Back Forty, Reading

Winter Storm Diego

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Click through if you’re interested in the video.

This is the quince tree in my next door neighbor’s yard. I’ve always gathered them, for the smell if nothing else, because nobody over there ever wanted them. I hope that will continue to be true once the new owners move in. Their contractor is talking about building an addition so it would be a shame if this old quince tree was cut down. It produced a bumper crop this year.

I’m going to make some quince chutney.

When I took this video an hour ago it had snowed eleven inches and it is still snowing, with wind. Icing on top expected tonight.

Finished “What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty and starting on “Close Range” by Annie Proulx, one of my favorite writers. “What Alice Forgot” was pretty good. I was impatient with the first half. Everything came together and the characters became much more complex in the second half. I believe that was the point – how people see things differently from their own perspective, how people change in response to stress, how communication can break down when you’re too wrapped up in your own drama to understand that others are dealing with problems too. I’m childless by choice, so I didn’t relate to the whole infertility and busy soccer mom thing, but I did relate to how people deal with mental illness and grief on their own. I know how it is to lose a good friend. I know how it is to be dumped, or ignored because others are busy or don’t understand how to deal with you. I know how it is to be the person who dumps others because she can’t handle everything that is happening to herself and being with others is exhausting. So in the end, I recommend this book, even though I skipped parts of the first half.

Woodstove going, and we still have power.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, fiber art, Permaculture, Slow cloth

Sunday midday coffee pot post

Sandy noticed this first – look what the Virginia creeper vine snagged from my rock collection at the front steps. Normally I would tear this vine down after it loses its pretty red leaves but I’m going to see how long it holds on to its booty. Love those little feet. I’ve made random weave baskets from Virginia creeper vine before.

This week has been fraught with emotions, since one of our students became so sick with anxiety that she had to drop out. Not only was it very sad, but I empathized so much. How many times did I think that this might be the time I would not be able to push through and get back to functional life? But I have, and I am grateful for it. When I was this student’s age, I self-medicated with lots of alcohol. That was not a good solution and not one that I choose these days. I know that I could not have gotten through graduate school at that age, despite having the smarts for it. However, I am in a good mood this weekend, so I hope that it is a permanent lift.

The t-shirt quilt hit a snag, quite literally. I think that I will get my Brother machine back out and see if it winds a Singer bobbin. My goal is to get all these panels put together somehow by the end of the day, even if it means with pins and hand basting. I want my floor loom and worktable free for other projects.

There are too many distractions here and I need to focus. I need a cook and a maid! We are getting caught up on house cleaning little by little. Sandy subscribed to one of those meal prep services that come by mail. If it will teach him to cook and he takes over some of that it might be worth it. We’ll see. I’m picky about the sources of my food but this is his expense and something he decided to do on his own, and I grew weary of cooking a long time ago.

Yesterday was a beautiful day after so much rain and I got into the garden and worked for a couple of hours, taking lots of breaks so that I don’t overdo it and undo my physical healing after many days of inactivity. I’ve gained several more pounds from my retreat to bed every night and eating too many sweets and peanut butter.

I pulled up all the tomato, squash, weeds, and annuals from the “permaculture” bed as I think of it. The guy who designed it intended for it to be heart-shaped. I think it looks vaguely like a heart, but more like a womb, which seems fitting. I didn’t plant it with permaculture principles in mind, though, and this year will be different. I’m going to keep those groundhogs in mind, and plant the womb with perennials and biennials and self seeding plants. I already have asparagus, elephant garlic, foxgloves and one artichoke there, along with a few plants that may or may not make it through the winter such as stevia. I have plants in the hugelkultur bed in the front such as hollyhock, evening primrose, coreopsis, and mints that I will move to the womb. And I will leave the the dandelions alone from here on out. They are important plants in the garden, pulling up nutrients from deep under the surface, breaking up the soil, edible, and food for the pollinators when not a lot of other flowers are available. (Although we have an enormous quantity of violets available as well.)

As I move these perennials out, a few will remain in my reconstructed hugelkultur bed. I am building it up and outwards where the potted plants were this year into a tiered bed for my culinary herbs, mostly. I’ll leave one hollyhock and a few taller flowers at the back. I have a pile of bricks that came from the chimney that fell down at the pre-Civil War homeplace at the family farm, and I decided to use them to make the terraces. I love objects with a story.

Everything will require more fertilizer this year. The few vegetable plants that survived the groundhogs suffered from blossom end rot. I’m going to get that greenhouse set up again soon. I’ve sent an email to ask to rent a plot at UNCG community garden again for my beans and okra. Hopefully they don’t have a groundhog problem there yet.

Thanksgiving is coming up and as usual we will celebrate Buy Nothing Day on Black Friday. We will drive to Lake Waccamaw and get together with my sister at her rental house if all goes well. It will be sad to drive along Canal Cove Road but we will check out the scene there. Lisa is still mulling over whether to replace the walls in her house and sell it or sell it as is. I heard that the house where we stay and love is irreparably damaged and will be torn down. My brother and his wife will probably join us for a meal on Saturday. I’m going to make my usual asparagus-mushroom-almond casserole.

Man, my Internet connection at home has been SO SLOW lately. I don’t know why, so I’ll just blame it on the oligarchy. Maybe when my electrical work gets done it will improve. They are going to replace everything from the pole to the house and some of the wiring in the attic in mid-December in preparation for our twelve solar panels. Right now it is driving me crazy as I try to upload photos. I received notice that Flickr is going to start charging me fifty bucks a year for photo storage, and I feel rather helpless to do anything but pay it since I have over 10k photos and videos on it. It would take an enormous amount of work to quit Flickr without most of my photos on the blog disappearing. Oh well. At some point I may have to stop paying the fee to not have ads on the blog to make up for it.

Time to sew.

Back Forty, coffee pot posts, critters, fiber art, Quilting, Reading

Say goodbye to vineland

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I got a lot accomplished on the t-shirt quilt yesterday despite not being able to get the tension adjusted just right on my sewing machine. I complain about this machine, but the truth is it has done a lot of very heavy duty work that it was not built to do, so I should probably show it some gratitude considering all the denim it sewed a couple of years ago. One thing is for sure – I am not going to attempt a project this large again unless I have the workspace and machine for it. Getting down and crawling around on the floor is not a great activity for my joints.

However, all the pieces are joined and I have one panel that I need to put the batting between, another that needs quilting (I’m just doing vertical lines) and the bindings and strips between the panels put in place. At this pace, Diego will be throwing up on this quilt on the bed by Christmas.

Diego was sick last night and kept me up for most of it, because he most wants to cuddle when he feels bad. He has a cranky stomach and I’ve switched them to grain-free food, which helped a lot. He and Pablocito both have a demented taste for plastic and who knows what leaf blown onto the porch he may have decided to munch on. Pablocito likes to eat spider webs but he is never sick. Diego was playing with Pablocito last night before he started puking and he seems better this morning so I don’t think I’ll need to take him to the vet. The two of them playing nicely is unusual too. Why do cats always get sick on weekends?

I am pretty sure that this is coincidence, but Diego smelled SO BAD last night. Like death, rot, shit, swamp, and skunk rolled together. Seriously the worst funk ever. This is not the first time he has smelled this way and when I mentioned it to the vet the last time I took him in she agreed that it was probably him expressing his anal glands. I had to take Theo to the vet twice a year for them to do his. To my huge surprise, this morning he does not smell at all. The pillowcase and pillow where he slept smells a little so I know it was not my imagination.

So I took the pillows off the bed except for mine and the one Pablocito was sleeping on last night. I woke up with Diego on Pablocito’s pillow and Pablocito sleeping on my pillow above my head. This drove me crazy when Theo did it but Pablocito is so still and quiet that it was pleasant to find him there. He likes to be close but he is definitely not a lap cat. In this sense he is more like Guido than any other cat that I’ve had, even though Diego looks like Guido. Right now he is winding around my legs meowing, marking every corner with the side of his head, and occasionally having to be yelled at for scratching on the t-shirt quilt. I have the panels draped over the loom and he has claimed that space for one of his many hidey-holes.

Reading “The Probable Future” by Alice Hoffman right now. I love Alice Hoffman, but I space her books out enough that I haven’t kept up with her writing, unlike some other authors I follow. This one has given me some bad dreams, but that seems to be the case with almost anything I read or watch these days.

I’ve asked Sandy not to watch TV or movies with a lot of screaming, explosions, and gunfire after I’ve gone to bed. He loves his horror, blood and gore. He was into zombies before zombies were a big fad.

Today I want to watch the season finale of “Better Call Saul,” which is my current favorite show. We are watching “3rd Rock From the Sun” again from the beginning – it is such a hoot. I’m a big fan of slapstick silly, which you may have guessed from the name of this blog.

It is very windy and chilly outside so I guess today is really the first day of autumn. We were planning to clean up the Back Forty this weekend but I doubt that will happen now. The cheese pumpkin and tromboncino squash vines nearly covered the whole back yard! Can you imagine what it might have been like if they had been fertilized? Well, my plan for this winter is to get the garden properly fertilized with compost and organic fertilizer for the spring. So all this mess, except for the perennial herbs and flowers, will come out soon. There will be many foxgloves and I will move the rest of the mint back here; anything that I’ve noticed that the groundhogs don’t like to eat. I hope that I will get enough sun in the afternoon to plant another bed in the area where the maple tree had cast shade.

The cheese pumpkin vine monster has almost taken over the Back Forty at the end of the season.

Say goodbye to vineland.

augggghhhh, Back Forty, coffee pot posts, depression/anxiety, Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina

Saturday morning coffee pot post

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Because we all need cute kitty photos right now.

Hey y’all. I fully intend to work on finishing the travelogue during the next few days. I need to do it because many of my memory cells for details left with my estrogen a few years ago, and that’s one of the reasons I love to document my trips – to revisit them later.

Right now, I am, as most women are in this nation, gobsmacked over the proceedings in Washington, D.C. This one hit so much more personally than other sexual assault or harassment accounts because of the age of Dr. Ford and most of all, the fear factor. I’m repeatedly revisiting an episode in my life that I do not want to think about at all. So many of us are.

The other MAJOR thing that shell-shocked my sister and me this week was somewhat expected, but it is a little like when you have an elderly loved one that has arthritis and other health issues but has powered through many difficulties, and then that loved one meets with an accident and dies. My sister’s home and the house that my grandfather built at Lake Waccamaw are going to be demolished due to the flooding from Hurricane Florence.

Therefore, I am processing grief about my sister and brother-in-law’s loss and I am processing grief about losing the place where I go to process grief. I don’t know yet whether houses will be rebuilt on the sites. My sister had good flood insurance and the FEMA agent was very encouraging about them recovering their financial loss. The other house has never had insurance. We are all reeling.

I haven’t heard from my brother in Lumberton. I haven’t heard from Weezer. I’m not sure that I can talk about it with her yet now that my tears have started. I have always been a place person. I’m not even over selling Mama’s house yet. I will write further about Lake Waccamaw later when I have more information. I, I, I. Yes, I’m aware of all the I’s I am using. I’m aware of the other suffering in the world that is greater than mine.

In addition, there is hypocrisy and drama and devious game playing at my workplace again, despite the efforts of some to bring a unified consensus about who might be our next department head. I’m just praying that it won’t be the same kind of shitshow that happened almost four years ago. My workplace used to have a really great collegial atmosphere except for the usual couple of irredeemable curmudgeons found in every organization, but I have seen a side of people that makes me disgusted and puzzled and exhausted and unsure of what people think of me. I don’t have any faith in the higher administrators. Thank God I can close my office door, play some music and get my work done, and dream about retirement.

So there you have it. My venting is done.

There is a pumpkin in the Back Forty that I’m going to go cut off the vine and bring in. Pablocito is purring on this table – he would be directly behind the laptop if my sewing machine wasn’t there. Diego showed some spunk this morning and raced back and forth through the house and out to the porch and back. There are butterbeans to be shelled and tomatoes to be cooked into sauce.

I’m going to research small RVs and RV camping for beginners. I was planning to buy a cheap camper van from a neighbor when I got back from our big trip but I don’t think that I will now.

Solar panel installation financing has been approved but I have to find some paperwork and it may take longer to get done that I anticipated. There will have to be some rewiring in the attic, and I hope to get this done at the same time.

Next weekend I am going to the Talk Story retreat in Stamford, Connecticut to take a 2-day class with Sharon Payne Bolton and that will be a very welcome stress reliever! I took a class with her several years ago in California and it was a wonderful experience. If you ever have a chance to go to one of these events, I highly recommend it. It is a great choice for a first art retreat, although it may addict you. (This retreat was known as Art is You, but they are reorganizing and renaming it.)

Back to the travelogue, which I will backdate once I finish the series.

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Back Forty, butterbeans, coffee pot posts, critters, Greensboro North Carolina, Lake Waccamaw

Saturday Morning Coffee Pot post

Before I start the series of posts about our trip to Idaho and Wyoming, I need to sweep out my brain of the things unrelated to that first. So I made a second pot of coffee.

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Looking at the remnants of Florence from the air.

First off, we were not affected here at my house in Greensboro by Hurricane Florence. There is some flooding in the Greensboro area, but our housesitter kindly put a tarp on our outside basement door and sandbagged it for us, as well as securing the stuff on the front porch and the yard. We have a damp basement but it did not flood, and not even many limbs down since we had the large maple tree taken down a few weeks ago. Good timing that, and one reason I wanted it done before hurricane season began.

Lake Waccamaw is a whole different story. It took a direct hit. We won’t know the full extent of the damage for a while yet because the houses that belong to our family are on Canal Cove Road where the lake has merged with the canal and swamp behind it. Not only does that mean that there is 2-4 feet of water inside those houses, but that there are trees down under the water and alligators and cottonmouths and mats of fire ants enjoying a new range. My sister and brother-in-law prepped as best they could for several days and evacuated to Chapel Hill, where fortunately they had not sold their house yet. They know that the pier may be wiped out and the pontoon boat came loose and has been floating around bashing into stuff. Her furniture including antiques from my mother’s house are almost certainly ruined. The pier is not insured. The house and boat are, although the boat is really old and not worth that much. Fred and Weezer’s house, where we love to stay and I have written about many, many times, is underwater, as it was during Hurricane Floyd.

I have not heard from my brother in Lumberton, but he is not on the side of town that floods. My cousins are. I talked to him on Friday and they were hunkered down. I think that the main concern for him will be the farm. It backs up to Ashpole Swamp which backs up to the Lumber River near Fair Bluff. He leases most of the acreage but raises a few cows. It is beloved place for him, as the lake is for me.

So. I will update when I know more. Waters were still rising down east the last time I checked, and hopefully they will crest and go down soon. After Floyd it took two weeks before the roads were passable and Florence was worse.

The tomatoes and basil were looking rough, and what figs ripened seem to have been eaten by birds and ants. I cut the basil back hard and will make pesto and freeze it in an ice tray for cubes of flavor during this winter. I harvested two huge trombincino squash and one is actually a little past its prime. We’ll see whether it is just as good with a good peeling. The cheese pumpkin doesn’t seem to have been attacked by critters (fingers crossed). The vines have taken over our small back yard and would be producing like crazy but the fruit is rotting on the vine at a very young stage. I suppose this is blossom rot and will amend the soil if I plant these again. I have a new small crop of butterbeans and some banana peppers. A monarch butterfly laid eggs on a variety of milkweed I planted and the caterpillars have eaten up the plants. I don’t know what they will do now. I hope that they eat other plants. I collected seeds and will replant more next year. (I didn’t even know that these flowers were a variety of milkweed!)

Our application to install solar panels on the roof has been approved. We are waiting to make an appointment for a site visit. I know that some extra rewiring will need to be done in the attic first, and I’m hoping the same company can do it.

We came back from our wonderful vacation and went straight to work the next day, so it took a while for me to catch up on work, laundry, groceries, garden, and personal emails. Sandy is working again today and so I will have uninterrupted time to blog about our trip, if you are fond of my travelogues.

Also, as usual, I hope to get back to weaving this weekend. I have a frame loom waiting to be warped for a fringeless tapestry, and loads of inspiration.