Saturday, April 26, 2014


What a title for a post, eh?  I'll explain...

It is beautiful outside this morning, blue skies, slight breeze, everything is greening and budding.  I should be feeling pretty good about life right about now.  Instead I have been increasingly discouraged about my future this week.  I guess this is a feeling that has been growing incrementally over the past 3 or 4 years, as the ever abundant Marcellus shale drilling for natural gas encroaches my own corner of paradise. 

It has become uncomfortably close in the past month, with pipelines creeping across the ridge that we see from our deck.

Just about every hilltop that I pass by while driving anywhere lately, seems to have been cleared and flattened for pipelines, or wells or coal mines.  It seems as though the land around here is being environmentally raped in order to get at anything it has to offer below the surface.

There is a pumping station and 12 wells going in just up the road from us, which means more and more huge trucks are barrelling down our little country roads, and endangering the residents that drive here.  It means more light and more noise and more giant machines to push around the ground and knock down trees.  It also means that the tiny one lane bridge about 1.5 miles down the road in the other direction needs to be updated and enlarged in order to accommodate said trucks.  It will close on Monday for the repairs, and will be closed until July.

This little bridge is the link between myself - out here in the boon-docks - and town, between myself and my work, the grocery store, the library, and of course, my friends.  We will have to drive an extra 15-20 minutes to get anywhere, meaning that I cannot "run in to the store" any more, I will have to calculate an hour's driving time all together!

It is not the end of the world, but it is disheartening.  The plundering is coming so close to home, that it is hard to ignore any longer.  I am struggling to make my homestead beautiful and productive and self sufficient, while all around me enormous pipelines snake across the treeless hilltops.  It is now my turn, like so many other residents of this little town, to be inconvenienced for the sake of the big bucks that these gas wells will be pulling in.

On a more personal note, I am discouraged by the fact that my chronic back and hip pain is flared at the moment, probably because I've been working in the gardens lately.  It has been nagging for nearly a year now, and was only partially improved by the 6 weeks of PT that I undertook in the Fall.  I would love to take a nice, long nap, and wake up to find the woods grown back, the skies quiet without the eternal growl of land-movers, and my hip free of pain.

In the meantime, I am really trying to take pleasure in the small things...the sun dappled Mayapples, the flowers blooming in my gardens, the tiny yellow goldfinches at my bird feeders, and the happy chatter of the girls, who spend all day outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  Perhaps I just need an attitude adjustment, and not an environmental crusade.  I wonder which one is more difficult to undertake?

This Lenten Rose has 18 blooms on it!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Weekend

We had a lovely (and way too short) Easter Break.  We lost a day and a half due to snow days in Jan. & Feb, so the girls just had a half day on Thursday, then Good Friday off.  We were really in need of a break right about now, so it was perfect...and completely packed full of activity!

Good friends were in from NJ over the weekend, so the girls had the chance to play with them on Friday afternoon, and I got to get together with my Peeps while the husbands and half the kids were at a Pirates game Friday night.  We had strawberry daiquiris and pizza and curled up under blankets to discuss deep thoughts while the other half of the kids watched a movie downstairs.

On Saturday afternoon, the whole gang came up to Poplar Ridge for a potluck.  8 adults, 11 kids, lots of great food (we enjoyed the noodles, R!), 4 Square and P-I-G games, wine, tea, s'mores, etc, etc.  The kids were up and down from the tree house, climbing on trees and trailers and dirt piles, and in general having a great time.  The men built a fire and played games while the women curled up under blankets on the veranda and discussed more deep thoughts.

After the youngest of the children began nodding off, the families began heading home.  JP winked at me and said "Do we know how to throw a party, or WHAT?"  As always, it was wonderful. 

Once breakfast was over, the girls looked through their Easter Baskets, and took bubbles outside to play.  The sky was a deep blue, the girls were still in their jammies, and they leaped and danced to catch the rainbow bubbles.

Later, after a big meal with my parents, the girls hunted for Easter eggs in the front yard.

For the first time, L found more eggs than her older sister!

This evening, we are preparing to return to school and work in the morning.  All of us are wishing we could have that extra day off tomorrow that was on the original school calendar.  Sigh.  We certainly were not enjoying those days off back in the deep freeze of winter! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dust Bunnies

Right now I feel about as big and ineffectual as the dust bunnies that were creeping out from under the furniture yesterday.

They are back in hiding today, as the windows are closed.  It has been snowing since 10:00 this morning.  It doesn't do much for one's drive when it is grey and cold and snowing in April.

If you look closely, you can see snow blowing at the top of this picture!

Despite the weather, my day went pretty smoothly until it was time to pick the girls up at school.  It is a madhouse up there at pick-up and drop-off times...too many vehicles and not enough parking spaces, and buses and kids all over the place.  I turned in to a parking area where I saw a couple of open spaces up ahead, and then waited behind 3 or 4 other cars which were waiting to turn out.  I noticed that a women in a parking space on my left was trying to pull out, so I pulled as far to the right as I could go to give her room.  She pulled part way out, and then began pounding on the steering wheel, yelling and pointing her finger at me.  I opened my window, "Excuse me..."  I began.

"You have GOT to get the H&*% out of here!"  She screamed.

"I am trying to get to a parking space."  I told her.

"There ARE no f*$#ing parking spaces!"  She shouted, and lurched forward in her car.  I was afraid that she was going to hit  my car, but she managed to maneuver her way out, cursing the entire time.

I was shaking as I signed to get the girls released to my care, so I stuck my fists in my pockets as we walked back to the car.  J was grumpy because I told her to put her coat on, and slammed the car door.  I calmly told her that was not acceptable behavior and doled out punishment.  She flipped out.  I turned the radio up.  Both girls complained that 1) They would have to wait until we got home to get a snack, and 2) They didn't want a snack from home - there was NOTHING good to eat there.

As we turned on to the interstate to head home, I took a deep breath to try again to calm my trembling, and asked how their days were.  L said "Long." and promptly fell asleep.  She snored gently the rest of the ride home.

J talked a bit about her opera in Music class, which apparently didn't go well as she was the only one who knew her lines.  I asked her several questions about it, and she would sigh and roll her eyes, and began to get testy and raise her voice.  "You know what?"  I said, tearing up.  "I'm just trying to talk to you and have a pleasant conversation.  You are being rude and really hurting my feelings."

So...I feel like a fluffy dust ball.  Nobody really wants them around, they are dirty and good for nothing, and they hide under the furniture all winter long.  I'm crawling back under the sofa now, and I'm waiting for better weather and moods before I come out again!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cheshire Bird

Miss J Bird has glow-in-the-dark bands on her braces at the moment.

It makes bed time that much stranger!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Green Egg & Ham

I have spent a lot of time indoors this week, finishing up a couple of projects.  One was helping Mom to create a photobook of their house building project (and I made a small one of my own of our Williamsburg trip!)

Another was finishing projects that Dad has been working on.  He made 3 new oak shelves for our built in shelving unit in the Great Room for DVD's.  I stained and sealed them, and then the whole family worked to install them and rearrange DVD's.  The girls' job was to alphabetize (heh, work, and they didn't even realize it!)

The last project was to paint and varnish the "Ham."  It is the grill table into which we have installed JP's ceramic grill, the "Big Green Egg."  This table began life as a buffet/storage table that we picked up on clearance at Big Lots.

After we acquired the "Big Green Egg", about 3 years ago, the table had been moved to the veranda to be re-purposed as a potting table or grill table.  JP cut a hole in the butcher block wood top for the grill to go into, and we tore out the drawers and most of the internal support system in preparation for installing the grill.  That project, however, stalled right there, and the table has been sitting back there with grilling implements stacked all over it.  We put a piece of plywood and a tablecloth over it when we have picnics out back.  Finally, we put Dad on the job, knowing that he would be able to create a durable and useful table again.

After all of his work, two coats of paint, and 4 coats of exterior varnish on the table top, this is what we have on the veranda today.  Dad calls it a "Ham", since it goes with green eggs.

Our gas grill looks shabby and filthy next to it!

Mom and I finally got out into the garden on Thursday.  I loosened up the soil in 2 beds with the broadfork, and hauled 6 wheelbarrows full of compost that we worked in.  They have now been planted with peas, spinach and lettuce.

Yesterday, Mom, the girls and I went back out.  JP helped too, and we got 4 more beds loosened with the broadfork, and I have added compost to 2 of them.  Mom began planting carrots and parsnips in one.  2 more are ready to plant potatoes.  We got a good rain on Friday, which should have been lovely for the peas.  I hope to get the taters and the rest of the root crops - beets and radishes - planted on Monday before it rains again.

The girls have been asking to have their own guns, so JP bought Red Ryder BB guns for both of the girls and taught them to shoot with them yesterday.  They spent a lot of time shooting the surrounding trees, posts and dirt piles.

This AM I checked the hens for lice for a final time.  I am happy to report that they are all louse-free! 

We have been washing windows and screens, and little by little, getting the screens put back in so that we can open up the house and fill it up with this delicious, Spring air.  The only drawback is that the dust bunnies, that have been hiding out underneath the furniture are being flushed out by the breezes, and have been scampering across the floors all morning.

Spring has finally arrived at Poplar Ridge...just in the nick of time!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Spring Down South

We returned Sunday night from a short escape to the South.  JP had a conference to attend in Williamsburg, VA, so the rest of us went along for an "Educational Leave" (aka Spring Break, since ours was spent in the snow in Jan/Feb.)

When we left our corner of PA, the crocuses were blooming, and the temps were milder, but the grass was still brown and dry.  We actually had two small grass fires in the prior week - one near the wood burner, and one by the incinerator.  It was pouring rain when we pulled out of our driveway.

There's a Primrose coming up too!

Down South, it was full on Spring.  The trees were blooming, with tiny green leaves sprouting, and many Spring flowers were in bloom as well.  The days were sunny, with temperatures in the 70's and near 80...things we haven't seen at home since November! 

We stopped at our favorite "Museum" on our way South, the Frontier Museum in Staunton, VA.  We didn't have long to visit before it closed for the day, but we visited the English and German farms, as well as the Irish Blacksmith's shop, the 1800 American school house and farm, the 1700 log cabin, and the Native American village.

Playing a game at the
Native American
Writing on slates in the
School House

Twisting linen at the English Farm
Playing the German scheitholt
In Williamsburg, the conference was held at a Great Wolf Lodge, which almost outdoes itself in amenities and activities for kids.  The girls spent hours and hours in the indoor water park.  I was suffering through the particularly nasty cold that JP had the week before, so I was relieved that the girls are finally at the age that I could trust them to be off on their own.  I spent a lot of time in the 21 and over hot tub, and reading in a deck chair, while they had the run of the place.  I figured that the famous pacing life guards of Great Wolf Lodge had their backs as well!

On a particularly lovely day, we bit the bullet and bought the extremely pricey tickets to visit Colonial Williamsburg.  I was worried that the girls would whine the whole time, since they wanted to be back at the water park, but we had a very enjoyable (although tiring) day.  We visited multiple sites around Colonial Williamsburg, and spoke to several interpreters.  The girls enjoyed collecting punches on their maps from different sites that we visited, in order to win a souvenir pin.

Near the Governor's Mansion
In handcuffs
Gunpowder stores
at the Magazine
The Public Gaol
The Wigmaker's Shop
We arrived home to more chilly temperatures and more rain.  However, in our absence, the grass has begun to green up, and some more of my flowers have bloomed, including the Lenten Roses and Hyacinths.

It is so good to be home!  I am finally feeling better, but now poor L seems to be the next victim of the Raging Virus.  JP and myself are recovering from inadequate sleep in a Hotel bed, and from the loss of L's special blanket, and one of our pillow cases during a visit by Housekeeping.  Once the rain lets up, I need to head to the garden!