Kind

I’m tired.

I know that I always try to find some inspiration in everyday things to pass along for my readers but wow, sometimes life is exhausting.

I’m tired of angry people.

I’m tired of paranoia to the point where everyone is suspect in some non existent crime of corruption.

I’m tired of people so callous about the natural world around them that they would destroy the breeding habitat of endangered birds instead of power washing the building when they leave their nests at the end of the season.  Whose weekly commentary is about getting rid of the birds.  They should see it as a privilege to have them there and take a few minutes to watch them.

I’m tired of policy changes that do not take into consideration the lives that are affected without any input from them.  Changes in policies they know nothing about but because they see themselves in positions of power, they feel a need to micromanage things that have worked for decades.  Stop, just stop.  Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before making a knee jerk decision based on someone’s anonymous complaint.

I watched the trailer for the new movie coming out about Fred Rogers called “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”  and wept at what we have lost. I think there are so many fears, so much anger that people have lost sight of the fact that our world would be a better place if they were kind.

Try to be kind, you have no idea what the people you talk to today are going through, a kind word can go a long way.

 

 

A Little Better Place

I live in an extremely small town.  A unique town.  Now I’ve known it was special my entire life, probably because it’s been a part of me for close to 60 years.  I became Clerk for the Board of Health and Treasurer a couple of years ago and that’s when I found out what a true anomaly Rowe is in the real world.

I think I have a naive perception of the people and landscape colored by a love of local history and constant immersion into the life and times of this town through the 1800s until the 1970s or so.  This opinion is also a reflection of my childhood when Yankee Atomic was in full swing.  Families moved in because the breadwinners worked at the plant and the natives were friendly and welcoming for the most part (maybe because they were outnumbered suddenly).  My childhood included monthly community potlucks, square dancing lessons in the Town Hall, youth group at the Community church (my family was not part of the congregation).  This was involvement by everyone, not just the newer residents.  My mother was Treasurer when I was young and it was drilled into our heads that we never had a right to complain if we weren’t going to be part of the solution.  A call to serve for the greater good of the community.

The word community comes up over and over again.

Berry’s description describes how I see community in the context of being involved in town politics.  I lived in Enfield, CT for many years, that’s where my children grew up.  I was involved on a superficial level there.  When you are in a large, suburban area politics is essentially an anonymous business.  You can go to meetings, surrounded by people you don’t know, represented by people whose names you recognize but you only know what they tell you in order to get elected to the positions they hold.  There is nothing that represents community in an area like that where you can live for 30 years in one neighborhood and barely know the names of your neighbors.  My parents were always in Rowe and I spent weekends and summers here wanting my children to grow up understanding what small town life was.

In Rowe you know the names of your neighbors, you know their parents, you know their histories.  Over the years we’ve seen a loss of community with the old timers moving or passing away.  People have moved in from much larger communities and keep to themselves.  I don’t fault them for that but I think something huge has been lost in not reaching out to newcomers and bringing them into the fold.  New Englanders are known to be cautious with change but in doing that we’ve gone  from helping and holding each other to every man for himself.   It doesn’t have to be that way.

We are coming up on town elections and have seen a poverty of people willing to serve.  Positions that are important, elected positions have no one running.  Positions that historically have been elected are now being changed to appointed.  Appointments are not a bad thing, it speaks to the changes in regulations that have forced small towns to do this because the skills necessary to do the jobs are not part of general knowledge.  Some of these jobs are thankless and the people who are doing them see the big picture and are doing so for the good of the community.

If you live here get involved in something.  Visit the museum, or the library, find a group to knit or craft together.  Go to a meeting or two.  You might find there is something you are interested in and be able to  give a little of your time .  Who knows, maybe in the process you will gain new friends, get to know your neighbors, and create a community that’s just a little better for everyone.

 

 

 

 

Deconstruction

I finally decided that the piano needs to go bad enough to actually take it apart.  Beginning was no easy feat since the top of it had been the repository of a large collection of fiber waiting to be woven.  So many projects, so little time.

Once cleared off I took the screwdriver to the hinges on the top and realized that I didn’t need to unscrew anything – everything was so loose it just pulled apart.  The top was removed in three sections.  These beautiful pieces of wood I will find some way to repurpose.

All of the felts, leather, even wood have turned to dust in this piano.  I didn’t realize how far gone the instrument was until it was opened up.  There really was no restoration that could have happened here.  It would have been a complete rebuild.

The harp is one of the most beautiful things about this piano.  Hand painted in gold, reds and greens it shows the artistry of the time in which it was built.  Once the strings were off you could actually see why it’s called the harp – it looks like one.  The question remains, how many strong men is it going to take to remove it, it’s cast iron.

I’ve also decided to save the keyboard.  It’s ebony and ivory which is illegal to sell no matter how old it is.  I started to think about all of the hands that have pressed these keys and it began to take on a magic of its own so it stays for the time being with ideas floating around on how to repurpose it with the wood that’s been salvaged and other odd bits and pieces.

There is interest in the beautifully carved legs so the only piece to get rid of will be the case.

I thought that getting rid of this instrument would be a painful experience – in some ways it is – but in taking it apart and realizing what bad condition it really was in made the job easier.  I also learned a lot about the actual mechanics and how long it takes to unscrew hundreds of screws.

Once it is out of the room there are things that need to be mended, painted, reworked.  It has been in the same place since the late 70’s I think.  Once that’s done, a rug will be put in place to make way for another loom that has been waiting patiently in the shed for its moment.  That’s a story for another day.

 

Whining

I’ve been sick. Sicker than I’ve been in quite some time thanks to a visit to pick my grandson up from daycare.  I forgot what a hotbed of germs those places can be and the fact that once your own children fly the coop your immunity goes with it.

I had a good nights sleep last night, felt rested and was thankful because I knew there was snow waiting to be cleared.  The driveway was cleared at 4:45 this morning and I have appointments and work tonight.

Peggy called me this morning to tell me some loom tales and offer her sympathy.  Taking care of it all by myself couldn’t be good, I assured her I was fine.

I grabbed my keys on the way out to feed the goats and chickens.  There was a crust of ice on top of the 6 inches of snow/sleet that had fallen overnight.  Heavy shoveling.  I opened the car door, inserted and turned the key – nothing – deader than dead.  I have a little jump box so figured I’d jump it so the car could thaw out.  Had to clean the car off first, my battery is in the trunk.  Put the cables on, go turn the key, nothing.  I called Bill and he told me I should charge the battery with the charger for a couple of hours.

Ugh . . . . . . .

I shoveled through the bank in front of the garage to get the charger out.  Shoveled to the car to get the charger close enough.  Dragged the charger to the car and searched for an extension cord.

At this point I’m thinking to myself – assisted living has never looked so good.

I fed the goats, then cleared a narrow path to the barn.  The boys were causing enough of a ruckus just knowing I was outside.  The shoveling was slow, I was out of breath and thinking maybe I’ll just lie in this snow bank for a few minutes til I feel better.

Again – assisted living never looked so good.

As I was finishing up shoveling out the chicken coop I could hear the thunk, thunking of a pileated woodpecker in the trees next to the driveway, then heard it call from across the road.  I looked around at how beautiful it was with the ice on the trees and noted that the temperature was milder than usual and there was no wind.  Chickadees were in the trees waiting for the seeds I toss out on my way to the coop and I reached in to get the warm egg laid by the only hen that seems to be laying at the moment.  Those eggs are precious little gifts right now.

Okay, assisted living wouldn’t be that good.

My sister and I often talk about how long we will be able to stay in our old, drafty, cold houses by ourselves.  I’m fortunate to have help on the weekends but the weekdays can sometimes be a reality check.  Honestly I didn’t mind the physical aspect of the work this morning it was the mental exercises that had to take place in order to do what needed to be done.  These were things outside of my usual daily routine and my brain just was not in problem solving mode.  Let’s hope the car starts and the day improves from here.

 

 

Döstädning


It must be the sun becoming warmer (or shining for a change) that has had me doing some cleaning.  It could be the fact that the cobwebs have taken over the house and clearing them out always involves moving everything in a room.  Let’s call it spring  cleaning, that sounds more hopeful when it’s still mid winter.

The truth is that things have been weighing on me of late – big things, huge things.  When my father died he left a collection of some of the biggest machines any ordinary man could own.  A couple of them I always saw as hobbies but there was a point where it crossed over into obsession.  The time has come for us to dismantle it.  There is a huge building that houses 2 large stationary steam engines and all that goes with it including a steam turbine generator and a sawmill run by diesel and steam.  Equipment so large that a rigger will have to be hired to get it out and moved.

It’s fairly easy to ignore that building with everything in it.  Walking into it is a time capsule of sorts but it weighs on you.  We are not getting any younger and the idea of leaving that to my kids is not appealing.

Every year about this time we make lists of the things that need to be done, sorted in order of importance.  This list begins by realizing that your kitchen is so cold and could be fixed in an hour or two with very little effort.  You just have to wait until Spring to do it.  This is the list that extends through the year consisting of all the maintenance and repairs that every homeowner has.

There is another list and that concerns the cleaning out of the property.  It’s the death cleaning or döstädning as the Swedish call it.  This has taken some time to embrace, probably because it’s my childhood home – there are memories I’m not ready to let go of and it causes me to hang on to things that no one would understand.  In talking about it Bill very astutely said “These were your father’s dreams not ours”.  That one comment changed my perspective on a lot of things.  I’ve gotten to the point in life where my list of long term dreams is beginning to be whittled away.  The sawmill is an example.  Ten years ago we thought we would use it.  There are always people who want lumber cut and it could also be useful to us in the repair of our buildings.  Last year we realized we were probably never going to use it and said it out loud.  We found it a home with someone who will use it and take care of it and be part of his dream.

The steam equipment is another story.

The out buildings are the bigger problem but there are things in the house that present similar challenges.  There’s the piano.  A huge, rosewood Chickering square grand – built about 1870.  It needs a full restoration.  No one plays, no one ever played it (well my mother hacked out a couple of tunes and my uncle would play something wildly out of tune when he visited – all vivid childhood memories).  It is large, heavy and no one wants it.  I’ve contacted museums, previous owners, piano restorers, craigslist, social media offering to give it away if  someone will move  it.  Nothing.  That leaves taking it apart and getting it out of here.  I’ve been saying I was going to do it for two years but haven’t, probably hoping something magical will happen.  It’s got to go, now it’s come down to what pieces I will keep. (Yes, more junk in storage – baby steps).

I realize that I’m entering into old age (although I will always be 27 years old in my head) and in the paring down of dreams comes the need to get rid of  stuff so no one else has to do it.  Döstädning, death cleaning, not a sad thing at all but really done with an eye to the future.

 

Hens in Winter

The snow squalls have passed through and the very cold air is here.  Once again the hens are loaded up with water, food and treats in anticipation of weather they will suffer through gracefully.  I have 12 hens in a 12 hen coop.  For the most part it seems to be the right size but with blasts of cold like this it seems like you could add another dozen and they would all be fine.  They roost very close together when it’s cold.  Hunkered down with their feathers covering their feet very close to their neighbor.  I swear all 12 can fit on one roost that’s 4 feet long.  I always feel bad for the girls on the ends but in my mind they swap spots as the ones on the ends get cold.

There is a heater in the coop for their water (5 gallons) and their feeder holds 5 lbs of pellets.  I throw their treats in through a small opening rather than opening the coop to keep the wind and cold out.

The wait is on for spring, although I don’t mind the cold I do fret about the animals but they all do much better in it than one would expect.  I check for non-existent eggs just to make sure they don’t freeze but I don’t light their coop so we are just waiting for longer days and the natural rhythm of egg laying to begin.  The true signs of spring are the house plants growing again and the chickens laying.  It’s those longer days and everything knows.

An Eye on the Weather

This morning’s sunrise was fleeting, maybe 10 minutes, but always worth it  You know what they say about red skies at dawn.

The past 5 days have been the kind of weather I could do without.  This is the time of year when we watch the forecast obsessively yet try not to be taken in by the hype.  Those dire warnings that pop up every couple of hours – winter weather warnings, high wind advisories, wind chill frostbite warnings send people out in droves to fill their tanks with gas and get that bread and milk.

This past weekend we saw about a foot of snow and sleet but the real news was the frigid temps that followed that precipitation.  Minus 8 degrees with 20 to 30 mph hour wind gusts made for an extraordinarily uncomfortable couple of days.  We have the wood stove but the idea that we have to bring wood in, after breaking the frozen chunks apart on the pile never really occurs to us until it happens. (Yes, the wood is inside the shed that is attached to the house and the pile remains frozen together).

There is always the worry that the pipes will freeze.  We were blessed with the wind and snow drifted up against the house banking it and allowing the ell to stay warmer.  The old timers used to bank their houses with leaves or hay in the fall for just that reason.  The stone foundations are pretty drafty.

Then there are the animals – and the worry about their well-being.  The goats have very heavy coats this year, their space is fairly tight and their water is heated.  They seem unaffected (that doesn’t take into account how affected we are in taking care of them).  On the coldest, windiest morning the hens didn’t get off of their roost or make a sound when they were fed.  They were just hunkered down keeping their feet and each other warm.

Yesterday felt like a heat wave at 13 degrees with no wind.

January is the longest month of the year for me.  It’s dark, cold and very often windy.  The days may be getting longer but it won’t be noticeable until mid February, although I must confess to taking notice of the time the sunsets to convince myself that the days are indeed getting longer.

We have people who take care of us.   Our town is small enough so I know every member of the road crew personally.  Almost every morning this time of year I wake up to the sound of the plow going by the house.  It is always comforting to know that their job is to keep everyone as safe as possible in awful conditions.  There is also the guy who plows my driveway and back yard – he’s a kid really.  I grew up with his grandfather plowing the same yard (he still does on occasion).  They are always a phone call away from getting me out of my yard.  If I have to be somewhere at a particular hour I let them know ahead of time and I will be at a different spot in the queue of driveways to be plowed.  If I cannot walk to the barn because of ice they are here to sand.  There’s a lot to be said for dependability.  Of course they are also neighbors and have always felt like family.

So a flash flood warning just came up on my phone and the town payloader just dug out drainage spots in the banks.  The forecast says highs in the 40s – until Friday when it all freezes again. The signs are all there that I will be hunkered down in the house for a few days weaving.  Winter weather does have its advantages.

Answering the Questions

I follow a number of weavers on social media.   Some groups are for troubleshooting the particular looms I have, some are buying and selling equipment, most are weavers interested in the process itself.  My experience has been that weavers are a very generous lot and these groups have really shown that to be the case.

A couple of interesting questions were posted the other day that really had me thinking.  “How often do you weave?  What do you do with your weaving projects once you’ve finished?  Do you make a living weaving?”  Since I’ve begun the post holiday catch up with projects that I’ve promised people these questions really lead to the real question which is why I weave.  This is something that has morphed over the years.  As I’ve grown in my understanding of the craft the reasons for doing it have changed.  What’s different is I realized that weaving is the handcraft I have been looking for my entire life.

I am the type of person that needs to be creating constantly – my hands (and mind) have to be busy.  I am also a perfectionist – born and raised.  When I was younger this presented problems stemming more from a lack of patience than anything else.  I wanted things to be perfect immediately.  As I grew older I realized that perfection was attainable for me in most of the crafting I undertook, I just had to readjust my goals.

I was a quilter for years (and years) and also learned embroidery at a very young age.  I would go to quilt shows and enter my quilts in fairs.  I photographed quilts for the CT Quilt Search Project and delved into the history and process from other women’s perspectives.  The pinnacle for me was entering an embroidered and appliqued quilt in the Vermont Quilt Festival and winning a blue ribbon.  As far as I was concerned I was done, I wasn’t interested in taking it any further.  The same happened with making teddy bears.  I found a pattern in a magazine and made one of the lamest bears you have ever seen.  I told my family that I was going to keep sewing bears until every one I made was perfect.  I made a lot of bears. That lead to designing and teaching adult ed classes to make them.  I learned you can only make so many bears and that was the end of that.

I’ve learned to do so many other things searching for that one craft.  I weave and teach basket making.  I knit, crochet, macrame, blah, blah, blah.  I’ve dabbled in woodworking, rug hooking, pottery, leather work.  Even baking became a bit of an obsession (I make a mean pie).   Some of it I did okay with, most of it didn’t hold my interest enough to continue, a bit of it was so bad that I would tell myself and others it was a one-off, bucket list kind of thing.

Weaving has become the all consuming craft for me and it’s not about perfecting the product which everything else has been.  It’s about the process -from beginning to end.  I love the math, the counting, the feel of the fiber going through my fingers.  I love the looms.  Big looms, little looms, any kind of looms.  I love dressing a loom and having the right amount of threads and the perfect tension.  I love it when I weave the first few picks and there aren’t any threading errors.  I love the meditative quality of the weaving itself when you’ve memorized the pattern and you’re weaving without thinking about weaving.  I must confess that I’m usually thinking about the next project.

That’s where these questions hit home.  I weave almost every day.  The problem is always what to do with what you’ve woven.  I never want to be boxed in to where I have to think about what I’m weaving and it’s marketability.  In my opinion that’s the fastest way to suck the joy out of something you love, monetize it.  What I have done is custom weaving for people to augment my raw materials.  This is what lets me weave at this point.

As for making a living weaving . . . I wove overshot runners for a friend of mine to give to some of her family members for Christmas.  Ten days before the holiday I put on about an 8 yard warp figuring I would weave her three and then weave a few extra for others that have expressed an interest. These runners were beautiful, everything came together and I cut off the ones she needed for the holiday.  I then proceeded to weave off the rest of the warp and finish up the remaining runners.   I realized then I could never, ever be a production weaver, especially working on a deadline.  Some of the best lessons learned aren’t ones you’re looking for at all.

Sometimes questions need to be asked to let you see where you are going.  Most often they are asked in a most innocent way and you hear them at the perfect moment.

 

The Hub of Town Activity

This past month the Board of Health changed the policy regarding entrance into the “Refuse Gardens” (affectionately known by us as the dump).  Today was the first day that hang tags were to be used for entrance and part of my job as clerk for the BOH was to be there to check that people were using them and have them ready if they didn’t have one.

I don’t spend a lot of time there – I rarely go at all – it’s not my household job.  When I do go I am always amazed at what a hub it is for residents to relay information, learn about upcoming events or just visit with your neighbor (aren’t we all neighbors here really?).  Every dump visit takes a few minutes to get rid of trash and recyclables but then another half hour spent chatting with someone.  They talk about the weather, they talk about their kids, they bring their dogs and all receive some kind of attention.  Chester loves going to the dump.  It’s also the place you can go to do a little politics. Elections for town offices are coming up and this is the place to get the signatures you need to be placed on the ballot.  The only real alternative is to go door to door.

This is where the connections are made, the invitations to visit, the plans to go places.  When I was growing up you didn’t wait for an invite to go to someone’s house, you just stopped in.  I think this came about more when people used to go out for a Sunday drive and pop in on some unsuspecting relative for a meal.  My mother was a master at stretching her planned menu and always welcomed unexpected guests around the dinner table.  It never rattled her at all.  In today’s hurried, crazed world this is now considered pretty bad etiquette.

I think the change in attitudes has been a long time coming.  I lived in Enfield, CT for over 30 years and am sad to say I only knew a handful of people.  In Rowe many of the people (or families) I knew in childhood are still here, and there are a lot of newcomers.  The difference in living in a town like this is people cultivate their relationships.  We are far from services of any kind really.  It’s a bit of a drive to get to anything resembling a grocery store.  This is the kind of place where if you need that cup of sugar or eggs (especially eggs) you do call your neighbor.  Those of us that live in the small hill towns know the value of having good neighbors.  Things happen, you may need help.  This is the value of community and it seems to me that many people are cultivating their community at the dump.  It’s a pretty special place.

2017 in Review

Every year, upon reflection, I realize what a charmed life I lead.  I live in a beautiful place, have wonderful family and friends, a roof over my head, hot and cold running water, good food on the table and the company of a charming menagerie of animals.  Life has been busy and the blog has suffered because of it, at least in the amount of time that has been dedicated to writing.  Something I should work on.  As you all know I am a visual person.  I try to take a photograph a day and my review consists of my favorites for the year.  All for different reasons.

January

 

February

March

 

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

Thanks so much for being a part of all of this and a happy, blessed New Year to all!