Thursday, June 28, 2012

Long Days, Short Nights

This Spring, and the Summer so far have been incredibly tiring.  Not in the old fashioned, work outside in the fresh air until you drop sense, although there has been plenty of that as well.  The course of the year since February or March has taken a toll on our whole family and community.

I've started to call this "The Summer of Eternal Call," since JP has been the only provider at his 3 provider clinic since the beginning of May, and has been on call EVERY DAY since then.  He has been working more hours than normal all summer, but the last 3 weeks have been the worst...he has been gone for 11-12 hours a day.  That is wearing on me since I am dealing with 2 kids without schoolwork for that long on my own, plus managing the "Farm".  He is exhausted too, which makes him more short tempered and less fun to be around when he does get home.

Add this to the saga which I've mentioned previously, of 3 of our good friends being dismissed or not having their contracts renewed at the University.  That has caused a good deal of heartbreak and turmoil in our community.  Our good sized circle of close friends is shrinking rapidly, since these folks are headed to other areas.  They have been like family to our family for the past 7 or 8 years, with our children calling them "Aunt" and "Uncle", and being best buddies with their children.  Because of this sadness, I  have had a lot of sleepless or extremely late nights.  Last night was one of them.

The family with girls are leaving in a week, so we had a farewell pot luck in the park with everyone last night, trying to work this in around vacations, etc.  (This was a weekly summer ritual of our peeps - the pot luck in the park.)  The reality of the situation finally hit L on the way home.  She and E have been buddies since they first met at age 6 months or so.  Their birthdays are just one week apart, and they have been tight for 6 years...her whole life!  She wept the whole way home, mourning missed opportunities and the end of the way things have been. 

Their decision to leave this summer happened just a few weeks ago, and I am feeling the way I did when my friend passed away last year:  why didn't I drop every thing and spend more time with my friend?  What made whatever I was doing at the time so all encompassingly important?  And most of all, why didn't I learn last time?  Of course, this time it isn't permanent.  We'll still be able to talk, and carry on our friendship long distance.  We just won't, as L put it last night, "be able to go to their house and see Aunt K smiling and so happy to see us."  At least not as often.

Soon, I will face the same situation with another one of my friends, who is the most creative, amazing woman.  She helps me figure out how to fix things or arrange things or make things.  It was her idea, at her boys' Birthday party last week, to take pictures with this much fun and so cute!

So, with the lack of sleep, and a very heavy heart to boot, I am dragging through this summer.  I just realized yesterday that JP only has another week and a half until this Summer of Eternal Call should be over.  In addition, he was just mandated by the CEO to take a vacation, just at the same time as we were given an opportunity to join family at the beach.  It would be good to get away, to dodge reality for awhile, to sleep.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Poetry and Berry Picking

Last week, I walked around the ridge and picked about 2 pints of black raspberries.  They are not as plentiful and plump as last year, when I picked several gallons full.  There are still some languishing in my freezer, which I intend to turn into raspberry gelato with a new recipe from Cook's...more to come on that.  Last year, my right arm and hand became incredibly scratched and sore from my forages into the brambles, but there would always seem to be a lovely handful!

I heard a poem on NPR a couple of weeks ago about picking blackberries, which I enjoyed.  Although L asked if she could join me in picking today, she never made it out there.  Maybe some day, we will pick berries together and talk while we pick.

Blackberries for Amelia
-Richard Wilbur

Fringing the woods, the stone walls, and the lanes,
Old thickets everywhere have come alive,
Their new leaves reaching out in fans of five
From tangles overarched by this year's canes.

They have their flowers too, it being June,
And here or there in brambled dark-and-light
Are small, five-petaled blooms of chalky white,
As random-clustered and as loosely strewn

As the far stars, of which we now are told
That ever faster do they bolt away,
And that a night may come in which, some say
We shall have only blackness to behold.

I have no time for any change so great,
But I shall see the August weather spur
Berries to ripen where the flowers were—
Dark berries, savage-sweet and worth the wait—

And there will come the moment to be quick
And save some from the birds, and I shall need
Two pails, old clothes in which to stain and bleed,
And a grandchild to talk with while we pick.

Today, the picking was more like a stroll, where I would pause in my walk to pick a berry or two.  Most of the raspberries are dried up on the vines, but I found a lot of blackberries...and there will be more.  In the shadier areas, the berries were nicer and more plentiful, and if it weren't for the stickers, I would almost want to linger there.  It put me in mind of the Robert Frost poem, "Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Night."

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep./ But I have promises to keep./ And miles to go before I sleep,/ And miles to go before I sleep.

I must hurry off to work, since I have promises and miles yet today.  Enjoy this lovely day if you can:  the breeze is cool, the sky is blue and cloudless, and the sun is warm.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

To Tim* and Krish*

*Names have been changed to protect their identity

As I was in the kitchen this afternoon, mixing up a cooler full of iced tea, I thought back to all of the times over the past 6 or 7 years that I have taken my tea to Potluck Dinners in the Park, Parties at the homes of my friends, or shared it at various Parties, Play Groups or Cook Outs here on Poplar Ridge.  Most of my friends really like my tea, and it has been requested often.  I've even shared the recipe, but have been told that it "still doesn't taste like yours!" 

Soon, some of my dear friends are leaving our beautiful county for new adventures, which saddens me immensely.  I'll share the recipe again in the hopes that you will try it in your new homes, and think of me when you drink it.

I love you guys, and I can't imagine life in the 'Burg when you are gone.

T's "Famous" Ice Tea

This recipe makes about 1 gallon, more or less, of liquid refreshment.

Bring to a boil 2 quarts of water and 1 cup of sugar, stirring occaisionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat, stir in 8 tea bags (I use 5 decaf black, and 3 peppermint, or else a  big bunch of fresh garden mint).  Cover and let steep for 5 longer or it will begin to taste less "fresh".  Pour over 2 quarts of ice cubes and stir well.  For the best effect, serve in red solo cups, surrounded by people you love.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Adventures on Father's Day

My Dad requested that we take a little trip to the Big City for Father's Day.  We got on the train in a little town not too far away, and traveled through the rain.  We got off the train about 2 blocks from the restaurant he chose, and arrived there just in time for our previously scheduled reservations.

After lunch, we walked another 2 blocks to the Inclined Plane, and rode it to the top.

From up there, we had incredible views of the city gleaming below and the river running by.  We walked a block to an ice cream shop for a cool treat, then rode the Inclined Plane back down the slope.

We walked 2 blocks back to the train station, and rode through the rain again to where our van was parked, then drove back home.

It wasn't a huge outing, but we all had a good time, even though JP was feeling a bit queasy on the rocking and rolling train.  The girls said that it was one of the best Sundays EVER!

Happy Father's Day to two of the best Dads around.  I hope you felt loved and needed on your special day.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Multi Packs

Today is FINALLY our official last day of school.  Last week was pretty light, but we finished up everything, leaving this week free except for Writing Camp.  I still have to log the girls in every day though, since we are officially still in school.  When I logged in this morning, I received an invitation to L's Kindergarten "graduation" on line.  The invitation had a cute little poem on it about all the things they learned in Kindergarten, and how she would "see you next year for First Grade fun."

I got nauseated and teary, and had to talk myself down from a full blown panic attack.  Truly.  First baby is going into First Grade!

That's not what upset me so much though, it was the reminder that I won't have J with me next year.  This year has been really rough.  J and I have had a LOT of arguments about how school should or should not be done.  She has driven me crazy with her Math issues.  And yet...this will be something new for both of us, this going off to school thing, and it scares me a little bit.  It will finally force me to let her go, this child that I prayed to have as my own so many years ago.  Are you allowed to be teary eyed when you take your 4th Grader to school on the first day?

But, that's not what this post is about...

We have a busy day ahead of us.  The girls are finishing up the books they are writing in Writing Camp, then we are dashing off to Mingo for our last Homeschool Outdoor Classroom.  After that, I have a few things to return at Sam's Club, and a list of new things we need.

Still not what this post is about...

We have all been hooked on this video lately, a multi-pack of musicians sharing a guitar:

Not quite what this post is about...

See what we got in the mail yesterday from Amazon?  A rainbow of playground balls!

Four Square anyone?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Trappin' 'Coons

I had been suspecting that the raccoons were back on our back veranda several weeks ago.  There were little signs like debris in the kitty water-er that made me suspicious.  That was about a month ago...about the time our black kitty disappeared, although I doubt the raccoons had anything to do with that.

We have had trouble on and off with raccoons up here.  After all, we are out on the wild frontier, so to speak.  The first night we stayed in our new house, we didn't shut the garage door soon enough, and I caught a posse of them dumping over our trash can at dusk and strewing watermelon bits all over the place.  A couple of nights later, JP left his truck windows open a few inches, and one climbed in, went through the trash, and left muddy footprints all over the girls' car seats and the rest of the upholstery. 

When they get too annoying, we catch a few in the live trap, and that seems to solve the problem for awhile.  We did it last summer when they were pulling out the plants that my Mom spent all day planting in her flower beds.

Anyway, I was thinking about getting the live trap back out, but hadn't actually done it yet, when I discovered this mess one morning.  Yes, that's raccoon poo on my table!

I put the trap up that evening, baited with a $.25 can of kitty food from Big Lots, and as I mentioned in my last post, I caught the little bugger.  Here's the proof...look at his evil eyes!

Unfortunately, some idiot put the trap together wrong (that would be me) and he wrangled himself out through a space about 3 inches high.  I have set it every evening since then, and he keeps springing the trap.  This morning, I consulted my Dad, who was quite successful at catching both 'coons and our white kitty in the live trap last summer.  We rigged it up against a wall and between things that should keep it from being able to either spring the trap, or fish out chunks of tuna from between the bars like he did last night.

GRRRRR.  I want that 'coon OUTA HERE!

While I wasn't having unsuccessful trapping issues over the weekend, I planted some more things from my friend:  4 little evergreen trees.  These are intended to someday camouflage the propane tank, which was meant to be a temporary thing until they dug the 2 gas wells on our property and we got free natural gas.  Before that happened, they discovered the Marcellus gas deposits in our corner of the world, and the shallow drilling guys gave up their leases in favor of the deep drilling folks.   So, we are stuck with the big, Ugly propane tank in our yard.  It is conveniently located right as you pull up our driveway in front of our house...adds tremendously to our "curb appeal".

For the past 2 years, I have been planting butterfly bushes around the tank, but the soil there is terrible.  It is immensely compacted from all of the equipment driving over it both in building the house, and in burying water, electric and gas lines, which all go into the house in that general vicinity.  JP suggested that I use the broad fork to loosen the soil before digging holes for the trees, but even jumping up and down on the thing, I could only get the forks about 2 inches deep.  JP worked at it for a long time, and finally got 4 areas loosened up.  It took most of the day to get the trees planted, and my 2 1/2 pitiful butterfly bushes moved.  In the process, I realized that I really should power wash the big, Ugly propane tank...another project to add to my list!

This evening, though, I'm focusing on trappin' 'coons.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gardening Therapy

This evening I am writing through a veil of grief.  Please forgive me if I ramble, or don't make sense, or sound just plain crazy.  Just plain crazy is part of my problem anyway, so really it is just magnified at the moment.

I wrote earlier how two friends were dealt an unfair blow at work, and were laid off....just found out this week that yet another friend fell into the same predicament.  The following day, I learned that one family was moving a year earlier than first anticipated.  This means that 2 of my dear friends will be leaving this summer, and another will be following at some point.  This also means that my daughters' buddies, and my husband's guy friends are shipping out too.

Our whole family has been incredibly lucky to be part of an amazing community of good people for many years.  We have many similar interests, a wide variety of backgrounds, and all of our kids are around the same age.  We eat together, shop together, play soccer together, have sleep-overs and birthday parties and laugh and cry together.  I've never experienced anything so special before in my life.

So, yeah, my heart is broken, and I'm finding it hard at the moment to find reasons to be happy...even for my lovely girls and husband.  I'm also extremely the point that I would really like to cause pain to the individual responsible for all this trouble.

A few months ago, I found short lived relief by chopping kindling and pretending it was the evil man's head.  This afternoon, at my friend's request, I dug several of her plants out of her flower beds:  Lavender, Roses, Sea Holly, Lillies, a Lingonberry Bush.  I really can't think of a better way to remember her...her gardens and flowers are such a big part of who she is.

Later on, I dug holes, and weeded and mulched at my home, working these previously loved plants into new homes in my flower beds and orchard.  I listened to crazy things on my iPod:  Pink, Gym Class Heroes, Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Buffet, Regina Spektor.  I sang along at the top of my voice.  I yelled.  I cried.  I acted crazy.  I think my parents may have been checking the back of the closet for the straight jacket.

Some things are too big and too bitter to swallow right away.  Right now, I'm choking.  

In the meantime, life goes on.  I just heard the live trap snap shut and confirmed that I caught the 'coon that ransacked my back porch last night.  I'll deal with him in the morning.

So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways...
...So come on and come on and raise your glass...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Still in School

I thought about spending the day feeling sorry for myself that we still have school for 2 more weeks, EVEN THOUGH we had our end of the year picnic at our favorite park last Friday in the rain, and EVEN THOUGH the public schools are finished as of 10 AM Friday.  But I didn't.  Sometimes a pity party feels I had a long list of things I wanted to accomplish.  I did pretty well!

The girls spent part of the morning at the local University at a "Reading Camp".  When I picked them up at noon, J told me it was more about Pirates than reading, but she had fun any way.  It's free, I'm marking them down for Language Arts hours, and I get an hour to myself every morning for the next 2 weeks.  Seems like a win-win situation to me!

We are trying to moderate our work weekends this summer.  If we put in a full day on Saturday, we take a break (for several hours at least) to do something relaxing as a family on Sunday.  I spent a couple of hours Saturday morning weeding and mulching flower beds at my friend's mother's place.  I also managed, with my Mom's help, to get the shallots and onions weeded and mulched in the garden.  Sunday evening, we took time to watch "We Bought a Zoo"...very fun movie.

This afternoon, we finished planting corn, and squeezed in a few marigolds and melons too.  I am all done planting now, except for the Borage, that I will plant with the tomatoes (once I get the cages in!)  There are 4 beds of corn to mulch, and the lettuces/radishes/spinach need to be weeded, thinned, and a second planting of radishes put in, and the potatoes to weed and mulch.  It's getting there!

The girls recently decided that they were tiring of the Rubber Ducky theme in their bathroom, and have decided on a more grown up theme of Dolphins/Under the Sea.  I have now removed all of the duckies from the bathroom, except for the nightlight, and moved about half of the fishes down from the upstairs bathroom, which will also be taking on a more neutral, grown up feel.  I'll post pictures when we are finished with the switcheroo.

I did take a picture of the newest flower in my perennial bed, a perennial Sweet Pea.  I found a fun peacock trellis for it to climb, and it just started blooming this weekend.  Sadly, the flowers are not scented...I was looking forward to smelling the Sweet Peas!

Well, I didn't finish everything on my list today, but I'm OK with that!  There's always tomorrow.  We will finish up the last few required lessons after Reading Camp and lunch this week, which means next week will be smooth sailing.  Soon I'll be packing up books, and supplies (including a computer and printer this year) to send back in to K12, and the true Summer Break will unfold before us.  Ahhh...the luxury...