Tunk Lake

We first went to Tunk Lake about 25 years ago on a camping trip. Our son, Saben, and I went went skin diving there and enjoyed it. Then our friend Jaime recently started talking about the unusual clarity of a couple of lakes here in Maine, one of which was Tunk, the other of which shall remain nameless here. And just last week Jaime sent me a text saying Tunk had good ice and did we care to go? We did. Ninety miles to go skating?

We packed up the Volvo with skis, and skates- some kind of fun.

I know I’m retired, but I seem to feel obligated to work a lot-we’re building a barn. And this was a day off and it was exciting! A gloriously sunny, crisp winter day with a foot of snow on the ground and we’re headed for a lake with open ice, in some country I haven’t seen for a long time. We threw our skis in in case it proved better skiing. I was pumped. This is good stuff. Winter is not all bad and you can forget that if all you do is shovel snow and slip around on ice in your yard while you try to bring groceries into the house. A grand adventure is a grand adventure and winter offers lots of opportunity.

One of the reasons I was eager was that we have recently joined the Chickawaukie Ice Boat Club. I’ve always been fascinated with sailing of any kind, but on ice, the boats have so little resistance that the sailing gets pretty fast. The little ones can do 40 miles an hour often, and can hit 50 or 60. That’s pretty amazing. Sitting close to the ice, the roar of the wind and the runners. And the bigger boats can hit a hundred. And the Chickawaukie Ice Boat Club was going to be there. So I’d get to see some boats.

The drive was glorious. Jaime is a biologist so the talk was interesting and the scenery was gorgeous.

We arrived finally and it was happening. The parking lot was crowded, which is pretty interesting given that we are exactly one million miles from anywhere. It shows what sort of people live here. I backed into a little spot and rushed out of the car. It looked so cool! No pun meant.

Eventually we parked on the ice to go skate, but I spent a very excited half hour walking around talking to people. The iceboaters were friendly.

There was a windsurfer coming off the ice as we arrived and those guys were interesting to talk with. Quite the rig.

Jaime took off to go skate around the lake. Suzy and I were going to be less ambitious, but got our skates on to go cruise for an hour or two. We talked with a few more ice boaters, then I went to drive the car onto the ice thinking it would be easier to skate up from the back of the car. And it was, but the ice was horrible for the first quarter mile. We should have walked out and put our skates on there.

We brought ski poles and stumbled through the snow, and crusty ice for a while before we got out there. Suzy is just about there, now, making a gear adjustment.

Once we were out there it was just this side of heaven. I shot a few photos of a boat roaring by on its way back in.

A few minutes later a woman came up to us and asked if I had just shot that iceboat going by. I had. Did I mind sending the photos to her? I did not. It turns out the boat was her son Miles, also a new member of the Ice Boat Club. Pretty cool. You can see how rough the ice is where he is. But outside….

It was miles of this. Snow patches on fairly nice ice. Not black ice by any stretch, but eminently skateable and the patches of snow gave you something to skate around, or your could go through with no trouble. People were out with these wings they held and they were zooming. I’m dying to try it.

There were families out with sleds, and kite surfers, and people with dogs, one new pup that reminded us of Hobbes.

The view was wonderful and the day was far too short. We’ll be back.

Mars

https://scitechdaily.com/images/Mars-Red-Planet-777x437.jpg

Perseverance landed safely yesterday afternoon on the surface of Mars after a voyage of more than six months. I am in awe. We humans amaze me sometimes. We’ve just had an insurrection on our nation’s capitol by an armed mob ready to lynch the vice president and now we’ve landed a robot on another planet which will begin to explore the place for us. The last one, Curiosity, is still roaming around. We do do some things right. We’ve been badgeered for so long about what screws ups we all are, it felt kind of good. I didn’t sleep much last night. I couldn’t go to bed. I just sat there thinking and texting. Our son used to work at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Altadena CA and what he worked on, more than a decade ago, was a core drill, a device to sample the planet, for the the Mars 2020 rover. It’s up there! Perseverance. Aptly named. Every one up there, starting with Sojourner in 1997 has been named by a student. The one still running up there called Curiosity, was named by a young girl from Kansas, Clara Ma. She was eleven when she wrote the essay for the contest NASA held. She got to tour JPL and see the rover she’d named and sign the machine that would be launched to Mars. If you want to excite young people about science, holding a contest with such a prize is a good way to do it. Clara was a cute little kid with braces who was very excited about science back then. She’s now got a degree in geophysics from Yale, a Master’s from Cambridge and is the recipient of a scholarship to study in China for a year. Seems like she’s still excited about science.

Clara Ma visit to Lab (named MSL, Curiosity) Clara and family in the Mars Yard photog: Dutch Slager

Our son is excited about science. His fiance is excited about science. We’re excited about science. I think we need to have a lot of people excited about science and that’s part of why I couldn’t sleep last night. I feel so good that the last president is gone. He was so against science and knowledge and learning and understanding and listening, and exploration and discovering human potential and it feels so good to have him gone. The whole NASA mission to Mars is a giant team effort. Any egos involved? Of course, but none that raged so brightly as trump’s. Thousands of people pulled hard, punched above their weight now and then and consistently tried for years to make this happen. There is no going around touting “I’m the only one…” If we are going to handle all the problems coming at us now, we need to enlist everyone to help. Every person has the potential to offer something. I played hockey yesterday.

There were a bunch of kids down at the pond in the center of our town and I finally decided it was stupid to work on my barn in the icy conditions and grabbed my skates and went down to join them. I asked to borrow a stick and the only right hand shooter I saw was a short and bendy street hockey stick. I took it. The ice was a little bumpy and I went down once before we started playing. I learned kids names and they thought it was cool to have a grown up on the ice with them. They ranged, I’m guessing, from about ten to maybe 14. I can skate pretty well once I’m up and running but I was rusty. I’m getting older. I am definitely not out there to show everyone how great I am. I got put on a team with Sam and Elijah and Ezra. It was four against four. Ezra took the face off. He’s a little tiger. We’re skating and the game is pretty close. I’d given a nice little assist to Ezra. I’d blown a pass where the goal was wide open in front of me and I just missed. Elijah had a great break away with a goal at the end of it. I’d try hard to stop Levi and Josiah because they were pretty good skaters. I encourage every kid: “Nice defense, Aram.” “Way to go, Caleb.” I praise good plays on both sides. Yeah, I’m a teacher. I praise all over the place wherever I can. Because I know every one of those kids has potential beyond their own expectations and I mean to encourage them all to go for it. As hockey players? No. Not necessarily, As human beings. To do something that will add to the human existence in a meaningful way here on planet earth, or on Mars. We’re all on the same team.

So when that mayor in Texas says what he said, and the governor of Texas starts talking about what weenies the poor cold little Texans are for freezing to death and wanting help and blaming wind power for all the woes, I am incredulous. Texas power companies have problems in cold weather delivering power and it is the fault of the consumers for not being able to handle it? It is the fault of the wind turbines? This is what the Green New Deal will look like? We don’t want stupid help from the US government? Really? This is not clear thinking. This is not in any way good science. It is not logical. It is not kind. It is not sensible or comforting. It is not encouraging to people in a hard situation. It is foolish.

Let me say this. Government can be really good at a lot of things. Coordinating relief efforts, giving people a hand when they are down. Distributing vaccines when we need them. Roads, parks, libraries, museums, schools, regulatory agencies, protective agencies, courts to settle disputes. Helping launch explorations of different planets. I like government. I like what good government can do. And that’s part of why I couldn’t sleep. I feel as if we are on the cusp of a very good period, that we have a chance for some good government. Our spirits have been lifted. We are not being badgered quite so much by a voice clamoring to divide us, to demean us, to decry, declaim, diminish us. Make America great again? Sometimes the noisy ones are not the most effective ones and we just got rid of a very noisy one. I felt last night like we have the potential now for a very bright future. The Perseverance landing just caps this moment so nicely. We’re off and running. Everybody ready? A team effort?

Owls Head Pond or How Deep is the Swamp?

I didn’t want my fame to come this way. I would have preferred to be noticed for something else, but it is not to be. There I was sitting on my tractor with its four foot snow blower, in the pond. People were driving by. I was working out how best to get off the tractor and onto the ice. Wait a minute- do I want to do that. Right now I’m above water. My feet are wet. I climbed back- one foot on the seat, the other reaching for the ice. It was pretty thin. I put some weight on it. O. K. I got my other foot on and backed away. The front end was in the water listing to port pretty heavily because the snow blower was hung up on the ice on the starboard side. I got off the ice safely, and then started to think about what an idiot I was. I had thought that the Owls Head pond must be ready to skate on. But I didn’t make a systematic check of the whole pond. My wife and I had been skating up at Hosmer Pond for a couple of weeks. I had gotten on one corner of the pond on my way to the Owls Head General Store to test it for three days in a row. First time, it was obviously thin. Second day, better. Third day I jumped hard on it. Yes. Solid. Not a crack in sight. Then it went down to single digits that night.


Surely we added another inch of ice. I felt sure we were all set to clear the pond so kids could start skating. Suzy rode down with me, standing on the back of the tractor as we drove down Evergreen Lane to get the machine on the pond and start cleaning it up. There were cattails I could snow blow out of the way, then I’d clear the whole pond off. Wouldn’t take an hour. Well I started the blower and drove over into the cat tails and promptly jammed my machine. Those guys are tough. I cleared it, and decided I’d leave them; we could clear them with a shovel, later. Let’s get the snow. I thought to take a turn near the outside edge since the snow blower won’t throw snow right off the pond from the middle. I’m pretty excited. We just moved up here from our place in Connecticut where we had a pond in our yard that used to be a hub of hockey for local kids. We’d get adults involved- kids against the Dads. Moms and Dads on the same team with their kid. It was fun. I couldn’t wait. Aaron at the General Store and I had talked about hockey on the pond. He’d fallen in one day checking the pond. We laughed about that. I thought- too bad he doesn’t have all the experience I have in taking care of a pond in the winter. He could have avoided falling in.
Right. He got one foot wet. I dunked a tractor that weighs 875 pounds with a 100 pound snow blower attachment.  It’s pretty funny how it happened. John and I had talked about putting a tractor into a pond. I’ve done it before with my 9N. I backed onto the pond and crack! Right in. The box scraper was hung up on the ice, but the edge gave way and my wheels were in two feet of water. It was still running and we let it run the whole time we worked at dragging it out with my car. I’ve almost done it a lot of times: I’d see water coming on to the ice from that Northeast corner where the sun shines in afternoon. I just drove right off and laughed about it. Young and dumb? Fortune favors the foolish?This time was different. I was driving happily along checking out where the snow was going, how close to the edge and all of a sudden my front end went under. No warning that I noticed at all. Oh boy. I’m not sure that’s what I said, but it was something like that.

 I did get off the tractor and off the ice. Then it hit me. You right royal idiot. That’s your good tractor. Not the one that has reigned supreme at the Owls Head Tractor races for so long that I have had to retire, but a newer version of the same machine- a Case Ingersoll 4018. It’s a nice tractor that I can mow with, blow snow with, plow with and now it is sitting in the ice, half sunk. I’ve mickey moused around with crummy tractors for most of my life and this is the best one I own. And it’s only twenty years old- a ton of life yet. And it’s sinking!!! I hustled back to get some line and a come-along. I thought while I walked back. Tie onto the front axle, get the line back to shore. Hook up the come-along. Pull her out. Easy. I can do it before it’s dark. It was after four. I came back and tried to approach the tractor. No way could I get on that ice near the machine. Back for some boards. I got some boards that come from some trees that used to be out in the cemetery that Bill Buckminster loved. He gave Suzy and me a seedling one summer because he knew those trees were dying and he wanted us to have one, to carry on the race of red pines. It is now twenty five feet high. I grabbed some of Billy Buck’s boards because he used to take care of this pond years ago. Kind of fitting that he could help still, though he’s been gone for a while.
With the boards, I got back on the tractor. I made a line fast to the high side of the front axle and ran it to shore. From shore it was apparent that I’d just tip the tractor over pulling from there, so I had to go get a line on the lower axle. Back out. It was a little scary climbing on this tractor. I didn’t know if it was going to slip off and go under. I’ve no idea how deep the pond is. While I was slipping around the frozen fenders trying not to go into the drink, a truck stopped. “Do you need a hand?”
Well I was flummoxed. I didn’t know if I needed a hand or not and said so. He left. I took off my glove,  rolled up my left sleeve, grabbed the chain and reached down under the ice and finally got the chain around the low front axle. By the time I got back to shore, the fellow who offered to help was there. He figured I could use a hand. Matthew. A boatbuilder who lives nearby. Nice. I might have been able to get it by myself, but it will be easier with help. Then John showed up. He lives across from the pond and had said he’d keep an eye out for me and maybe come help with his snowblower if the pond wasn’t strong enough for my tractor.
Well you probably don’t want to hear every last little bit about it, but between Matthew crawling out there to chop ice, and John’s suggestion to put the winch up higher in the tree so it pulled up on the tractor instead of straight in through the ice we did it in a couple of hours.

Matthew scampered up a big branch to get the come-along up about ten feet. He also made a trip home for a better shovel to more effectively break ice and move mud and sticks. He went in over his boots twice doing ice/mud duty, and was unfailingly cheerful. John, too, calm and reasoned, took a trip home to get a battery operated sawzall to get rid of a sapling that was right in the way of hauling the tractor ashore. By this time of course it was long past dark. Bill had stopped by for a minute to say hi from the far side of the pond. F.J. son’s Chris had seen the tractor in the ice. Even though we did most of the work under the cloak of darkness, the word was out. My fifteen minutes of fame.
When we finally had the tractor on solid ground I had to try. Remember the scene in the Woodie Allen movie Sleeper where he is in the future a hundred years or something and comes across a VW bug, totally covered with dust. He needs an escape vehicle. He gets in and it fires up! The audience went crazy in the movie house when that movie was current.

I had to try it. I climbed on that tractor, mud everywhere, ice on the seat, steering wheel caked with frozen gunk and turned the key. Nothing. Oh, it was still in gear. I found neutral, turned the key and it fired right up. You gotta love it. I drove it home.


Is that how the world works? Around here it is.

Owls Head Village

Didn’t you always think living in a New England village by the seas would be wonderful? I always did. Suzy always did and was pretty vociferous about moving to Owls Head, which is in fact a small village on the coast of Maine. Far enough away to be kind of remoter, but cable ready. Well we’ve done it. It was hard to let go in Storrs and I readily admit that I was the big chicken. I was afraid to leave where we had been for 38 years, where we raised our son and worked as teachers in local schools and had friends and connections and loved the Co op, and the library and the local walks and ponds and had a pretty devoted group who did karate together in our barn and liked being near a university with its advantages- high among them the dairy bar.

We finally did it. We put our house on the market just before July 4th- Independence Day? I didn’t know it them, but I feel it now. We’ve made the move. The hosue is sold. We had so much going for us in Storrs, but also holding us down. We’d bought a piece of land on the Cape and were eager to build something there. We had a cute cottage in Owls Head, but we seemed more and more to get stuck in Storrs. I don’t mow as fast, weed as fast, approach things with the quite verve I used to. I’m in my seventies and want to sit and read and talk a bit and go sailing, and hit the beach once in while, write, build things, cook nice meals. You know. Now I think we have the chance.

It’s funny how much less jealous I am of that guy out sailing this fall when I am up here and have a boat in the water myself and live down the street. I’m planning to keep the dory on its trailer ready to go all winter. Nice sunny day in January with light wind. Go!

I wanted to just hit the angst I felt moving a little more, because it was real, and moving was hard. 38 years in one place means you accumulate and settle in pretty well. Both of us packrats, afraid to throw a thing out because it is useful still. Our home was lovely. Are we crazy to leave? CoVid hits. So the that state we are moving to doesn’t want us because we might bring disease is very much on my mind. Our dog, at the tender age of eight years, just before his birthday, gets kidney disease and dies within three weeks. What! Yes. Our son in in California- hot spot, right? And he and his fiance are buying a house for more money taht we can conceive of. People warned us about the move and I just figured we’d plow ahead. We did, but without the immense help we got from friends and dojo crew we absolutely would not have made it.Then our house didn’t sell. Wait I thought it would sell in two days, with bidding wars. Nope. We were generating ZERO interest and after a month you really start to wonder. Everyone is saying how hot the real estate market is except for our house. You feel bad. What’s wrong? We’ve loved our house. One realtor said something about old, tired house-grrr. It is not. I built that place. We sanded, and painted and redid floors. We dropped the price 30 grand, which hurt, but then we got immediate interest. And an offer. From people we really. Then the moving become real. You mean all this stuff has to go? And there is deadline- not just someday?

Well I am relieved now. Ecstatic? At times, yes. I was going to call this piece Ecstasy in Owls Head but aside from the fact that Ecstasy was a designer drug of a few years ago when I taught high school and would catch wind of such things, I am not jsut walking around on air up here. We have a lot to do still to get ready for winter and to have downsized so much. Our house here is 900 square feet. In Storrs we had almost double that in the house, plus a basement, some attic space, a big two story barn and out three buildings. We didn’t throw it all out.

This is the roof of our only outbuilding up here. We used to live in this little shed, 12×16, all summmer with no running water or electricity and loved it. Now I’m fixing it up for a shop and storage, adding a shed roof onto the back of it.

I’ll finish it soon. Our tractors and motor bike and bicycles and some machinery will go there.

We’re putting in new clawfoot tub- here with a fresh coat of cool Kirby paint from one of the oldest paint companies in the US- located in New Bedford if you need some.

We got a new gas range.

The new drier just arrived. Here’s Suzy checking it out, ever the ham since we got interviewed for local t.v about the newly opened General store. There we were innocently raking out gravel we’d just had delivered for our driveway,

chatting it up with our neighbors across the street, John, Barbara, and Audrey, who is destined to become mayor of Owls Head because she’s pretty personable
when the TV crew filming the Owls Head General Store for the second time just sauntered over and asked if we would mind being interviewed. We said that we did not, and Barbara and John, with their daughter Audrey backed away. Their other daughter Maya owns the store and so they figured just to give the odd man on the street the chance to say something might be nice.
Check out our fifteen minutes of fame here.

https://www.necn.com/news/local/owls-head-general-store-in-maine-reopens/2360051/

You might also want to check out the website of the Owls Head General Store because it is a very cool store and we are thrilled they are at the end of our driveway. Barbara makes fudge. This is not good, really, but it is delicious and you may be able to order some on line.

https://owlsheadgeneralstore.com/

So we’re getting set up, saying hello to neighbors, doing errands, enjoying the scenery.

Jennifer and F.J. with their latest grandson. I don’t mean to make you feel jealous about our situation up here but this fall we have twice been recipients of a bag of lobsters from these two. F.J is a lobsterman who, just as a gesture of friendliness, brought us a bag of five lobsters- which we devoured that night, and recently brought another batch, already cooked. Too much. They couldn’t stay to chat that second day because they were out delivering lobsters all over town. F. J. just pulled all his traps and is quitting for the year and I guess it’s kind of a tradition we got included in. Pretty nice. His son Chris, also a lobsterman, offered to help me anytime I needed a hand. I intend to take him up on that. Suzy’s just left on foot to go visit her friend Marti who will give her a cup of tea and something to nibble. I’ve got to go wok on my shed roof.

So yes it was hard to leave Storrs, but no we don’t miss it. We feel welcome and comfortable here. The library is a walk down the street one way. The General store the other way. The harbor down the hill. The town of Rockland is four miles away. We know quite a few folks and we’re settling in quite nicely thanks.

Everything You Wanted to Know about Moving But Were Afraid to Ask.

There’s a reason you were afraid to ask. You were afraid you’d find out that moving is as hard as everybody says it is. It’s the hardest thing it the world. Don’t do it! If you have to do it don’t read this blog. It might terrify you into inaction.

We’ve moved. Oh god. We’ve moved. It is beginning to sink in and I have moments of elation. Today was a great day. We didn’t do a lot, but the sun shone, we had a little fun. I was practically ecstatic for half the day. Because we weren’t moving stuff. We still have stuff to unpack. We will have stuff to unpack until we’re dead, but today we did not deal with stuff. I am so sick of stuff. I call it shit and my wife is becoming alarmed, so I have reeled it in a little bit and I don’t say the word shit, but I think it. Most of it is just shit. In the book given us by our son Saben, ( a hint?) The Life-changing Miracle of Tidying Up, the author tells us her technique. Pick up an object. If it gives you joy, keep it. It it doesn’t give you joy, off to the knackers. Throw it out, give it away. You can try to sell it, but getting rid of it is worth more than you could sell it for. Don’t get hung up on selling stuff. I read the book years ago and was inspired, although at that point, I couldn’t believe the part about not worrying about selling it. I was still convinced my old stuff had a lot of value, and in fact was proud of my stuff, because I liked my stuff, had worked hard for my stuff. Understandable given my less than posh upbringing: hand me down clothing, one of five kids in a family whose father didn’t make much money. You know, the box of Lincoln Logs had three logs and two red roof pieces. The Tinker Toys were mostly missing. We ate. We had a roof over us and the aforementioned hand me downs to wear. The basics were there, but I became painfully aware that other people had better clothes- this is called socialization- and lived in houses that we better- had garages for their cars, and so when I started to work at the age of fourteen the first thing I bought with that first paycheck- actually it was cash- was a five dollar button down collar shirt and a pair of corduroy Levis. Not those dorky wide wale corduroys your mom tried to get you to wear in the winter, cool Levis! That cost seven dollars. Boy did I feel sharp! So over the last forty or fifty years I got pretty attached to my stuff. I think that was a large part of our angst over moving from Storrs. I was frozen by our stuff. I remember before we even thought of moving, trying to clean out my bureau. I had socks I hadn’t worn, t shirts that were shot, pants I didn’t wear, shirts I didn’t even like, let alone wear. I was frozen. I couldn’t throw any of it out. Because when I was a kid I was wearing hand me downs that embarrassed me and had no cool stuff except my unicycle? That’s the theory. You get addicted, right? In high school I started buying my shoes from Barry Ltd. Bootery in Hartford, facing Bushnell Park. God it was cool. I bought some very expensive plain toed brogues- as opposed to wing tips which were pretty popular in an aloof sort of way. ones. I started to buy sports coats. Remember Mario’s in Newington? Down town clothing store where Mario would wait on you and be friendly. It was an unbelievable experience to be treated so well as a kid. I bought a boar bristle brush for my hair from Stackpole Moore and Tryon in Hartford. They waited on me, too. They treated me with respect. A kid. Pretty heady stuff. They took my money, which of course was the whole point from their perspective, and I was happy to give it to them.

So when we decided to sell the house I had a very harsh slap in the face. We really have to do something about our stuff. Like move it. All of it? We moved more than we should have. I recommend cleaning out pretty thoroughly. Initially we started to move some stuff to Maine. That was our plan. To move into our cottage in Owls Head Maine for now, winter there as we finished selling and moving and contemplate building on the Cape. We’d bought a lot on Cape Cod a few years ago- more stuff?- as a part of my life long dream to move to the Cape. And of course our son and his fiance Iris live in California so we are pulled in that direction too. Having three places- added to our confusion over stuff. I can see now, looking back about six months, I was really confused and a little scared. Suzy is not as capable as she was. She forgets things and gets confused and scared and a move was going to be really confusing. Everyone had told me. And I am not especially good at organizing. I am not a terrific project manager.

So when we signed a contract with a realtor it was a very big deal for us. Very big. And Gary, our realtor, is going over things as we sign and it comes out that if a full price offer comes in on the house and we don’t accept it, we owe the commission. What!!!! Oh I went through some anquish over that. I couldn’t back out and if it sold and we refused to sell it would cost us 20K. Ouch. I talked with my brother Joe and he calmed me down a bit. He and my sisters really helped in this whole process. They were my cheerleaders and pushed me to believe that this would all be for the best and I was not convinced of that at the time. Kenny and Debbie Peterson were lurking in the background, too, because they had planted the seed a year earlier and we now in Hawaii living it up with no home to hold them down.

I mentioned that I am not a great project manager, but I am not clueless. It’s not my forte, but I had done a number of things to start in the months before we signed. I’d called dumpster companies, and moving companies, and had talked with three realtors to get an idea of the value of our house. Now I started to put things in place. We picked our realtor because he had told us he thought our house was worth 400K. He loved it. I thought the enthusiasm would help sell it.We listed at 380K and it was going to sell in two days. We put into the contract that we needed 45 days to clear out in case it did sell in two days. We had our barn to stage things in and a big yard. We could do it. Our house was still full of our clutter- which we liked, but we had to move stuff around to get any kind of decent shots of the rooms. We started with those photos, but Gary took them down off the website because he wasn’t happy with them, and so our house was up with a price of 380 and just a lonely photo of the house on a hill. We got very little response. One realtor came out to see if it might fit her clients, then went on vacation for a month. We got no interest for weeks. And the market was hot. We kept hearing how houses were selling right and left. People leaving cities to escape Covid. Gary thought we should lower the price to 350. There goes thirty grand, Right. Ouch. But by now we were more vested in the move. We had moved a bunch of stuff. I started to want to move. We had originally decided to sell the house as is. It was tired looking in some ways. The living room floor needed refinishing. The porch floor looked awful. We agreed lower the price and I refinished the porch floor first, and then the living room.

Gary posted those pictures and we got a lot of action. Someone said, “The market has spoken.” Yes. I think, too that if we had cleaned the house out, redone the floors, and staged it nicely, we could have gotten our 380. There was however, no way we could have done that. It had to have happened the way it did, and as it turns out we got the greatest buyers in the world. I remember when they came. We hadn’t cleared out yet- you’re not supposed to be there when a potential buyer comes to your house- because they were early. They parked on the lawn down by the pond and didn’t even look at the house first. They looked around, the pond, the yard, the barn. they had a baby with them. Joe was carrying Max to give Christine a break after their long drive down from Vermont. Joe had just taken a position at the University of Connecticut. It’s three miles away. In the ag department. We have four acres. Perfect. I had a feeling. They were so nice to talk with and had read my blog about selling Storrs. After their visit they had to return to Vermont. On the way back they stopped and wrote us a letter about what they hoped to do with the land and how they looked forward to raising their family in such a stunning setting. It was great. They made an offer. We countered. I didn’t really want to move down much from 350, but we liked them so much and we had become by this point so ready to sell- we could tell we had way too much of our plate with this four acre place with a pond and long driveway. We countered a little closer to 350 than midway from their offer and they accepted. They accepted and we felt good about that. Next came inspections and they knocked us down 11K with what they found. There you are. We were eager to complete the deal, but we could have negotiated at that point, too. It was all over but the hard part. We got a dumpster. We got people to help- the karate crew was indispensable. At points we had seven or eight people helping us clean out the attic and the cellar and the barn. Thank you Claire and Peter and Steve and Jonathan and Jeanette and Gabby and Nora and Sam and Ceara.

stuff

In a nutshell. You get boxes. I bought them at UHaul. They are great boxes and I didn’t want to use used boxes from a package store now in the time of Covid especially.. It’s a couple of hundred dollars. Buy tape and a dispenser and paper. My friend Steve Magliano from Magnum Movers on the Cape gave me a bunch of boxes and paper. We bought some closet boxes, too. We decided though in the end that we wanted to box everything ourselves because that’ how we sorted through stuff. Box it or into the dumpster. Handy. Once it’s boxed, it is no trouble to load the truck right? Well after five hours of moving boxes down from our second floor to the barn I decided to try the hired labor you can find. UHaul web site has companies listed. We used In and Out Movers – two guys, Eric and Charles,for two hours for 175 dollars. I tried it. I rented a 26 foot truck and drove it here. Eric was great. We had hired labor at the other end lined up from Strong Young Men Ltd. Andrew and Lucas. Lucas!

I know a Lucas- what’s your mom’s name? Things were working out. I was a project manager supreme!!! We rented a car hauler to get Suzy’s car up here since she can’t drive. We rented a motorcycle hauler to get my bike up here. We brought our lawn tractor. We rented a storage unit for our property in Maine. We saw it wasn’t big enough. We bought a shipping container. We sold a ton of stuff on Craig’s list and Facebook Marketplace – the lathe, the ping pong table, the Ford 9N tractor, the welder. We cleaned up the yard. Except for some firewood. We decided to leave the five cords of cut firewood in the shed. It does not make sense to try to move it to Maine, plus it is illegal. We had lost sixteen trees to gypsy moths so I had had those trees cut down and was working at cleaning them up. Some is still waiting to be firewood, but most I had sawn into posts, beams, braces for a barn, white oak slabs and quarter sawn boards for furniture. So I brought up loads of lumber. I brought up a boat. We used two 26 foot truck rentals, and another trailer. It will have been fifteen trips back and forth when I finish this next, last trip to get some more wood to the cape. 600 miles each trip. Nine thousand miles of driving this summer. Whoa! Each trip stressful. Packing. Loading. Being overloaded. Unloading. Then into the fall the days got shorter and there was nighttime driving and rain. No wonder my back is knotted up.

Did we save a ton on the move by doing it ourselves? Yes. I suppose. I talked with two junk guys. One wanted 10K but was willing to do it for five if I gave him my Moto Guzzi and my tractor. The other guy was swilling to do it for 3K. We decided to go with pizza powered labor and a dumpster. The dumpster was 600 bucks. Certainly the UHaul vans at about $500 buck each are cheaper than hired movers: we were quoted 8K for the move if we boxed and cleared out o0ur junk; but the whole thing comes down to the fact that we had our stuff to handle. Without our inordinate amount of stuff it would have made more sense to hire movers.

But we are done. And I will tell you this. Throwing stuff into the dumpster was fun. More than fun. Cathartic. It is starting to feel really good. I’m not completely devoid of stuff; I was a little shocked watching the guys from Strong Young Men Ltd. move box after box after box off the truck- what is in those boxes????but I feel quite a bit lighter. My back is feeling better and my ankle will recover. Watch for the next blog on Owls Head because it is once again quite a bit of fun to be alive.

S

Moving

We’ve lived here for 38 years. Now we’re leaving. The closing is in a ten days. We’ve moved so much stuff and the house feels empty. The barn is cluttered again, as it always was when I worked in it, but now it is cluttered wtih stuff we’ve staged there: furniture, boxes. the dojo equipment and matts and mirrors and skis and fishing poles and all this stuff that has been in our life.

Stuff.

I’ve thought a lot about it as we’re moving it all. I got a dumpster.

I am throwing stuff into the dumpster that I thought enough of to hang on to for decades. Why? Why did we save Saben’s crib? Because we loved having him and we wanted to let him and Iris have that same crib for their baby. The memories? The day Suzy and I got him settled into his crib for a nap and thought we’d have a half an hour or an hour to just sit and breathe and two minutes later he is in the living room proudly announcing, “I got out!”

That crib is in rough shape now. It is no longer new and shiny. It’s smells old. It’s got rust on the metal parts. Oh right, a concrete cellar, right near the water tank which condenses water in the summer, and for quite a few years we didn’t have a dehumidifier down there. Suzy even said, “Throw it out; they’ll want a new one.” and she doesn’t want to let anything go. Into the dumpster. There it sits, the once proud crib, prized possession of two young parents. A gift perhaps? From her parents? I can’t remember.

And so you think about the windsurfer, the canvas from the boat, the old bed, that perfectly good…. Downsizing is painful. If the new owners want any of our stuff I would feel less bad. Why? Because I don’t like just throwing things out. I never have. It still has use, to throw it in the dump or dumpster just makes a problem somewhere else. Why not use it, put it to use. And you should. But left alone in the elements, things degrade. Some of my precious beams had to get tossed because the weather started to break them down. Still good to burn? No time now. Do we just want tidy and clean and shiny and new? Is old and used of no value? What is the cost to others of throwing things out, of buying new and shiny? Will people be mining our landfills in the future, finding treasures beyond our comprehension now? The rusted metal of our crib might be tremendously useful. The Eye, The Ear, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer explores that idea. What about us as aging human beings. Do we have a right to stick around. Have we outlived our usefulness. Kurt Vonnegut has a short story about an older man who keeps rewriting his will to manipulate his whole extended family who all live with him in a very crowded future. They vie to please him to be able to inherit the bed, or a chair. He rewrites the will hourly to keep them all hopping. Trump is an old man, trying hard to hang on to something; he’s not sure what. He gets people to leap to do his bidding. Just as foolish. What do they want? Some new shiny things. Some pretty bauble? Are we all scurrying around so concerned for our personal little future with its trinkets that we have lost all sense? You get pressed pretty hard sometimes.

And I’ve felt pretty foolish myself with this move. It’s a l;ot of work. Why did I let it accumulate? Why are we leaving? We’ve loved it here. Where are we going? Into an uncertain future? We do not have an equivalent life. Our stuff goes into storage- I bought a shipping container to avoid rent on our stuff.

We will be living in a small cottage for the winter and plan to build on the Cape in the spring. Nearer to family. Suzy has expressed a number of times during the move fear about living so far north in Maine, although we have both loved being there both in the summer and in the off seasons. As cold weather approaches it seems formidable at times. And of course we are doing this with the backdrop of Covid 19, trump’s shenanigans which seem so terrifying now, Hobbes’ passing away and we are approaching the age of life where you might want to settle down by the fire with a good book and a cup of tea or bottle of beer. Or a little cabin somewhere peaceful? Yes, that’s what we want.

Back to the packing. We’ll be voting in Maine.

99 Wildwood Road, Storrs, CT- For Sale?

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

 

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

 

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