one. I realize the picture's not so great, but Kitty (Tilson) and I played violins a couple years together in the "Three Little Old Ladies Quartet." She's been making baskets for many years, but she didn't start this bunch until November. She said she began making one a day, then as time passed she got faster and faster. I hope I look that young when I'm over eighty.
Okay, here's how you get home when Buffalo Creek's too high. Check out the swinging bridge!
On the other hand, you've got to feel bad for these guys. They're not going to be grinding any flour until the creek's way up.
Now let me tell you how I cheated. Elizabeth Sauder said I could knock 7 miles off the trip if I ran through the woods instead of traveling the roads. (By the way, I entered this run on "Map My Run" (it's a website for runners), which shows that cutting off 7 still left me with 26 miles.) Forget what the brochure said. Here's the old road through the woods.
"Now why are you including this lousy shot?" says Virginia.
Because the shiny copper roof on that log cabin reminded me of the people who stopped to photograph our new roof several years ago. New copper roofs look like giant jewels.

Soon after that shot was taken, the sky turned gray and began making me even wetter. By Susan Harb's (number 6), I was completely soaked. As I walked into her gallery, she handed me about ten paper towels. Here's Thom checking out her mud brick oven. He has almost finished building a Pompeii brick oven at his place.
About ten 'til five I finally reached Gallery Number 1. As I left, Laurie told her husband, Craig, I ran the thing. "Nice job," he said, thinking she meant I'd been in charge of the Studio Tour. Nice job, whoever you are.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Falling Spring

Our latest clutch of incubated eggs began hatching last night, so we have some real Easter chicks. They're a day earlier than expected, unless we've forgotten how to count to 21. Here are 4 of them, under the lights.
"So what else is new?" asks Virginia.

I thought she'd never ask. Here's a lonely pear, calling for a friend. (You may need to click on the picture to enlarge it to see what I mean.)
How about a peach duet?
A future fuzzy navel?
We have two trees that appear to have grown branches from both the grafted stock and the stock to which the graft was attached. So perhaps this is an apricot.
Here are some Asian pears.
I like this apple blossom.
Spring could as well have been called "Fall" as Autumn, witness these Carolina jasmine petals.
I'd describe the very successful (for us) morel hunt we hiked this afternoon, but I think I'll leave it for Holes in My Jeans. See

Friday, April 6, 2012


Coming out of the fog of 4 months of busy writing, I see pink, red and white dogwoods, redbuds, apple blossoms, and a new generation of tent caterpillars. Sometimes I think they've one-upped us, living in tents. How practical and inexpensive! A few humans are as smart, those who've discovered yurts. I'd bet my Mac PowerBook would work very well in a yurt. Our woodstove might become a hero instead of the villain in this house for which it's proved to be under-sized.

Not that we've had much need for our woodstove this winter. Our woodpile was small from the beginning, so I couldn't complain too much about frost-free mornings. About the time I began splitting wood every two or three days, our ancient Old Milwaukee furnace that occupies half of a basement room conked out. We filled the oil tank, expecting the old monster to start up again, but it didn't. Karen quickly ordered a couple infrared heaters, then all of a sudden summer arrived. Now we wonder if the heaters would keep us warm on ten degree nights, not having had a chance to find out.

Fools we are. Not too many generations ago, our foreparents got along just fine under blankets on ten degree nights. Couldn't we? We might find comfort seeing our breath with the sunrise. But no, that's for the poor and the hungry. The rest of us are spoiled brats.

"Let's just say spoiled," says Virginia.

That's right. I drew looks once when I mentioned we'd turned our thermostat up to 62. I felt like a brat.