99 Wildwood Road, Storrs, CT- For Sale?

IMG_9880

 

Suzy and I bought this land in 1982. We were young and in love and just married and wanted to have a home. We looked and there was nothing we could afford because interest rates were so high- 14 ¾ percent. We were both teachers, and had jobs but couldn’t find a house we liked in an area we liked that we could afford. It was discouraging. We looked at a house in Tolland one day- nice, we liked it. We didn’t love it, but we could learn to. A Cape, large yard, near a river. We got home and I got out my mortgage rate book and figured what the monthly payment would be and lay down depressed for the rest of the afternoon. It was more than I earned. Yes, Suzy also worked, but no bank would lend us that much money. I’d worked as a carpenter, and Suzy’s dad was a sheet rock contractor and that afternoon gave us the impetus: we decided to build. We looked at lots and those were expensive, too. One day late in the afternoon in late spring we drove down a dirt road. It dead ended, and we turned around and took a turn off it on this road we’d never been on before. There was a for sale sign! We got out to see. We walked through this swampy stuff and came out to a beautiful pasture with the most majestic white pines soughing in the breeze while the sunshine streamed down. It was magic. We both decided this couldn’t be the piece that was for sale. It was probably the swampy stuff out front. We got in our car, and drove down the hill into the most glorious sunset we’d seen.

 

We called the realtor the next day and it turns out it was the glorious pasture, and the swampy stuff in front of it. Four acres. We made an offer (we had to borrow money from my parents and a friend to do so) and got it. The adventure began.

 

We needed a driveway across all the swamp. We had to clear some trees to do that, and to make room for the house. We dug a cellar. I remember sitting on the foundation with my dad, smelling the fresh dug earth and dreaming and talking. He passed away that fall, so he never got to see the house, but he saw the possibilities with me. My mom got to visit us in the finished house and she was as proud as I was. Did I say finished? We are almost 40 years into it and not done yet. We added a big deck, and that was so hot in the summer that we decided we needed a porch, We tore down the deck and added a sun room to expand the kitchen, and a big porch off the back. It’s pretty nice to sit in the sun by the woodstove and drink tea in the cold months. And in the warmer weather we are on that porch, surrounded by morning glories, IMG_1733and grapes and lilacs watching the birds move into the birdhouses in our garden, while the wind just sighs in those stately trees. Pretty nice. In the evening watching the sun light up the hills in a blaze of pink while you drink a beer. Thunderstorms from a hammock on the porch. We love a porch.g3Ea07VrRwqrYBXvMeL%8Q

 

We built the place. We hired a carpenter, and worked with him and his son  for a week to frame it and trim it, and roof it. Then we put in the windows and doors.  Suzy and I shingled the sidewalls and built the chimney and hired plumbers and electricians and insulated and sheet rocked and taped and floored and had stairs installed and painted and generally raced to finish the house before winter. We got a shock when our landlord rented the house we’d been in for years out from under us. I’d mentioned we were building that spring when we bought the land, and the rental season starts in the fall with UConn right here, and they rented it to new people. We had to move out. That of course was the weekend my dad passed away. Stress? Unfinished house, new job, rental gone and my dad dies. Could we throw in some car trouble? Sure. It was an adventure. We moved everything into the cellar. Of course there was a torrential rainstorm, no lawn yet, mud everywhere. Adventure. So we lived in the house as we finished it, Way before we got a Certificate of occupancy. We showered at UConn or swam in the nearby Fenton river. I’d get home from work, and carry brick for the chimney, mix up the mud then crack a beer and lay brick for a few hours. I remember the well. We dowsed- Suzy Dad and I. He spit in his hand to make the connection better; we held hands and each of us took a fork of the fruit tree branch we used. 125 feet deep and 25 gallons a minutes of the most delicious water we’ve had. IMG_2118I still remember the weekend we had to finish the insulation because the sheet rock crew was coming on Monday. It was late Sunday night. Both of us exhausted. Suzy had given up at 11 and lay down.IMG_2121 I finished up alone. After midnight we went out to my car to drive home to sleep and the car wouldn’t start. I had to be up at 5:30 to get ready for work. I wanted some sleep.  But  I had to fix the car first. Some loose wire somewhere. Adventure!

 

Now we’re leaving it all. We added a woodshed. We dug out the swampy part in front to make a pond- the machine was digging the pond

IMG_9999

while Suzy was in the hospital with our son. We’d had quite a little trouble with pregnancies, and this one looked like it would work but Suzy had to be in the hospital for five weeks before they did a C section.  The pond and our son were both born in the fall of 86. We added a wood shedIMG_6469 and a 12×16 shop for me to work in and keep a tractor out of the weather to plow the long driveway with and mow with. IMG_2123When our son was off to college we added a barn, 36×28 with a full dormer upstairs- bigger than the house. The upstairs is the dojo, ZbWYNl9NQpCe+LwDoDNR1gdown stairs my workshop It’s gorgeous now, with its lighthouse on the roof and its beautiful pine floors, but it has  been a long time building. IMG_1021v2Oc6YukTlan4oCVChk%mQI built a tractor shed off the original shop, to house a tractor. Then I got an eighteen foot catboat and backed that into the tractor shed and put the tractor outdoors again. When we had the kitchen redone in cherry. IMG_2117 I used some cherry from our back yard for some of the counter tops and flounder pot rack to hang from the ceiling as a surprise for Suzy.IMG_5863

My dad’s cutting board is where I make bread.IMG_1543

 

We have skated on the pond- the E.O Smith pond hockey tournament took place there for years. IMG_1500

IMG_2985The kids against the dads. Sunday afternoon hockey games- kids, dads, moms. We had lights on the pond and skated every night. When it warmed up we swam and fished and had epic naval battles where every kid around would be attacking me as I paddled a canoe around. Wind surfer boards, row boats wet sponges and supersoakers. There are still a  few supersoakers at the bottom of the pond.

 

And we gardened and put in an orchard and mowed and cleared and improved and expanded the yard and cleared the stones walls, and paved the driveway painted and repaired and loved and lived here for 38 years. Celebrations regularly.  cKHfHr3jQiS45KEBRdLsBAYes, it has been a hard decision to make. We have loved living here. I worked as a teacher at E. O. Smith High School, which I still love and keep in touch with colleagues. Suzy worked at Windham Center school . We were active with kids here and our son grew up here. There are ponds and lakes and rivers to swim in and paddle on, and parks with walks and roads and trails to ride IMG_3767 and the university three miles away and Boston is close and New York is not bad and neighbors we like and yes,  there is a lot going for here. We raised our son here, and IMG_9741IMG_9742now he’s an engineer with a start up in California. It doesn’t look like he’s coming back even though we think this would be an awesome town to raise a family in. The new elementary school is going to be state of the art, and just a couple of miles down the road from us. But he’s engaged. His finance’s parents moved to California to be with them. Will we follow? Part of the year. Yes. I suppose we will. We have a small cabin on the coast of Maine, too, that needs improvement.  Next project? Next project.

 

Hobbes

IMG_0920

Hobbes was a good dog. Past tense? Yeah. His eighth birthday was May 26th, 2020 and we just assumed we’d have a little birthday party for him- not much of a one, but a little party. Get him a doggie treat, a bone or something. He’d developed a real attachment of late to a stuffed moose. I can’t even remember where the stuffed moose came from, but Hobbes wouldn’t let it out of his sight. Or his mouth. eWfMcQt5TOi3AFlrVDOnFwHe wanted to take it outside one day and  I tried to pry it out of his mouth gently because what goes outside sometimes doesn’t find its way back in. No, he wanted to take Moosie out. So I let him. He brought it back in fifteen minutes. Pretty funny.

 

We buried Hobbes out back just a few days ago, with his stuffed moose and squirrel that Aunt Lizzie gave him for Christmas quite few years ago. He was gentle with toys mostly so they’d last for years. He was not gentle with sticks. He’d grab a stick and watch out. He’d grab a twelve foot long one and wrestle it out of the woods to bring home. He wanted to play big stickie with me. That meant I would hold the stick and tug it a bit as we walked, If I ever got it away from him I’d throw it and he bring it back to do more tuggies. I’ve known people who have discouraged playing tug with a dog. I see why now. It was all he wanted to do sometimes, and it is not as much fun for me as it is for him. But he was an addict and I let him be one. Raggie was the thing. Every morning. He’d come bouncing up with a rag. If he grabbed a sock to play we’d change it out for an old rag or a beat up towel.uaBl7P8ES9q4ItRmn67pDA

 

How can you resist? I’d finally grab it and we’d play tuggies. “Oh you want to play tuggies. You want to play Raggie? You think you’re tough? I’ll show you how tough you are.  You’re about as tough as a goldfish.” And we’d tug and growl at each other, and I’d drag him into a different room and I’d be telling him not tough he was -sometimes I’d wrestle him to the ground if I was feeling frisky- and playing until I was about worn out and he would leave you alone after that. You could drink your tea.

 

wq72kGwaRbG66QXpSz0R6Q

 

He had an uncanny sense of other dogs. He wasn’t overly interested in them, but when we’d meet on a walk, he could tell what they were like. If a dog was afraid of other dogs, Hobbes was very gentle with them. if they wanted to play, he’d play a bit. If they were control freaks, he’d leave.

For a dog who didn’t really swim, he loved the water. He loved going out in the dory with us. He liked the catboat.IMG_2140Suzy discovered he’d kayak.

KaScX6vyRwWowj2iXVgAnd that dog loved fishing. You can see how intent he is on that water. What you can’t see is that little stub of a tail wagging back and forth. He’s loving it. He’d put his head right under to go after a fish. He also didn’t mind wading up to his shoulders, but he didn’t really care for swimming. Suzy would take him to the beach, down by Faunces’ in Owls Head, and she’d swim while Hobbes fished.sGkRHSqVTpaHT6vSrM21%g

 

What he did mostly was guard us. He protected us from chipmunks and squirrels and birds. He’d hang with us on the porch, but if he saw some movement- watch out chipmunks. AINMmV1qQ3C92JHZkxaDvQ

 

He was a great companion.IMG_0013oCdLKIAIQH6XjJjc3LNB8g

IMG_8790 IMG_1391DzO1mb53SpO9RJAYsG1coAr9tzRTe%SsKcwErMj0mB4AIMG_0245

When young he was great pals with Murphy- the golden doodle-and Alex and Rachel, Murphy’s owners, were so charmed by Hobbes they decided to get an Australian Shepherd themselves. That’s Finnegan to the left. A little competition for the toy?IMG_2357

A relaxed sort of dog, unusual for an Aussie.

IMG_0078cINaqoLpThKr5Wq%lsJczA

 

It happened this way. He got listless. Suzy wanted to bring him to the vet right away. I wanted to wait. He’s listless. Big deal. After two days I grew a little more worried. At day three Suzy said let’s call and I did. I called our vet, Dr. Gwen, the Mobile Vet and she couldn’t come out for a couple of days so suggested we bring him in right away to another place. Did she know? We called Bolton Veterinary Clinic and they could see him late that afternoon. We went. I expected them to tell us he’d be fine, just a little touch  of something., but they wanted to keep him. This is all under the Corona 19 crap, so we didn’t meet the vet, we just see the masked and gowned assistant come out and take the dog. It’s awful, right? They called us after half an hour and wanted to do some blood tests. We agree. They did them. His numbers for something or other- I can’t remember- are very high. They would like to  start him on an intravenous kidney flushing solution and want to keep him overnight and check his numbers again the next day. Next day the numbers haven’t moved. They suspect the kidneys. Another day, or two. More tests. For Leptospirosis. For Lyme. For bladder infections. An ultrasound for tumors. Three days on the intravenous and his numbers are a little lower. The test for tumors was bad news. I was hoping they’d find one and could cut it out and we’d have him for six more years like a dog is supposed last. He hasn’t even made it to his eighth birthday yet! No tumor. It is  kidney failure. There is no treatment. We were told he’d live for weeks, maybe a month. Not years. Weeks. I was slammed. Suzy had been beside herself that whole weekend we didn’t have him. I was stoic. I kept saying that there was no need to think the worst. Wait until we know. He might be fine. When I found out I was pure blubber. Oh my god. You get so attached. I was no good at all. We went to pick him up and it was a rough drive in to Bolton.

 

When you arrive you call and then wait. The attendant brought out a young German Shepherd. The dog walked poorly and needed help getting into his van. The attendant stayed with those people for quite a while.

 

Then it was our turn. He went back in and came out with Hobbes. He didn’t have to call out; Hobbes made a bee line for us. The attendant had to break out into a trot to keep up. Hobbes jumped into our van and was all over us. Then the attendant talked with us, too. He said that Chronic kidney failure is pretty rare. Sorry. It turns out that the German shepherd pup who was not yet six months old had it, too. Gasp. So we sort of listened; we were just thrilled to have Hobbie home.93Upm%oSTS6Pv7RIKJLHqgSubcutaneous, medicine, pills, special food. Hills Science diet for kidney disease. Hobbes wouldn’t touch it. He didn’t want to eat much. We cooked chicken and beef. I know. Protein not good for kidney disease. We didn’t want him to starve to death. he was quite thin by now.  We started the subcutaneous injection of a pint of fluid a day. We tried to keep it normal. We went for a walk every day. They got to be awfully short walks. Then they kind of stopped. He still loved being with us. After a couple of weeks we talked about having him put to sleep. We were not ready to lose him, but he was not going to get better. We had to face it. It is not kind to keep him alive if he is suffering. I was going to call on Monday. Then he perked up and we had a good day. Then on Tuesday I did call. He’d scared me with his bewilderment and his lack of steadiness. Dr. Gwen couldn’t make it out till evening, so we thought we’d take a nice long ride in the Van. Hobbes loved that van. We went down to Groton. We took a little walk on a small beach. He was loving it. Sniffing and exploring a little. I texted the vet to cancel the appointment. We can’t put him down now. After ten minutes of walking, he lay down. He stayed there with Suzy resting for half an hour. Q4SB9EGBTayjX7EVuqP1og

 

By the time we got home I was worried again. He was staggering. He’d lost his balance while peeing. He looked confused. We got him to eat a little.  He drank a little. We gave him his pint of subcutaneous fluids. That’s how we shared a pint. We had a lovely time sitting on the porch in the sunset, Hobbes on his chaise longue.LqLv1KikS9uegHe6yI7QPQ

But he had a rough night. We both wished we hadn’t cancelled the vet appointment. He was so restless. And he didn’t walk well. And he looked confused. He finally settled down and we slept a bit. At five he was up. I let him out.  I knew he’d struggle on the stairs,  so held him  back from just falling down them. When we got downstairs he wanted to go out the back door. That’s odd. Always the front door, and until a couple of weeks ago, out the door at 40 miles an hour and barking to chase away the bad guys. I hadn’t heard him bark in a couple of weeks, but he still went out the front door to stand. This morning he wanted the back door. He went to his bowl and drank a long time. We keep water upstairs for him at night but he wanted his cool water. Then he went to pee. He looked back at me and then headed out into the woods- to poop? To die? I let him have about ten minutes then I called him. He didn’t come. Not that odd. He likes to think about things.   As Hobbes used to brag, “Some dogs come when you call them. I don’t. I come when I want to.” I walked into the woods fifty yards so I could call without disturbing Suzy who was already pretty upset about things. I called again.

 

Hobbes came running. I hadn’t seen him run in weeks. He blew right by me to get to the yard. When I got back he was walking in a most ungainly fashion. He went over to stand unsteadily by the van. I wanted to at least get him onto the porch, so I could maybe get some more sleep. I guided him around the van over toward the porch. He’d have none of it, though. He wouldn’t even approach the stairs. I thought it wouldn’t hurt him to be in the van so we tottered back again. I opened the side door and he jumped in. He fell in a heap on the floor. I think that is what hit me the hardest. This was a dog who was proprioceptively gifted. He and Finney- of the photo above- one day were both tugging the same toy. They started to run while they were pulling and the pair of them was racing around our yard at 20 miles an hour while they leaped over stone walls, or anything else that was in their way although their heads were both turned to the side to tug the toy. An amazing display of grace. Now staggering, feet wide apart for stability. lifting all four of his feet high in the air so he wouldn’t trip, and in a heap on the floor after a short leap he’d made thousands of times before. He picked himself up and got in between the seats. I comforted him for a few minutes then texted the vet. She texted back, called later and said she’d be out by nine that morning.mtmenrEkS6KTRZdbGAbPtg

 

So he stayed there. We had tea there. We talked with him, about him. The vet  came and put him to sleep. We buried him in the back yard with Wolfie and Annie. He’s in a more comfortable place and I suppose we will remember him forever. Buster.IMG_1301

 

Why Math Matters or It Doesn’t Add Up

I’ve a friend who is passionate about math. She did her dissertation on math phobia among females. She still teaches, in her 80’s and still believes passionately in math literacy. Rachel MacAnallen. Mrs. Math. She’s a hot ticket and she’s right about a lot of things. Check her out here.

https://zoidandcompany.com/pages/about-us

Everyone is on a big STEM bandwagon today: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math- ooh ooh ooh that’s where the jobs are. WIemRViMS1WW9FIFW52kIAWell I could argue that the really important jobs, the ones we value most, are those involved with the creation of stories. Parade magazine recently had its annual What People Earn issue, apparently their most popular issue, and the big money does not go to scientists. The hydrologist makes around a hundred grand, which is way more than I ever made as teacher, but it is not really considered big money. There was teacher making 38K, just as an aside about what we value. The big money is elsewhere. There was a nineteen year old Hispanic kid who ran a vending machine business who was making 140K  and I thought, wow, what an enterprising young man. Yes. Wait till you hear. He makes about thirty grand from the vending machines, the rest is from his you tube channel, where he and his girlfriend shop, and stock the machines, and he chatters away- very  personable. And then he sells ads on his channel. Yes, the big money comes from his telling stories; the actual useful work he performs, stocking and servicing the vending machines. pays a barely living wage. Ellen DeGeneres, a charming and funny tv talk show host, makes around 80 mill a year. Howard Sterns, radio shock jock, around 90 mill. Rush Limbaugh, you know the guy, the radio attack show host who was addicted to oxycontin and seems to be a pretty low life form- donald trump’s choice for the presidential medal of freedom, makes around 80 mill, too.  Performers, entertainers, talk show hosts, that’s where the big money is. STEM my foot. Want to make a fortune? Humanities. Learn to talk, sing, perform. Please be nice about it. Don’t take advantage of people.

 

But math is important, too, because it helps us get real work done, and I can’t help that our society values so little things that we actually need, like healthy food supply, clean water and air, decent transportation systems, and housing that works, thinking about our future, decent clothing- oh wait, there’ another big money career, the fashion model. Oh yes, let’s all dress like that. Sorry. My son and I were talking about things like this- he and his fiance are both engineers and make what to me seems like great money, but they are really stretching to work toward owning a house.  Oh, right, real estate speculators have driven housing prices up so no one can buy a house anymore in hot areas. I have to stop digressing. Saben mentioned how few people it actually takes doing productive work to enable our society to function.  What is actually productive, work? Oh, you know, the low paid stuff: farming, transporting goods, cleaning, mowing, repairing, building, protecting our resources, teaching, nursing, doctoring, building things, writing blogs. You know, there’s lot of work to do. A lot. But it may not be where the big bucks lie. Think about that. Do you want to live in society where money is the most important thing?

 

Which brings us to corona virus number 19. We have shut our nation down, and it is going to have an economic impact. Our economy is going to suffer.IMG_9596 Aren’t we glad we have a government at a time like this? Yes we are. Yet another thing that governments are good for that those who argue for less and less government somehow overlook. We really do not want to “privatize” everything. You do not want to run a library to make a profit. Or a public school. Or a highway. Or a police department. Or a fire department. Public good has value. We are a society that will take care of each other, Right?

 

So our government has come up with a 2 trillion dollar aid package for its citizens. We are all going to get a check for $1200. That’s four figures as some prominent republican senator said proudly. That’s the power of math for you. Wow. Four figures. What’s your rent? It is probably also four figures. Our grocery bill is not yet, but it’s three figures every week. By the end of a month could be four figures. Out of two trillion dollars of our tax money we get a check for 1200 bucks. Every month till this is over? Every week for a while? Of once? Does everybody get it? How about the one percent? Or the top five percent, or the folks who own baseball teams and corporations. If you earn more than a million a week, do you get a check for four figures? I mean a million a week is how many figures? Let’s do some math!

 

A million is a one followed by six figures. That means it’s seven figures. Seven figures may only be three figures bigger than four figures, but if you want to play around a little you can see that a million is a lot more than a thousand. A thousand times as much. You get a thousand bucks a week and it is going to take a while to get to a million. Over twenty years,  at a thousand a week. The amount of money Mitch McConnell arranged to be invested in  his home state of Kentucky was around 200 million bucks. Good for Kentucky?  I’m sure there will be jobs. Good for Mitch? You’re not suggesting there might be a kick back from the Russian oligarch on whom sanctions were lifted so he could make this investment, are you? What’s two or three percent?  I’m digressing again. Let me not get started on his wife. The business opportunities of being involved with slightly corrupt big government deals is wonderful. If only we could get someone in there to drain the swamp.

 

I was thinking about two trillion. I can’t do this in my head, although my son can, and I’ll bet Rachel can. Two trillion is getting to be a pretty big number, and I think it becomes hard for us to conceive of. That’s why we need math. Trillion is a word. Is two trillion then only one figure? The government is giving us all four figures. How can that be? The government is giving us more than is possible. Oh I’m so grateful to our government. Yeah republicans. Yeah, mitch. Yeah donald. Yeah devin. Yeah that one who never wears a jacket to show how much of a good working class fellow he is. They’re so generous. Four figures. Lucky us.

 

You can get confused, and I think that is one of the reason that those worms in  the republican party are getting away with it to the extent that they are. We’re confused. IMG_6926

Two trillion is 2,000,000,000,000.. That’s a lot of zeroes. Zeroes count a lot when they are before the decimal point.  Rachel wants you to respect her decimal point. She’ll break out a single, a ten and a hundred at this point. How about a thousand dollar bill- with Grover Cleveland on it? Discontinued in 1969. Few enough of us have seen a hundred that Rachel can get a pretty good laugh to an audience of teachers about that.

 

The  population of our nation is about 330 million. 330,000,000. Let’s divide the amount of money, by the number of people to find out how much we each, all get. We could express it as a fraction to make life a little easier since the calculator on my phone won’t take the number two trillion. Then you can  eliminate a few zeros since any number divided by itself is one and a zero in the numerator and a zero in the denominator is ten over ten so we can get rid of a lot of those pesky little zeroes.

2,000,000,000,000  divided by 330,000,000 is the same as

200,000 divided by 33.

And at this point we can kind of do it in our head. It looks like something less than seven grand- our estimate to check our answer. 6,060 and change. For every man woman and child in the US.  So if everybody in the US got an equal chunk of the 2 trillion we’d get six grand? Wait I thought I was supposed to be happy I was getting $1200. And if you think of how silly it is to give someone who is currently making a million a week a check for a thousand bucks, or people whose net worth is north of fifty million, you have a lot fewer than 330 million to give money away to. That number would go up-7 grand, eight grand? You mean that a single mother of three would get a check for 25 or 30 grand? That’s enough for her to live on for a year? That’s more than she’s making cleaning other people’s houses.

 

Yeah, so I don’t know where all the money goes, but my guess is that there will be an administrative cost. The democrats thankfully insisted on putting into the aid package language to the effect that no presidents or senators or congressman’s businesses  could benefit from this aid package. Is that necessary with the emoluments’ clause? You bet your bippy it is.  trump said of the warning language publicly, “That’s hortatory, not mandatory.” You can tell he’d talked to his hotshot lawyers. I had to go look it up, too. Hortatory means serving to encourage. Oh good. It’s not mandatory. This, too,  after he had publicly said that he would be the oversight in spending this money.

 

So what’s a little administrative fee? Ten percent is not extraordinary, is it?  Ten percent of 2 trillion. It’s kind of like the four figure check we’re all going to get more or less. So if trump picks up a little while he’s president for the extremely excellent job he keeps telling us he’s doing while the US numbers for corona virus continue to appall the rest of the world- due to our late start in acknowledging it existed. Remember those first fifteen cases that would very soon go down to zero so don’t worry? And he wants his signature to be on everybody’s check. Who more fitting than donald to get a little cut of the two trillion? Hey, just for hoots and giggles let’s see what a ten percent administrative fee on 2 trillion is. 2,000,000,000,000 divided by ten is – start goofing around with the zeroes, not much to move. WHAT! 200 hundred billion dollars! Billion! Is trump salivating or what? That is close to enough to get him out of at least some of the debt he owes Vlad and the other Russian oligarchs. Certainly enough to see him comfortably through his one or two retirement years, playing golf in More Legoes or whatever the name of his place is.

IMG_1083

 

I don’t know that I have ever had more hateful feelings toward a human being than I have toward trump and his republican minions.

A little learning is a dangerous thing. See where a little math can take you? No wonder they want to shut down schools.KHlJJQryymfJsJgW8Sg

 

 

You Need Bread? Knead? Bad Puns at a Time Like This?

This is for Denise who took over as the department chair of an English department I once was a proud part of or do I mean of which I once was a proud part?

IMG_1560

I’ve been baking bread off and on for one million years. I got fascinated as a young man living on the Cape. I was learning to cook and making bread was the ultimate. Staff of life. back then I used to buy wheat berries and grind my own flour by hand. You’d ride your bicycle to the health food store in Orleans, or it it were a big trip, buying a lot of supplies, you’d figure out a ride or hitchhike. They had a little white machine that made a racket as it rattled and shook and ground up the rock hard wheat kernel into flour if you wanted, but I was reading Thoreau, and I’d heard of Emerson and Self Reliance, and I was going to grind my own. I had a grain mill I’d bought there, made in Poland, which I still have and use to grind coffee now when our son and Iris visit us. It’s about fifty years old. I now longer grind my own flour with it, but I could.

Then there was a woman whose name I forget, who was married to a man studying homeopathy and had a daughter Maya, who found out I was making bread and volunteered to help. She and Maya came over one day, by bicycle, and she brought her Tassajara Bread book.  We made bread together. This is the best of the hippie days, right? A fierce eyed young woman with a child helping a fellow traveler to learn about bread. When she left I had bread rising and her copy of the Tassajara bread book.
What a gift. Here’s a copy you can buy. I no longer have mine.What I write today is heavily influenced by that book.

https://www.abebooks.com/Tassajara-Bread-Book-Brown-Edward-Espe/30023336863/bd?cm_mmc=ggl-_-US_Shopp_Trade-_-used-_-naa&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIhOW18t_R6AIVFvbjBx28WgFKEAQYAiABEgJzIPD_BwE

I am reluctant to order things on line now, because of covid 19 but there are two sides to that. It helps people keep their jobs, but it puts more people at risk. Life. Choices.

 

Bread.  I started again because of Covid 19. You get busy and bread takes a back seat. You can buy it. It becomes a habit. So we start to let others take over part of our life. We let other bake our bread, and we let them grow our milk,  and our vegetables, and we let them build our houses and fix things for us. What’s next? Cleaning our houses and doing our laundry and teaching our children- oh wait I was teacher.  I got a little carried away, there. It was the spirit of the times. No man is an island. What taught me that was fishing. I thought to make my own fishhooks-independent little cuss that I was. I made my own moccasins, I’d made a shirt, a quilt, an oven to cook in. I wanted to cook fish I’d caught in an oven I’d built and I thought I really ought to make the hook I used to catch the fish. I tried out of wood. I was at Snow’s Hardware in Orleans one afternoon and saw a box of fishhooks for so little money that it was embarrassing to think of the time I’d already spent on making my own exceedingly crude hooks that didn’t work. I bought the hooks. I started to accept that I was a member of a society, that I was not independent in any sense of the word. We help each other. We owe each other, we need each other. No one is exempt from that. We all have mothers, and fathers and are at least indebted for the gift of life to them. Except donald trump. He’s the exception that proves the rule.

We were on bread. There are three stages and each one is not particularly difficult. You learn the process, like the teaching of writing or reading, then you practice the process, and you get better at it. If you want to make bread you just need to do step one, making the sponge- just warm water and yeast and flour and I add a touch of honey for the yeast to enjoy, which takes about five or six minutes and is fun.  Then you let it alone to rise, to grow in the warmth of your home, and that is wonderful feeling. You do something else for a half an hour or an hour.IMG_1538

Step two is for me, the most difficult, but it is not bad. You have to take the sponge and turn it into dough by adding the goodies- oats, oil, salt, molasses, corn, nuts- what you want to add,  and some more flour to turn that loose sponge into a dough to knead. That’s the hardest part but if you have a nice place to work and a bread board scraper, it’s kind of fun, too. Then let it rise, again, in the warmth of your home. And the fragrant part of bread baking begins with these two stages. You can smell it. The yeast is working, excreting its little bits of alcohol and making the dough get airy. It’s magic.

Step three is easy. You turn that dough out of the bowl on to the board, and knead it down, cut it into loaf sized parts, oil your pans and press it into the pan for its last rising- only about 20 minutes, and then you fire up the oven in earnest to around 350 and bake it for 45 minutes or so.

 

One thing that used to drive me crazy when I was learning to cook and make bread was that the recipes were so imprecise. I remember in one book, I think it was James Beard he kept being vague. Add two or three cups of flour…. ARRRGGGHH.That’s a big difference. Which is it? I’d want to know. Learning to handle ambiguity is one of life’s skills. Some people just need everything laid out in absolute steps. Well You can try that, but it doesn’t work. I mean it will now and then, but not often. With bread, as soon as  you’re told to use precisely 3.2 cups of flour, you’ll get batch of flour that is exceedingly fine and dry and it will suck up more moisture and your dough will be too stiff as you struggle to get each of those 3.2 cups in. It is much better, in bread making and in life, to learn the basic principles and work to them. Over the years, as teacher and as a bread maker, I have learned to live very comfortably with ambiguity.

 

Basic principles then….

 

!. The sponge is a very loose batter made of warm water- not hot as that will kill the yeast- some flour, yeast, and touch of honey for you Herb Alpert fans. Stir it with a spoon- and it has to be loose enough that you can stir it, so that’s why it’s easy. Make it go plop plop plop a lot toe aerate it. Think kind thoughts while you are creating a world for this yeast which will be wonderful and it will grow and your bread will eventually make you and others grow. Really? Just kidding? No kidding. It does get pretty cosmic.Set it aside to rest and rise.

Questions. Of course.

 

How much water do I use.  About a cup and a little for each loaf.

 

How much yeast. A good big spoonful.

What kind of spoon? Come now. We’re learning to handle ambiguity.

How much flour?

I couldn’t tell you. Enough to make a loose batter.

What kind of flour>

I use whole wheat. You use what you have, what you want. Whole wheat makes better more flavorful and nutritious bread- a belief of mine but, but I’m not such a bread nazi that I won’t use white flour because it is poison. I have a neighbor who makes french bread that is to die for and she uses white flour. Every time she gives me a loaf for moving wood or fixing something, I eat the loaf she gives me as payment with utter satisfaction and delight.

What kind of bowl? I use a wooden bowl that Suzy bought at tag sale over 40 years ago for 50 cents. It was painted black and she stripped it of paint and it has been our favorit bowls for a long long time. I oil it regularly with olive oil. You don’t want it too dry, but yes I wash it with soap and water now and then. I also use a wooden spoon that has been with us all our marriage, and a few year before that when I got it somewhere- tag sale no doubt. I have made a few spoons since, but this one continues to be my favorite and it is worn on the bottom so it work great as a bread spoon to scarp dough off the side of the bowl when it is thicker- stage two.

Why honey?

As is explained in the Tassajara Bread book, a little honey gives the yeast a treat. This is their favorite time of life, Fresh warm water, some honey to ingest,  some flour to lighten. Plus it gives me a chance to allude to an old album that had a pretty good looking woman on the cover of it dressed in whipped cream. Not many rock and rock trumpeters around these days.

 

2. adding stuff to the risen sponge.

I put the sponge in our oven which I turn on for few minutes to get it warm. Not hot. If you have a wonderfully sunny spot, or a place by the wood stove, that works too. It takes around half an hour to an hour to rise and it will be twice as big as what you began with. Or twice as big as that with which you began, if you are trying to avoid a preposition at the end of your sentence. My mother got a tremendous jolt out of telling the Winston Churchill anecdote when someone corrected his grammar on this matter- “That, madame, is the sort of errand pedantry up with which I shall not put.” You’re not supposed to use a sentence to end a sentence with? Language changes, doesn’t it. We do, too.

 

Take the sponge out and mix stuff into it. IMG_1539More honey for a little sweet touch, or molasses. Some oats, perhaps? A little salt. A little oil. Some other kind of flour- corn meal? Walnuts, filberts?  Then the rest of the flour. It will get stiffer. If you turn it out of the bowl onto the board to knead too early it is really messy. It gets hard to stir four in after a while, so if you have a kitchen aid mixer you could use that- I never use our for this, though- because I just do it this way.

 

I put flour down on the board, with my handy handy bread scraper nearby. I bought this one on trip to NYC with Saben and Iris.IMG_1540

 

Start kneading. Add flour and knead it in. If you put your hands in wet dough it makes a mess. You will live, but it’s easier to keep flour between you and wet dough. Scrape dough off the board, sweep more flour under. Keep adding bits of flour top and bottom and the dough will stiffen. You want to avoid putting too much it, as it seems to make tougher bread and with whole wheat it’s tough enough already. I’m getting better to where I can keep the dough pretty loose and still knead it. Eventually it become bread dough- a little resilience to it, but firm. it’s fun to knead bread. A little messy. Good stuff.IMG_1543

 

Once kneaded, back into the bowl back into the warm spot to rise. That’s it; you’re really on the way.

 

Questions.

How much flour?

Enough. Reread the part above about ambiguity.

What are filberts?

Hazel nuts.

 

How much oil?

 

More oil makes a richer, more moist bread, but don’t go crazy and use good oil. !/4 cup of olive oil? I don’t measure.

 

How much honey?

Right. How sweet do you want it. You want just a touch of sweetening. Not too much. It’s bread, not cake. Go easy. And consider the possibility that you make make bread fairly often and get to be good at it and can dispense with direction altogether. Each time will be different, and good.

How many filberts?

 

14 of them. Just kidding. Imagine what you want in your bread. Start to get good at using your judgement. If you blow it- remember that and know better the next time. No I don’t measure or count. Wow. Learning judgement and ability to handle ambiguity. Nice.

 

3. Final step. Turn the dough out- again about twice as large as when you put it in to rise, out onto a floured board. It will be easy to handle now. Cut it into bread sized chunks. I make two loaves at a time. Knead each chunk a bit. A minute or two pr three. Keep the board lightly floured. Use your scraper if you need to but I bet you won’t much. Feel its elasticity. Revel in it. It smells good, feels good. A very sensual experienced. Press the dough into the pan. I use metal pans. Glass works, too, but is heavier, harder to clean and there’s always the thought of breakage handling a hot bread pan full of bread. Our metal ones really release the bread well and are easy to clean. Not true of glass when I use them. Oil the pan- again use good oil- and press the loaf into it with the backs of your fingers. IMG_1556It’s fun.  Then I slit the top three times with a knife, and I bush the loaf with eggwhite. IMG_1558 (1)I just crack an egg into a little glass container with a plastic lid so I can store what I don’t use for scrambled eggs the next morning, IMG_1557This alleviates the guilt I used to feel over using an egg to decorate a loaf. Once you have the loaf well brushed, sprinkle sesame seed on top. it makes a lovely looking loaf.

 

Put the pans in the oven- warm only- to rise for another 20 minutes or so.

 

Then bake it, after the loaves have risen about double. Almost double? Pretty close to almost double. They’ll rise just a bit more once you fire up the oven, but yeast do not live in the extreme heat. If you let them rise too much you’ll get a hollow spot in the loaf.

 

350 degrees. About 45 minutes. Thump them when you think they’re done. They sound pretty hollow.

 

They slice better when they’ve cooled a bit but hot bread with butter, while not probably the best thing for you, is SSSOOOOOO good.

 

IMG_1563

It’s also good cold. Or toasted. I don’t have to tell you about eating bread. You know.

 

IMG_1566

Bread and cheese and hummus and broccoli, and some left over pea soup as a dip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Flying

IMG_1266

Sunshine was so attractive after a long winter. We loved the winter; make no mistake about that. Sliding was fun beyond what many would imagine now. Trudging up a hill with wet mittens was not hard because we were so busy talking about how much fun that last run was. My brother Joe and I, as kids, had one special afternoon on the golf course. We each had a sled. Mine was old. The wood was very dark, and you could barely make out what it said. Some kind of eagle. Was it really a Flexible Flyer? We didn’t bother to make out what it said, because like almost everything we had, it was just old hand me down stuff. A sled. My brother Joey had decided to splurge on a new sled with paper route money and it was just splendid. It was lower to the ground, and longer, with a chrome bumper up front. The runners were painted bright red and the ends of the runners curled back in a tight arc and then joined the back of the sled. This was a safety feature. We didn’t care about safety, but it just looked so much cooler than the old style we had use of. The runners on the old sled, were rusty and had no trace of paint left, went straight back and just stopped. If your sled started to go downhill backwards, it would dig in to the least little bump. Joey’s would actually slide down hill backwards. Safety my foot. Inconvenient. But it was beautiful. Nicely varnished wooden slats, three of them, with an eagle clutching arrows and great looking letters pronouncing Flexible Flyer. It was a magnificent sled. The one I had was higher off the ground, didn’t have the chrome bumper but when we looked more carefully, it did indeed say Flexible Flyer. The afternoon was after we’d had a warm spell and the snow had melted a bit and then refrozen. There was a hard crust on top that would support a little kid. And a sled. All of a sudden the entire golf course was a great sliding hill. When the snow is soft, you need a fairly steep hill for the thrills, because soft snow would slow you down. You need a lot of other people to tramp it down and make it faster sledding, which happened back then. Tons of kids would show up to go sliding, a lot of high school kids, on that big hill that ran down toward Willard Avenue.  I want to mention about Ethan Frome. Edith Wharton. We had to read it in high school, not too far away from when we were really passionate about sledding, and not any distance from still doing it occasionally. Imagine high school kids sliding. Ethan Frome is a New England farmer, trapped with a sick wife who needs constant attention. A young woman, his wife’s cousin, shows up to help and Ethan falls in love with her. We’re all yawning as high school kids. Times being what they are, the affair cannot be, the wife is aware of their affection for each other and decides to change caretakers. EthFew  and Mattie somehow decide to commit suicide to solve all their problems and they are going to do it by sliding. They get on a sled and slide down a hill into a tree. Well I remember thinking how lame an idea that was, but it’s not as lame as I thought then. When the story was written, sliding was in fact one of the highest speed things you could do. No cars and they’d go pretty slowly compared to today. No planes. Boats were sailed or rowed. Life was three miles an hour. A sled could do forty. Or more. The story was supposed to have been based on a true event where five kids were killed sledding in Lennox MA. And in fact in the little old  town of Newington there was a hill called Whiz Hill, which I only heard of in sort of hushed tones because we were forbidden to  go there. We were forbidden from swimming in the quarry, too. Deprivation. Whioz Hill was steep and it was rocky and the rumor was that someone had died there. It didn’t work out well in Ethan Frome. I won’t spoil it for you.

 

But with this crust, you could slide down any hill at all. No steepness needed. Joey and I decided to try in front of the country club instead of in back of it. I remember that hill as ferociously steep in back- the ski jump we called it. In front was much more gentle. We went over one fairway, so we weren’t right in front of the country club buildings where a certain dread of Joe Curtin, the local pro back when we were kids, still lingered. They held too great a threat. I’m not sure anyone was ever there in the winter, but we weren’t about to take chance. Joe Curtin ate children. We got to the top. It was pretty easy walking. You didn’t have to trudge through any snow because there was the crust. The sled pulled easily behind you. From the top you could see almost to the end of the world. All the way down the fairway of the hole we were on, and then the course dropped out of sight down another hill and you could see the country beyond. Cedar mountain I suppose. I knew my uncle Al lived out there somewhere. Crisp cold air, our breath visible. Deep green pine trees in the distance. It could be Norway.

 

“You gonna sit or lie down?” Joey asked. You could run with your sled and throw it down and belly flop onto it for more speed. I was the big brother, more or less obligated to be brave.

 

“Let’s try belly flopping.”

 

“But a slow one first.”

 

“O.K.”

 

You’d hold the sled to one side, and take a few steps, and then throw it down and land on it. I did that and the sled broke through the crust and stopped. I slid right off the front and planted my face. A little scrape on my chin.,

 

Joey didn’t laugh or anything.

 

“Let’s try sitting.”

 

So we sat on our sleds and kind of got them started with our feet and by rocking. Then we began to go, and then it got faster. And then it got pretty fast and the two of us are racing down the hill, wind in our faces, grinning. Steering with our feet on the cross piece. And we went forever. I mean forever. We went all the way down, way past where you thought the hill stopped. And at the end you were going pretty slowly but the magic of the motion, and the sound of the runners on the ice was intoxicating and you didn’t want it to stop and you let it go and go and go even though you were barely crawling.

 

“That was the longest ride I’ve ever had!” said Joey.

 

“This crust is perfect.”

 

We jabbered excitedly about trying to make it to the top of the next hill and how if we did that then we’d get another run down to the next hole. All afternoon we went, talking about each ride as we took the long walk back up to the top. It was getting dark. Joey said, “We’d better go.”

 

“You wanna go up to the top and aim our sleds toward home? I’ll bet we could make it over to the Utman’s yard.”

 

As we walked up the last time we were wondering if we’d ever get such good sliding again. Joey said, “I heard that weather conditions repeat every twenty years.”

 

“Let’s do this again in twenty years.”

 

We loved that golf course in the winter. And in the spring for a short while. When spring was really here, as in the grass is growing and the weather is nicer we couldn’t use it anymore because the golfers were out and the stories about what happened when you got caught out there ….  Well you just didn’t want to get caught out there. Kids went missing. I’m pretty sure. But there  would be an indescribably luscious time when the golf course would beckon us on to its broad beautiful green fairways but no golfers were out yet. The shoes would come off. Some kids got in trouble for going barefoot. Not us. Our mom encouraged us to go barefoot and we did all summer. Five kids wearing out shoes I suppose. She didn’t mind if we started early; she was as proud as we were of our feet got tough. We’d scamper like colts all over the place, barefoot in the cold green fragrance with the clouds etched in the sky, sun igniting the scene. Arms out and running, flying, leaping. Lying, rolling, gasping in life. And we’d start to think of kites.

 

We’d begin to check them out at Lack’s Market on the way home from school. Hi Flier was the brand of kite we always bought. That’s what Lack’s market had. We never thought of building them. Too bad. The string was a dime for 250 feet. That’s pretty far up for a little kid. We’d hear tales of kids who put kites way way up. Multiple balls of kite string? Yeah. And even one kid who used a fishing pole loaded with line. But a ball of string and a kite, which wasn’t much more than the dime- were they twenty cents?- was all we needed.

 

Ginny was too little. Claudie had other interests. Mike was too old, so it was just Joey and me for kites. Two balls of string. Twenty cents. Two kites. Another forty- fifty cents? The wooden airplanes caught your eye, too-something about flight, but we knew we had to focus our desires. Money was tight.

 

So we’d bounce into the kitchen one day with, “Mommy-can we get kites?” And we could tell her how much we needed and we’d get kites.

 

Back up to Lack’s with money. To look over the kites. Crinkly paper. Reds and blues. Just regular kites. They sold box kites too, but I couldn‘t see how they’d fly. And they were more money.

 

I remember Joey buying more than one ball when he started to have paper route money. Was that legal?

 

We’d trot on home with our kites, buzzing the whole way.

 

“Did you get the kites, boys?” My mom was all eager, too. “Let’s get set up on the kitchen table,” and we’d get to work clearing it off and getting our kites out. You got two cross sticks, pretty fragile and now and then you’d break one. Oh that hurt. The longer one ran from the top to the bottom, the shorter went across the triangle and had to be bent. That was scary. They were tied together with kite string at the intersection and the kite stretched over this frame. The paper the kite was made of was just folded over and glued down over kite string with each corner cut back to reveal a little loop to fasten the sticks to. The paper made a wonderful sound, but it all seemed so fragile. The tricky part was bowing that cross piece. That‘s where you could break things. Or rip things. You’d tie a piece of string on one end of the cross piece to hold the bow. The ends of the cross piece were slit for a half inch, but you couldn’t just tie the string in that slit, though for the string holding the bow in place because it could just break off. You had to use the slit to keep the string out at the end of the wooden piece, but you had to wrap around the end of the stick to give it some strength. I got pretty good at it. It was better with two, so Joey and I would do it together for each kite. You had to bend that crosspiece to a pretty good bow, so the wind would slide off the kite and let the kite not wobble. Too flat a kite and it wobbled something awful and wouldn’t fly satisfactorily. Between Joey and me we’d get it done. We had some disappointment where we broke one, and my mom would always send us back to Lack’s to get another, but that took time and we were anxious to get out on the golf course. We learned to be careful. While Joey and I assembled kites, my mom would hunt down some rags to make a tail. You need to hold the tail down, or the kite will tend to spin. Aeronautics. You could make the tail out of string, with rags tied every six inches or so for three feet, or you could do the whole tail of out rag, one long strip, with the shorter little piece tied across it. Stronger wind, heavier tail.

 

“Let me see,” said my Mom when we were done. We’d hold up out kites. “Beautiful. I’ll look out the window to see if I can see them up there. Have fun. Do you have sticks for winders?”

 

We were not self conscious about playing on the golf course right on the fairway in front of the country club now. We were too excited about our kites, plus we were a couple of hundred yards down, out in back of Utman’s and figured were could out run Joe Curtin with that much head start. Joey’d hold onto his sting as he let some off the ball. There was time when we flew our kites right off the ball of string that you bought. But we’d learned  about a stick as a kite string winder. You could wind the string on in a figure eight pattern and take string up faster when you had to pull the kite in. Much better that the ball of twine with its little cardboard center. He’d let out about a hundred feet as I’d carry the kite down wind. I think Joey was the one who discovered that you could let out a fearsome amount of string to start a kite. If you let out ten feet, the kite can only go so high but if  you let out a hundred, or a hundred fifty, that kite can soar right off. It is a very wonderful feeling to be holding your brother’s kite, and watch him unwind as I back up, then when we figure we’re about ready to let him get some tension on the line, get ready to run and I hold the kite high and let it go. That lift is magic. If there’s wind, and there often is in March, you don’t need to run. That kite just soars. And rattles as it rises. Colored paper singing in the sun as the wind pushes it so high, and then Joey would carefully work out all the sting he had. Oh it is a grand feeling. Sunshine, Wind, Grass, the smell of it, the feeling of it. Wide open. You just want to raise your arms and shout. Joy.

 

You kind of needed an extra person to launch a kite, but you can manage alone. The person flying his kite already can help out a little. If you’re flying off a stick you can shove the stick in the soft ground, and ignore the kite for a while. It was all part of the fun. Once they were both up, or all up if there were bunch of us, you’d watch them dance. With the sun out, the grass greening and kite in the air, then you’d remember to take of your shoes and socks. The grass was so cool on your feet, and a little wet. You felt so fleet barefoot. Your kite leaping and dancing above and you down below just as free and light.

 

We never got into fighting kites or box kites;  we never built our own. One year they were going to hold a town-wide kite flying contest to see who could fly the highest kite. That was the talk of school for a while. There was going to be a plane make the final judgement as to whose was highest- that’s how high these kites were going to fly. We didn’t get to enter that, but we sure got to fly kites.IMG_1272

Men at Work

The sun is so welcome, partly because of the chill in the air. March can be cold. But the sun is getting stronger, is with us more each day and the feelings well up: life again; warmth and softness and the earth softening, ponds loosening up. Peepers starting in some places. Bicycles and canoes and swimming, and paddling and barbecues and beer and sailing are just around the corner. It all seems possible again. It was so nice, all afternoon. I am in the middle of a lot of wood work. I took down three oak tress this fall in our back yard and then chickened out. The last one I took was a red oak, 85 feet high. It’s a little scary and it took a branch out of a nearby tree when it went and I hadn’t thought of that. Everything is dead from the gypsy moths we’ve had for the past two years, so branches snap readily. This one landed about twenty feet away from me and I was surprised. You don’t want too many surprises with tree work. I knew I’d never take down the two giant white oak trees we lost, almost three feet across, one near our septic system. And the brush from the three trees I did take down took me forever to clean up. A chipper would be much faster, so I hired  someone. They just4skv+j%UQSCaNXJuuC+DQw

 

dropped the trees and took what brush they could reach, but there was a lot of work left. Dead branches explode when they hit the ground and there were twigs and bark everywhere. Suzy’s new hobby is picking up twigs. I wanted to cut what lumber  I could out of it, because we have a lot of building to do around here. So they left the trees in big logs. I’ve cut and split a bunch of firewood and we’ve piled brush and burned brush and had campfires of twigs.lYqodIcUS4azC9HRa8MJAQ It’s not all unpleasant you know. You get weary but it’s a good kind of tired. One evening we had a nice campfire going in our fire ring- plenty of wood so once you get iot going you have unlimited fuel. We set up our chairs, got a bottle of wine for Suzy and a some beer for me and sat by the fire watching the moon rise, which was startlingly close to full, and looked at the house we built and have lived in for 37 years, and the barn we built with out son, and watch the big white pines out by the pond and Hobbes is curled up by his mom and there isn’t too much else you need. Supper I suppose.

 

The bulk of that work is now done and we’re on to getting the logs over to a saw mill. For this I used Down To Earth Tree Removal. e0PQuOtrSNaQEZXxyRKRRA

They have a grapple truck

 

and a good sized dump truck and managed, in one morning, to get over half the logs loaded and over to the saw mill. It was fantastic to see them here. I know how hard it is to move logs around and that truck is just awesome. The log he is so daintily moving into position to load is a white oak log 34 inches around and nine feet long. It weighs two tons. Thank you Pete. If you need tree work done, call them. https://www.dtetreeremoval.com/

 

Saben and Iris are hoping to build a house in Sausalito. Yes, it’s on the wrong side of the country, but there is a lot to recommend it and we want to help. Having lost all these trees, all of it oak, and some of it white oak, it seemed like a wonderful idea to give them a bit of wood to use in their new home. That log in the video is going to be sawn so we get some  28 inches wide, live edge on one side, 2 1/2 inch thick slabs to make a dining room table out of. Cool? I read Shel Silverstein’s Giving Tree. I think the apple tree coddles the little boy a bit too much in that story but the idea of using something that had to come down to build something of beauty and utility that should last for generations means a lot to both Suzy and me. The idea of having some substantial part of our land and life here go on in their life, into their house, is wonderful to us. We are torn, as we age, about leaving our place here in Storrs, and this somehow makes it easier. Well easier mentally. It is a fair bit of work, but what I wanted to write about was the joy of work. Work gets a bad rap sometimes and I want to put in a plug for it. It is fun sometimes, satisfying sometimes. ennobling sometimes. Is there a book coming on this, as income inequality continues to rise and more and more people think that to avoid work as you grow fabulously wealthy is any kind of an ideal?  For now just a great quote I found in a magazine I absolutely love, Messing About in Boats published in Wenham Mass by Bob Hicks.  Bob has been publishing this wonderful non-glossy periodical for 27 years.  and  was over 60 when he started it. He still rides his bicycles and motor bike, and paddles his kayak. An inspiration. The quote is from an article written by Robert Van Putten, no doubt a subscriber- Bob publishes what we all write- and it is from a book Boats to Go by Thomas Firth.

“A hundred years ago Americans often made their own boats as well as houses, clothing, furniture. Today many Americans don’t even cook their own food and don’t know how. The free time this gives then is partly spent in a second job making enough money to pay the people who cook and build boats for them, and partly spent in selecting and buying merchandise. This is a hollow life, with shallow and fleeting satisfaction and ever increasing dissatisfaction and no possiblity of personal fulfillment. The greatest benefit of work is not the wage or even the product, but the chance to learn and grow.” Well put Mr. Firth!

I had run into a former student at Mansfield Supply, our local hardware store. If you don’t know how cool a hardware store is, it’s time for you to get out of Home Depot and go to your local hardware store where they’ll actually help you find stuff and help you understand what you’re doing and chat with you a bit, ask after your son,  give your dog a treat, ask if you have any Swedish rye today- a joke about my van. And you meet people. There’s this young man standing there looking somehow familiar and it turns out to be Karl Marco Cortiel who was in my English class one million years ago at E. O. Smith. He’s taller and bearded now, but still very much Karl, and we talked for a few minutes. He’s trying to start up a wood business, cutting trees, sawing them up, is into old time ways of doing things- was going down to some saw mill to do some work with a blacksmith or something or other fascinating.and I store this information away. A year later, I’m bringing logs over to his place in Willington to saw. xlHgW7NVSM+MD49dxyUZ8QWood that has been sawn is extremely beautiful, both to look at and to smell,  but it needs care pretty quickly to be as useful as possible. xYlppa8ZSuuqUU65tWcUpAIt must be stacked carefully, level, with stickers between boards, out of the worst of the weather. I’ll cover these stacks with metal roofing to keep the rain and sun off but air can still circulate to remove moisture.

 

I’d arrived home Saturday about dusk before after having watched Karl saw all afternoon. My truck was way overloaded. Don’t try this at home.pbdsYvHvQAS%U+wjxeD0rg

I had to get that load off that evening and for some reason it took quite a while. We put it all on easily enough. Oh right; three guys and a back hoe.

So Sunday afternoon I headed out into a glorious day:  sunny, bright, a little cool. I felt like I had too much to do and I didn’t quite know what I had gotten myself in for. There is so much wood that has to be handled.  Then it is going all over the place right. It’s not like I need it here. Some of the wood will be for the barn up in Maine. I’m dreaming of building on the Cape and want some of this  wood up there, and Sausalito is three thousand miles away. What am I doing?

 

We’d sawed some red oak and that’s  not the stuff I prize. I’m eager to see the white oak. But there is going to be a lot of red oak. And right now I have two 8×8’s fourteen feet long that I have to set up so I can work on them- make them into posts for the barn in Maine and I need to get them on horses, but all my horses are busy. I’ve got a stump I can use for one end. but time to build a horse. So I start. And of course it’s a little frustrating because my barn is a mess because i am into two other projects. Why can’t I ever finish a project?!?!!? Well I got the horse built. All with just wood I have hanging around, and a few screws.IMG_1136

Somehow this seems so cool. So I bring the horse out back and put it where I’m going to work on the beams. The night before I’d managed to get all the wood off the truck, but it wasn’t properly stacked and stickered. Now to get the beams onto the horse.

 

A word about oak. Heavy. We loaded these beams onto my truck with a backhoe and three guys. Now I was alone. I’d spend over an hour getting them off my truck as dusk rushed me. I used a  comealong to get them off the truck onto 3×5 oak to keep them off the ground. But now I had to get them onto the horse. They weigh four hundred pounds. I cannot readily lift up one end. So with a jack and the comealong and some ingenuity and Suzy lending a hand I got one up. Then I stacked and stickered all the 2×8’s, they’re only a hundred pounds each. Then I got out this pretty ingenious beam mover I’d made a couple of years ago. Jack, prop, wiggle, lift. I finally got one end up over my truck tailgate, IMG_1175

then put the jack in the truck to get the beam up high enough to get the beam mover under it. From there it was completely doable.IMG_1177

Now both beams, posts actually, are sitting where I’ll work on them.IMG_1183

 

I was elated. I wanted to keep going. The oak I’d had sawn was where it could stay, I used a little of it for siding on the shed. Let’s start sanding down the mast of the cat boat you can just see in the shed in back of the beams.

 

I sanded for an hour, went up into the loft over that boat shed to check the other spars, and got the gaff down for this catboat, too. The mast has been pretty well chewed up in a couple of places. The gaff rests on the mast and it really ought to have a bit of well oiled leather to prevent the chafe. As I suspected, this gaff doesn’t have any leather. Oaks jaws against spruce mast, Oak wins. One spot, where the gaff usually sits when the full sail is up, is pretty bad. A lower spot, where the gaff rests when you put a reef in, I’m guessing, is less chewed. It feels good to sand it out. There are a few spots that need repair. I’ll get leather on the gaff jaws. IMG_1182

It is getting pretty dark. I don’t want to stop. I’m tired, but eager. I go into the barn and make a fire. I sit in a chair, really pretty tired. Weight work I guess. I didn’t lift that much, but heisting an end of that beam eight or ten times was enough to get me pooped. I noticed I was breathing hard after a series of short lifts where Suzy stuck some blocking under it while I held an end up. I sat in the chair but had to get up to get notebook to start designing a horse to build to hold the mast for the catboat when I bring it into the barn after I’ve got it all sanded. I’m drawing the design. I have to get up to measure a horse I’m using somewhere else. I’m pretty tired. Men at work?

Trial video

Suzy and I shot some video for our cancelled karate class. I’d like to learn how to post it. Here goes an effort.IMG_1433

 

 

Kee Cho Hyuang Ee Boo. I’ve been calling it by the wrong name lately. Ooops.

 

There you are. The second kata. This may be the start of something big.

Corona Virus 2020 and the Unbelievable Republican Victory over some Nasty Budget Issues

Fear is something that has always been used to manipulate people. You may remember as a young kid being taught in school that the world was going to end in fifteen minutes. We were taught to crawl under our desks when the big siren went off so the nuclear bomb that the Russians we going to drop on us tomorrow wouldn’t get us. Now that I’m older and so much wiser- grain of salt needed- I see that if there were a nuclear attack that maybe crawling under your desk wouldn’t do a whole lot. I saw a woman walking on the UConn campus last week with a mask on. It was a stunningly beautiful day, crisp. clear breezy and I couldn’t think of a place you would less need a mask. I’ve worn masks when sanding boats and it gets hard to wear the things- hot and uncomfortable. My son tells me that the mask keeps you from putting your fingers in your mouth or nose. Hadn’t thought of that. I guess what I wanted to say was that the official response to something, may not always be a reasoned one. I think of trump speaking to a group of reporters in that whiny voice of his, with all the gravitas he cans muster, which isn’t much- it always looks to me like a fat man with ridiculous hair trying to pretend he’s serious and has something of great import to say but really doesn’t have anything to say except, “Look at me!” Does anyone else think  he wants to say, “Look, mommy, I’m president. Look daddy, I’m important and I count and everybody loves me. I turned out fine. Really.”

Anyway what he said, was that there was no real worry about this Corona Virus thing. That the numbers showed only 14 cases and that would soon go to zero with warm weather. It’s like a miracle, really. He continued that healthy people had no reason to worry. Ooops. Was he wrong? Was he lying? Did he believe that shit? Hard to tell with trump, if he actually believes himself. Is that called delusional?

Morbidity for Corona Virus is supposed to be lower than the flu which is around two percent. I did the math on one bit of news released and it was closer to twenty percent of deaths. Ooh. That’s no good. Of course we haven’t been testing much here. I suppose that’s one way to keep the numbers low. And of course we lose quite few thousand to the flu every year an no one gets exercised about that.

The CDC tried to get the white house to announce that no older people should fly but the white house wouldn’t.

Then it dawned on me. Hmm. 20 percent morbidity among older populations. What a great way to save on social security and medicare. After decimating revenues by cutting taxes for the wealthy, the Republicans need to save some money. This is perfect. And they can blame the Democrats. They’ve already started to spread the “fact: that the dems are making this all up. Perfect. The made up democratic hoax kills off twenty percent of the people who collect social security and medicare, and the budget looks much better. Could be another tax cut coming! Yeah trump and his cronies!

Karate

fyFWDMvfT%uCqTNkR8e9+AWe’ve started a beginner’s class on Tuesday nights and it is tremendously successful. It gives me hope and heart. We have thirteen in the class. A five year old. a twelve year old, a thirteen year old and their dad; then a mom with her two daughters, seven and nine, then one teen aged boy, a man in his thirties, a man in his 60’s, my wife in her 60’s, and then me and Claire in her twenties who is doing most of the teaching. Plus Hobbes, our Australian Shepherd, who lies on the floor for the whole class. It’s a riot. The youngest of the kids just run around laughing before class starts. And little Ben loves to do break falls. Once class begins the youngest stay with it, with a little help from their parents, for about half of the class, then they go lie down at the side out of the. Hobbes stays on the matt.r9tzRTe%SsKcwErMj0mB4AWe have quite good time, and Claire very patiently teaches the basics. we’re working on our stances, and our punches, and our kicks. Breakfalls and rolls. Nothing high speed, nothing flashy.bnjS4wEmTfGGmOaI3E+XZA

 

A lot of people interested in the martial arts are eager to do flying, spinning kicks, and want to have blindingly fast moves. I take the class along with everyone else and I throw out little comments now and then. Last class I mentioned that if you want to be fast, you have to be slow first. Form is the most important thing. A strong stance connects you to the ground, and if your punch comes out of that solid grounding, it will have chance to be a stronger punch. glqKx7z3QT+hXHsBhHwRXwThis is true for boxing, too. So we practice slowly. I think a lot about the reasons for taking a martial arts class.  I am 70. I started in my 20’s and had to quit for couple of decades, but I’ve been at it for years and I still practice. I can kick and punch better than I could have a decade ago. Whoa! How about defending myself. I no longer think of that so much. When I began, it was Shotokan at UMass Amherst, and I thought about fighting other all the time. I was an adolescent boy. I’d been in a couple of fights. I watched movies. I loved David Carradine in Kung Fu. I loved the fight scenes in any show or movie. Remember the film Hard Times. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where Paul Newman defeats Ted Cassidy? This is great stuff. Sally, The sensei of that Shotokan dojo, warned us that if we were ever involved in a fight outside of class, she would not allow us to come back to class.  It didn’t matter who started the fight. We were to avoid fights outside at all costs, or no more karate.  I was perplexed then, but I am not now. The temptation to think that you are pretty bad, pretty tough, someone to be reckoned with, exists and kicks in pretty early- green belt? Taking a karate class could turn you into an arrogant bully. I do not want to have any part in that.  I was a little over 60 when I finally got my black belt. It’s hard to earn one. And after you’ve recovered from the test you start to feel pretty proud.  And tough? I was beginning to understand that you just don’t really want to go there. A friend asked me, when he found out I had my black belt,  “What if you saw three tough looking guys coming down the sidewalk at you late at night- what would you do?”

I said. ” I’d cross the street.”

What if they have black belts. Weapons. Confederates in the alley? Getting a black belt does not make you the toughest person in the world. The guy I studied with has trained over a hundred fifty black belts. His sensei has also, and his sensei has more. In Korea you became a master when you had trained a hundred black belts. Teaching that many people, training with that many people. watching and working and studying and noticing makes you pretty capable. And most are pretty humble.TNpFKa9dREicljOVMVP+pQ

And it is not just about fighting; it’s about learning, and becoming. I move better now than when I started. Am I a better fighter? I am much more confident in my ability to defend myself than at any point in my life. But I’m 70. When I was twenty I could absorb punishment more, and that’s a part of fighting isn’t it? Now I want to avoid punishment. I know there is a price. Many of my aches and pains and stiffnesses are from the punishment I absorbed when younger. I want to live as pain free as long as I can. As long as life is good. So is martial arts part of what makes life good? Are we talking philosophy here? Is martial arts related to philosophy? Ultimately it is a way of thinking.

 

My hope, for all of our students and partners is that they improve their lives with this practice. That they move better, with more assurance through a world that is at times a bit dangerous and that they have the courage to stand up when they see something out of line and say something to rectify it. I hope they do not punch first and ask questions later. Asking the questions is the courageous part, the civilized part.