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.

 

The Miracle of Seeds

160418 Seeds

This morning I finally started some seeds for the garden.  People may be shaking their heads and thinking it’s late but I have to tell you nothing goes into the ground before the first week of June here.  You just never know.  I think I will be building a cold frame in the next week or so to give them a little more growing space and sun and ease the hardening off process.

I love planting seeds, they hold such promise.  I’m always amazed that for a couple of bucks you can get a little packet of seeds when planted and harvested could feed a hundred people.  That’s not to say that every seed I plant will produce to that extent, there are variables but there are also the memories of those years where the harvest was beyond belief.  Those I look forward too with a little trepidation.  One summer I canned enough beans to last until the next harvest eating them every single day.  I was really sick of canning beans.

Into the soil they go, in a few days their heads will be popping out of the soil, a couple of weeks and they’ll need new pots, more sun and more water.  A few months, if all goes well, things will be picked and served for every lunch and dinner.  Such freshness and flavor is something you will never find anywhere else and the personal satisfaction is something that can’t be beat.

 

Spring Has Sprung

160331

The signs are all there now, the crocuses are blossoming, random garlic is coming up.  I say random because I didn’t plant any last fall so there must have been bulbs that I missed.  A pleasant surprise.  The leaves are coming out on my strawberries which I had given up for lost since they had been totally taken over last year.  I figured it being their first year they had been choked out.  It gives me an opportunity to weed all around them and mulch, we’ll see what happens.  No asparagus yet but the rhubarb is coming out of the ground.

The robins are back and I have to tell you there is nothing like hearing their sweet, sweet song.  I always forget how much I miss it until I hear it. There is no more obvious a harbinger of spring for me.

Sugaring is over, the last boil was this past Sunday.  I was afraid I was going to miss it altogether and had threatened to boil syrup on the stove to make sugar just so I could smell it.  The syrup made over the weekend was my favorite, dark and robust as the grading system now tells you.  If I’m going to eat maple syrup I want it to really taste like maple.

Things here are coming back down to a new normal.  Everything was in place so the transfer of property was seamless.  My father’s name has been taken off of everything.  The utilities don’t make anything easy to transfer but in my mind I figure if it all takes a month that’s okay.

Dad’s memorial service is next week.  The last thing to be taken care of.  Looking through hundreds of photographs over the past few days has given me a greater understanding of what it means to have a good life.  Sometimes he didn’t see it but he was charmed.

We all need to look through our lives like they are photographs I think.  We only take pictures of the good things.  The big family events – births, weddings, graduations.  Vacations or jobs well finished.  When it all comes right down to it it’s the little moments that make up that whole grand life. When I go I want someone to look at the snapshots and say, “Wow, her life was pretty great.” I know I feel as though it has been and I think it’s because I can drop the bad stuff by the wayside.

Live for the moment, don’t dwell on the past, you can’t change any of it.  Just remember all of the little gifts because that is what a good life is made of.

The Return of the Sun

160202

I read with interest yesterday an article about Candlemas, celebrated on February 2nd, the day halfway between the winter and spring solstices.  It is a holiday to celebrate the return of the sun.  It was interesting because I was just noticing the lengthening of the days.  It’s been easier this year because the winter has been so mild, the temperatures hovering around 50 this week makes it feel like we should be tapping the trees.

This is also when my to do list becomes extremely long and I dare say unrealistic.  There is a need to clean out, pare down, remove the cobwebs, air the rooms.  It’s like you want to shake off the past year.

I also notice a ramping up of creativity.  I just pulled a project from the loom and have three lined up on the table waiting to go on.  I have other looms and am seriously thinking of warping all three with different projects.  I’m not sure how productive that might be but it’s a thought.

There’s also the rug I continue to hook, the sweater I’m knitting, the teddy bear nearing completion.  There are baskets to stain, rooms to paint, furniture to build, cookies to bake.  Uhm, yeah, I’m out of control here.

In addition to that a case of wanderlust has come over me. I just want to get into the car and drive, preferably to water (I daresay I’d have to drive to the ocean because everything here is still covered with ice).  I don’t even know why the water part matters, I want to visit fiber stores and quilt shops.  I want to wind my way through New Hampshire to Maine touching handspun yarn and fine woolen fabric.  Looking at looms and shuttles.  Changing up the scenery, dreaming up big projects (like I don’t have enough already).

Feels like a serious case of spring fever to me, or maybe just an effort to shake off what has been a harrowing month.  Then again it could be something like a mid-life crisis only well beyond the mid-point.  Let’s see how this all shakes out.

 

 

Digging in the Dirt

150501 Rhubarb

 

Finally.  My sister commented the other day how she felt like she was coming out of a coma.  I understand.

Last evening I did a walk about checking for signs of life.  This the time of year when I’m anxious to see what made it through the winter.  As everyone knows this past one was particularly cold but we had a pretty good snow cover so I’m hoping that insulation helped everything survive.  It’s particularly concerning to me because I put in so many new gardens last summer.  The waiting has only just begun, some plants won’t show signs of life for weeks.

At the end of my walk I saw the leaves popping out of the canes on the raspberries.  My raspberry bed is in a sad state, overgrown with crabgrass (the bane of my existence).  I started to pull things out – dead or alive.  If it wasn’t a raspberry out it went.  Being a spur of the moment weeding event I didn’t have gloves with me.  The soil was the perfect texture – not too wet, not too dry and the perfect temperature.  It’s been 7 long months since I’ve had my hands in the dirt – seven months!  

There’s an article that my sister and I pass back and forth about digging in the dirt acting as an antidepressant.  I don’t think I needed a scientific study to tell me this.  All I needed was a long, cold, sleepless winter.  After just an hour of digging in the dirt I slept like a baby.  I’m addicted to dirt.

Signs of Spring

150403 Redwing Blackbirds (4)

Nothing says spring to me like the sound of a redwing blackbird.  The past few days they have been in my yard by the hundreds

150403 Redwing Blackbirds (7)

They’ve been cleaning up around the feeders.

150403 Redwing Blackbirds (8)

Although there’s safety in numbers they are a cautious lot and spend much of their time landing and taking off.

150403 Redwing Blackbirds (9)

The sight and sounds are amazing.  Add it to a 60 degree day and I can almost breathe a sigh of relief but there’s still way too much snow.  Mud season has only reached my driveway.

 

Enough

150324 Sunrise

Sunrise this morning looks the same as most of the sunrises have for a while.  It was 9 degrees.  Yesterday’s high was 27.  The sap has yet to start running (other than possibly one afternoon last week) but everything is ready to go.  The snow has compressed some so the wind that has been blowing for the past few days is not whipping it into your face when you’re outdoors.

My chickens went on strike over the weekend.  At first I was worried they were eating their eggs but there was no evidence.  They are simply sick of the cold as well, I’m sure.  They started laying again yesterday, much to my relief.  I didn’t think I would worry about my birds as much as I have this past winter.

It feels as though I am in a state of suspended animation.  I know spring will get here but at the same time I wonder if it really will.  I’m waiting for the lamb part of March and we’re getting dangerously close to the end of its days without it really feeling like spring.  I haven’t even planned the garden.  I’ve been asked a few times these past few weeks what it will look like this year.  I have a vague idea because there will be some big changes this year but haven’t commit anything to paper.  Haven’t ordered my seeds, haven’t even checked out what I have.  Guess I should do a germination test on some.

I think today I’ll do that, get out the seed, draw out the plan, dream about summer.  The sun is brightly shining and quite possibly I could see some mud in the driveway before late afternoon. When I feed the chickens this morning I’ll close my eyes and listen to the birds singing their spring songs and dream about hummingbirds and orioles at my feeders.  With that I may even start some tomato seeds just to see something green growing, even if it’s only on the window sill.

Despite The Freezing Temps Spring Really Is Here

140303 CliviaI always know when spring is here – the Clivia blooms.  I would recommend this plant to anyone who truly believes they cannot grow anything – this plant thrives on total neglect.  Before writing this post I did a little research and read all about how to get your Clivia to blossom.  Cold temperature, no water, timing – yeah, I do none of that except forget to water it for most of the winter.  That and never, ever repot the thing.  This is the lazy man’s ultimate plant.

It sits on a table on the north side of the house.  I still think it blossoms when the days get longer, that’s all it’s waiting for.  It’s been in hibernation for the winter, like me, that’s probably why it’s not watered during that period.  It’s always the middle of February that I start to notice the days are getting longer and I give it a drink figuring it will notice too.  Like clockwork those orange blossoms open up the beginning of March – it knows.  That’s the beauty of having houseplants, they tell you spring is coming well before you think it is.  You see that new growth where there has been nothing for months.  The plants begin to demand your attention, they are telling you the seasons are changing.

Spring Has Begun

unnamedFor those of us now anxiously waiting for spring yesterday was not what we needed to see.  It snowed, it snowed like crazy.  Those torrential downpours you see in the summer?  Yeah, that’s what happened here only snow.  Six inches in less than three hours.  We just cleared away four or five in our yard on Sunday.  I’m just tired.  And cold.

This morning the sun was shining brightly, it was 18 degrees.  I opened the door to take Chester out for his walk and the first thing I noticed was birdsong.  Not just any birdsong but spring birdsong.  Robins, woodpeckers, chickadees all singing their spring twitterpated songs.  A robin was sitting on a branch of the cherry, a flicker was chipping away at an old maple in the backyard, cardinals were fighting over territory (there’s nothing more beautiful than cardinals in the snow).  Chickadees were singing their spring phoebe song.  Sigh, they know.  Even though there’s over two feet of snow in my yard today and most of the tree limbs are covered just hearing them makes me smile and think warm thoughts.

Time to stop listening to all of the bad weather hype and listen to the birds in your backyard, they’re telling you that spring is just about here.

130606 New Garden