Thursday, September 13, 2018

Up and down the road - 2018

On May 7, 2013 I wrote a post titled "Up and down the road 2013." I expected this would become a little series of writings with the title changing only with the year. Well, we all know what happened in 2013, 2014, and 2015! Not only have I not done any posts about my walks, I haven't really done any walking. I did walk in 2014 with Hazel in the front pack up in the woods where we logged, but really hardly any since then. I thought today that this would be a good activity to begin now that I have a little more time. I need to build up my endurance and my breath. I don't have to go to a gym or a walking path. I can just go out the door, and I really mean to do so unless the weather is terrible. And I am going to use the blog to keep me honest! Maybe I'll write once a week with photos from each day.

I walked today for 30 minutes. 12:08-12:38 pm. (Just 'cause I thought it would be fun to see when I walk)

This is Maybelline, one of the Shetland sheep we got in 2014. 

And Nebby. Her story is here

What I call fall dandelions.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

A milestone

According to the dictionary, a milestone is an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development. Well, that's what yesterday was for Nana.

We've been taking care of Hazel Nina while Margaret worked for over four years. For a year she was here for four days a week, and the other three years she has been here every Tuesday and Friday. We see her at other times but those days it has been just Pop, Hazel, and me.

This is a picture from the spring of 2014 when we began taking care of her. So tiny, so precious.

This year of Pre-K, Margaret had her go three full days, and one half day, and has now decided to make the half day a full day. Hazel's doing well and loving school. Yesterday was our first Tuesday without her and it was so strange. You might expect that Nana had quite a good cry. It just doesn't seem possible that the time has passed so quickly. She has grown into the dearest little girl.

I put this picture of my desk

 on Instagram last Friday with these words:
What my desk was like when Hazel went home today. Her imagination is remarkable. She takes totally unrelated items and builds a whole world. hashtag lucky grandparents.
Here is a little movie of her playing.

I am thankful beyond words that I have had the honor, the privilege, the gift of taking care of this little girl. There isn't a day goes by when I don't think about how very different it could have been. If you don't know Margaret and Hazel's story, you may find it here - I just re-read the post and all the wonderful comments. I never replied but they meant the world to me.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Today's pictures/Weeks ten and eleven CSA flowers - 2018

Last week's flowers were again in my mother's vase, and that Wednesday would have been her 105th birthday.

This week, it was too hot for me to carry the flowers outdoors and take a picture.

I'm wild about the love-lies-bleeding (amaranth). Basil this week!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Today's picture - The granddaughter's first day of preschool

Margaret took this photo. I'm fond of the black and white.

This is really Hazel's second year of preschool. Our town elementary school offers free pre-Kindergarten, which is wonderful. Hazel's teacher went to this same school, as did Margaret and Matthew. They are all great friends, and the teacher, Ms Abbie, sent this photo to Margaret on the first day.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Stillmeadow - August

Gladys Taber begins the month in her wonderful philosophical way. She remembers a covered bridge when they first moved to Stillmeadow. It was in quite bad shape.
It was narrow and rickety and set at right angles to the road on either side, so that getting across safely and into Seymour to shop was a delirious adventure. You just never knew. Maybe this time someone would be coming in as you turned out. The old boards rattled, the bridge shook slightly. But how I grieved when the bridge was torn down! ... Even crossing it in a car, you could imagine driving over behind a pair of horses, clop-clop-clop-clop. You could imagine all the people who had crossed this river in long-gone days. It was like opening an old book for a moment and looking into yesterday.
Are there covered bridges all over the US (the world?)? Around here they are kept up quite well, and are still used. They are so special. The wood, the darkness, the sound. When I was a kid, I made a wish whenever I went through one, and actually still do!

Some writers would leave the subject right there, but not Gladys. She goes on to say
There is always something sad about change, even a change for the better. On the other hand, things must change, for there is no vitality in what is static. When I look at people around me, I sometimes think that when people reach the day in which they can see no good in anything different and new, on that day they begin to die. The will to live and the will to grow are the two foundation stones on which humanity is built. During all difficult days, I am determined to keep new interests going, lest I bog down in worry and anxiety. 
She then goes on to talk about the weather, as most of us do, much of the time. Especially this summer. I didn't have one conversation that didn't mention the awful heat, and then the relief when cooler weather came back. Never have I thought seriously of getting an air-conditioner. But I feel I wasted about ten days of my life being miserably hot and unable to do much at all. We'll see if it comes back next year, and if so, we will look into one. The weeds have grown exponentially. They have crept in amongst every flower plant and vegetable plant. I probably should show you. I will be brave and do so. I'll warn you - not a pretty sight.

The tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and chives have done well, but boy, it looks awful. I feel like if maybe the inside had been cool, I might have been able to spend a few minutes weeding, and then gone in to cool off. Done over and over again, this mess might not have happened. So, as I said, we'll see.

Gladys has a very humorous passage on the perfection of houses and gardens juxtaposed with real life (see pictures above).
Sometimes I am irritated by the decoration experts. The last article I read was about a woman whose house was full of whimsey, said the writer. It was. It was simply bursting with whimsey, if by whimsey she meant a lot of impossible colors slung together and toned down with gilt and red velvet and dark green. When I reached the room where "the dresser had been whimseyed up with white and gold," I uttered a frightful sound and rushed away. Passing rapidly through the living room, which has no whimsey at all, I entered the kitchen and proceeded to whimsey up the stove by cooking plain golden wax beans and a panful of beets with no humor in them. I afterwards scrambled eggs with chicken livers, and whimseyed up the table by putting on the knives, forks, and plates
I just loved this passage!

Gladys talks about a summer pastime.
What I like is berrying. Up the hill to the old pasture land on a summer day, with an old lard pail hooked to my belt - that is something. The pasture is full of blackberries and nobody takes care of them but God. There they are, rich and purple-black, and smelling of sun and summer. They fall in the pail with soft plops, each one a perfect little nugget of goodness.
When I was a girl, women used to talk about "going berrying." I wonder if anyone does this now. We are fortunate to have blackberries growing up the hill, ready for the picking anytime anyone goes up. They are a result of the logging we had done four years ago. The trees are cut allowing in the sunshine. The first thing that appears is grass, and then brush and berry bushes. Tom took a picture when they were first coming.

Here is a batch that Matthew, Margaret, and Hazel picked on a wheeler ride.

I haven't been up because I don't like riding on the wheeler, and I haven't walked because at first it was too hot, and now we have loggers again. They are doing a small cut this time, and as Tom said, the next cut will be done by our kids in 25 years!

I'll end this month with Gladys writing about those early morning fears we all have. She is woken up by her dogs barking.
If it is around two o'clock, I can't get back to sleep. All the assorted worries that any woman acquires wait to pounce on me. I worry about the world situation. I go into anguish over the possibility of not being able to pay next year's income tax. I feel perfectly sure Cicely will marry some no-account man who will be an albatross around all our necks. Dorothy will be misled by some charmer who dances well and has the brain of a hubbard squash. My sinus and arthritis and a lot of unknown diseases will do me in within a week or so. ... These and other two-in-the-morning thoughts keep me occupied for some while. All those dandy little articles on not worrying run through my head, to no avail. I know I should think of pleasant things and relax, but I can't think of any pleasant things to think of. I relax so hard that both pillows fall under the bed and I have to get up and fish them out. My mind goes like an electric mixer on high.  

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Today's picture/Coyote

My friend Kay and her husband gave us a Nature Cam a while ago. We so appreciate it, and I wanted to show you one of the pictures from this summer.

This is a coyote on the other side of the fence which surrounds the yard off the kitchen. When this was taken, Tom and I and Lucy the Labrador were on the porch. Lucy never smelled it. Not a bark from her. But isn't this a wonderful shot?! Addendum: I should have explained more carefully - the porch where we were sitting is on the other side of the house. That's why we couldn't see it, but I was surprised Lucy couldn't smell it. And another detail - the camera time says 7:37. I texted Matthew and Margaret at 7:42 telling them a coyote was walking down the road toward their house. They never did see it. Must have gone into the woods somewhere along the way. From the porch we saw it come across the lawn onto the road. So this same fellow went right past the porch and again, Lucy did not smell it. Pretty excitin' life up here!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Today's picture/ The grandsons begin preschool

Michael took this photo earlier today as Campbell and Indy began preschool. They will be going three days a week from 8:30-4:30. This sounds like a long day but they have one hour of recess and another hour for lunch! This is an alternative, independent school that sounds wonderful to us.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Jacob's Room is Full of Books - August

The August chapter of Susan Hill's Jacob's Room is Full of Books seemed to zoom by. I actually counted each chapter's pages because it seemed shorter. August was not the shortest but it was second shortest. June was 13 pages, while August was 15. Most were in the teens, with April and May in the twenties, and May a whopping 30. Why this interests me, and why I thought it might interest you, I have no idea. I suppose it is just like writing a letter or a blog post. Sometimes we have lots to say and other times we don't.

Anyhow, though so short, it was one of my personal favorite months. Not the least of the reasons is that Susan Hill led me to a book, Corduroy, which I had bought on the recommendation of a blogging, Instagram, and Facebook friend who is also an author. I wrote about her book here. She and I share a love of the Olde Country, and when she recommends a book I know I will enjoy it.

Hill quotes a passage from a book, and then says, "I wish I had written that." Those words may just be the highest praise a writer can give to another writer. That book is Corduroy, "the first book in a trilogy about Suffolk country life before the last war by Adrian Bell."

I won't quote the whole of it because it was quite long, but this will give you an idea of the beauty of the writing.
'The men move homeward from the field; the last load creaking up the hill behind them, the hoofs of the horses thudding, their breath sounding short. Peace comes, a vision of the fairy armour of moonlight, the peace of 'man goeth forth unto his work until the evening'
Having just finished a book last evening, I was ready for a new one, and went right to the shelf and pulled down my Corduroy. How could I resist after reading such words?! You may read more about the author here. Hill says that Bell's books are a "record of farming life written by an outdoors person who had a poet's eye and pen." As I have noted here before, the time period and place I would most like to live in is England between the Wars. So, this will be a perfect book for me. Who knows when I would have gotten to it if not for Susan Hill mentioning it?

I don't pay attention to book awards so I had no idea of the controversy surrounding the 2011 Man Booker prize, for which Susan Hill was a judge. She says,
It has gone into folklore as the year the judges were of inferior and 'populist' quality who had not a clue about literature. I read that I was 'supremely unqualified' for the task. I do wonder how else I might have improved my chances of being qualified. I have a first class honours degree in English from King's College, London; I have published over fifty books, including several prize-winning novels; I have been a regular reviewer of fiction in a wide variety of newspapers and journals since 1963; I introduced a TV book programme, presented BBC Radio 4's Bookshelf and A Good Read; and I have been not only a previous Booker Prize judge but a judge for every other major fiction prize. In what way was I 'unqualified'?
Before I go on, I just think it is horrible how people - all people, not just politicians - are criticized by the media. One must have to have an awfully tough skin to not feel terrible afterwards. What right does anyone have to say such things about a person? I just hate it.

She said that 2011 "was not a vintage year for literary fiction." Still, the judges had to read over 120 novels. 120!! Can you imagine? It was very difficult for them to come up with a longlist of books they
felt were worthy, and if the criterion was, as it must be, that every book included was a potential winner of the prize, then we failed because, hands on heart, we did not feel that one or two of our longlist choices were worthy of winning.
As for the shortlist they had no doubts, and yet when it was announced they were strongly criticized to put a novel on that list by a certain person because he was gay. It was an absolutely ridiculous accusation. One of the judges wouldn't answer on principle, another said he hadn't even known, and others felt it was completely irrelevant - that the winner is chosen by the book not on the author's sexuality.

I wouldn't be a judge for love nor money! Susan Hill talks, as a reader, not a judge, about her own reading of winners.
I always wait until at least a year after any of the prizes before reading those on the lists which appeal. It is amazing how everything settles down and finds its natural level. Hype never did any reader much good.
She writes of the book that actually won the Man Booker in 2011.
I recently re-read The Sense of an Ending, the Julian Barnes novel which won the 2011 Man Booker Prize, for which I was a judge. The Barnes was my choice. It was the almost-unanimous choice of the panel. It is a slim book - Barnes is not one to turn out 700 pages. But within its short space it contains truth, beauty, sadness, shrewdness, observation, intelligence, poignancy, self-pity, a man's coming to terms with his past... everything one can think of about the human condition and more.
And now I have only four months to go in this wonderful book. Each month I learn so very much about many subjects, and am so enjoying myself.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Today's picture/Week nine CSA flowers - 2018

I love these beautiful colors! The sun went into Virgo today, which is the last astrological sign of summer. It is a mutable sign giving us some summery days and others that are more autumnal. The flowers from now through the next three weeks reflect this. We see bits of high summer as well as early fall in the flowers.

Saturday, August 18, 2018


This is a video, well, really just an audio taken in the butt'ry off the kitchen, from a couple weeks ago. The cricket isn't in the house anymore, but the air outside is full of their sound.

The other day I heard a wonderful little show on the radio about crickets here. Nathaniel Hawthorne was quoted:

If ever there was a sound that signifies August, it’s the quiet song of the crickets. Nathaniel Hawthorne described it as “audible stillness,” writing, “if moonlight could be heard, it would sound just like that.”
Aren't his words simply perfect.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Today's picture/Week eight CSA flowers - 2018

All things bright and beautiful. Bright sun, cooler and less humid. Gorgeous colors. When I was a kid, it wasn't heard of to put orange and pink near each other. How very silly!

Monday, August 13, 2018

A nursery in the garden

One of the definitions of nursery is:

 a place or natural habitat that breeds or supports animals

And going on that, my garden is a bit of a nursery just now because there are caterpillars living on my one and only parsley plant that will turn into black swallowtail butterflies! They are called parsley worms, though they'll also live off dill or carrots. I counted six, but didn't move the plant leaves to see if there were any others. You may read more about them here. In all my years of gardening, I've not seen them or heard of them before now.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Blueberries - 2018 report

This is the last batch of blueberries for 2018. This will be the third year that I've kept track. 2016 is here, and 2017 is here. It really helps me to keep records, and here is why. I thought we had gotten quite a lot of berries this year. But no. Last year the fellow picked from July 31 through August 23. This year, July 28 - August 10.

In 2017 there were a lot fewer than in 2016. 43 quarts down from 61 quarts. We thought it must have been the rainy spring. This year we didn't have a rainy spring but we had exceedingly hot weather, and went weeks without rain. In 2018 we bought only 26 quarts.

Here is the breakdown.

July 28 - 5 quarts
July 30 - 4 quarts
August 2 - 4 quarts
August 4 - 2 quarts
August 6 - 4 quarts
August 8 - 4 quarts
August 10 - 3 quarts

He went up 50¢ a quart, so we paid $6. In all the cost this year was $156.

The fate of the blueberries is much like our gardens this year. The vegetables are doing fine, but the daylilies haven't had a good year. Because it was so very hot, we couldn't get out and weed very much, and there are weeds everywhere. Not just little, easy-to-pull weeds, but tall ones all interspersed among the flowers. I think this is just a year that I must write off, and hope it doesn't come again. We did quite a lot of watering, but it just wasn't enough with the sun beating down relentlessly, day after day.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Today's video - Longest Days by John Mellencamp

I am just now watching John Mellencamp: Plain Spoken on Netflix streaming. He just sang a song that I so love, and I wanted to share it here in my letters. He says in the show that his grandmother is the only woman who ever really loved him. (warning -there is a swear word in his intro)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Today's picture/Week seven CSA flowers - 2018

You can see my huge tomato plants in the background! 

Does anyone know what those pinkish flowers in the front are? There are three sort of clumps of them.

And in the house - this week in my mother's vase.

This would be week one of the second half of the CSA flowers. I'm thinking that next year I might change it up a bit, and buy flowers every week rather than be part of the CSA. She is open a few days at the farm, and then the Farmers' Market on Sundays. It would be less expense upfront for me, and the bouquets are a bit less expensive. Smaller, but that's okay. And I can pick and choose a bit. For example, this year her sweet peas were a great success, but they weren't in the CSA bouquets. She offered whole arrangements of just sweet peas! A bit of heaven.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Jacob's Room is Full of Books - July

My blogging friend Cath at read_warbler wrote today that she hates the month of July, and in Jacob's Room is Full of Books, Susan Hill says
The deadly months. July and August. The weather often disappoints, the birds have stopped singing, the roads round here are crammed with mobile homes and caravans being towed, the beaches are also crammed full and, yes, it is thoroughly selfish of me to complain about it. But winter is best here. Empty everywhere. In high summer it is best to get back from any shopping trip by ten o'clock and then stay in the garden, to read, or write, cold drink to hand, intermittently watching the swallows high overhead.
Anyone who lives near the ocean, or the mountains, or any tourist destination knows this sentiment. Often these areas are dependent upon tourist money to keep afloat. Many people do the seasonal jobs, and switch them with the seasons. There is a bit of a love/hate relationship with all the people who come. I've not had this kind of job, but I know that some workers are driven crazy by the demands the occasional tourist puts upon them.

I found this interesting.
It is a sad thing when you discover that a book you loved beyond many, a book of which you knew whole paragraphs and conversational exchanges by heart, a book you thought you would be wedded to for life, has lost its appeal, its charm, its ability to amuse and entertain, delight and impress. How does this happen? Does it mean the book has become dated, or outdated, its humour old-fashioned, its charm rusty, its brilliance tarnished? Was it a book you simply grew out of? Or one that, as you read more and got more life experience, could not keep up with you? Was it simply not up to the job, did it not bear any more re-readings, yield any more wisdom, reveal any new aspect to the wit, so that you laughed again but in a slightly different way?
Do you feel this way about any particular books or authors? For a reader this is kind of like a break-up, or a slipping away of a friendship. You can't always put your finger on it, but you know that something has changed. Susan Hill goes on to tell the reader
What I am saying is that my love affair with E.F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia novels seems to be over. There are odd things that still delight... But I droop after reading three chapters of any of them and I no longer smile at all. It was a blow when this first happened. I decided it was just me and left the books alone for a while. But it went on happening. I found myself becoming impatient with these silly people - and that was fatal.
Over the years of email groups and blogging, I've known a lot of people who absolutely love these books. I wonder if they would understand what she means. Personally, I saw Mapp and Lucia first on PBS ages ago, and could not stand the women! I never even tried the books.

Susan is very concerned about the decrease in small nesting birds.
In his Natural History of Selborne, Gilbert White records not only dozens upon dozens of sparrows but of every other sort of 'common' bird - thrushes, blackbirds, finches, tits - as well as the migrants. ... Even in my own childhood, there were probably several hundred percent more song birds than now. The telephone wires were lined with swallows and martins, the air thick with swifts.
The loss of so many over the last hundred years or so is forgotten - everyone talks about the pandas and the tigers and the giraffes, and of course they are important. Meanwhile, not far from home, people trap thousands of small birds for food.
And she later writes
Watched a hen harrier on the marshes. There are several pairs, always visible, swooping across, looking for prey. They were rare once, but now they are common. The campaign to make hawks protected birds has seen to this, so they breed safely and murder small birds unhampered.
It is really difficult for me to read all this. Heartbreaking.

She writes of one of her (and my) favorite writers, P.G. Wodehouse. She has encouraged people to read him, and
some cannot get past the receding chins, the brainlessness, the vacuousness, the frippery, the juvenile mentality of the characters. The only one to whom none of the above descriptions apply is, of course, Jeeves. Lord Emsworth sometimes succeeds where Bertie Wooster fails, but I never press home my argument about Wodehouse, because if the magic doesn't work, it doesn't and never will. It is the uncomprehending reader's loss. Nobody half likes Wodehouse... You are an addict or you are left stone cold.
I openly admit, I am that addict. I've often said that his writing is second only (maybe) to Shakespeare's. I agree when Susan notes that he is a "master of the language, whose plots and characters are of second and third importance to the writing."

Another wonderful month spent in Susan Hill's company.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Today's picture/Week six CSA flowers - 2018

This week's gorgeous bouquet! I love the deep purple and pinks and oranges, and well, just everything! Here is a close-up.

There is some basil hiding in the back!

And the farm had extra lettuce this week, so all the CSA people got some. I've already eaten half of this!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Today's picture/Week five CSA flowers - 2018

Tomorrow I pick up the week six flowers and haven't had a chance until now to post last week's flowers! Well, here they are, such beauty!

And on Sunday at the Farmers' Market, I bought an edible bouquet of basil, nasturtiums, and rosemary from the same flower farm.

My supper that Sunday evening was entirely from the Farmers' Market. Roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary, and this salad.

Ah, the bounty of summer!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Today's picture/Week four CSA flowers - 2018

Oh my, they just take my breath away.

Basil this week!

Still left from last Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Today's poem - A Traditional Scottish Toast

May the best ye've ever seen
Be the worst ye'll ever see
May a moose ne'er leave yer girnal
Wi' a tear drap in his e'e
May ye aye keep hale an' he'rty
Till ye're auld eneuch tae dee
May ye aye be jist as happy
As we wish ye aye tae be

Here "hale and hearty" means strong and healthy.
A "girnal” -  a storage chest for meal (oats and the like) placed in the kitchen.
In "plain" English:

May the best you have ever seen
Be the worst you will ever see
May a mouse never leave your girnal
With a tear drop in his eye
May you always keep hale and hearty
Till you are old enough to die
May you always be just as happy
As we wish you always to be

found here.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Stillmeadow - July

Gladys begins her July chapter with something I'm sure we've all noticed. In magazines and advertising, the pictures of summer show people relaxing in beautiful clothes, on beautiful green lawns, with beautiful foods and drinks on their beautiful tables. They are full of smiles.
There is such an air of leisure as they sun-bathe and acquire that lovely magazine tan. Often a stately gentleman great Dane or a lady Dalmation in her black-and-white summer print sits motionless just at the edge of the picture.
Definitely not the reality for most of us! Gladys contrasts the picture of lounging around with her life. As she decides "to take a sun bath in the back yard" she notes that her shoes are old with toothmarks from the chewing of puppies. Her clothes are paint-stained. The chaise longue needs paint, and its chair pad is full of holes, her heavy book falls to the ground and a dog puts his muddy paw on the open page. Much more like real life, wouldn't you say?!

From what I've read they had a big vegetable garden at Stillmeadow. They canned and froze much of their food.
 The garden vegetables are a source of endless satisfaction to me now. I think many people who began to garden because of the war will never be without a garden again. 
As I've said before, I don't have a big garden anymore. But when we first moved back to our home state after college in Boston, it was the time of the back to the earth movement. And at the same time, in our small area we couldn't buy organic vegetables. So we grew tons of food and froze it. Now, our local co-op offers organic fruits and vegetables, and in season most of it is locally grown. The Farmers' Markets in the area are another source of fresh food. It makes me so happy to see new, young farmers in the area.

There is a romance to the idea of growing one's own food, but it is also very hard work. That's pretty much all we did in the summers before kids. We cut down the size when they came along but still grew enough to put some by. Margaret and Michael grew up with flower and vegetable gardens, and it pleases me no end that they both have gardens now.
The weeds in the garden begin to have their way, after the first week in July. There is a new school of thought, as a matter of wonder, that believes in weeds! Their shade keeps moisture in the soil, they say.
That's a good thing because in this summer heat our weeds have gotten a bit out of control. And any moisture is welcome. We have had very little rain, and some of NH is in a drought. Our area is defined as "abnormally dry." Tomorrow they say lots and lots of rain, and it will be so very welcome.

As I have written before, Gladys Taber was a highly educated and intelligent woman. In this month's entry she tells us that she has been learning Spanish! She hopes to someday "be able to read one of the fine novels being written in Latin America, in the original!"
My adventures in Spanish have led me to think about education very seriously. Adult education, I believe, is the answer to a good many of the problems we have today. If every parent became a student for one night a week, for instance, there would be a new closeness to children.
And our own outlook would be broader. We tend to grow in on our own circumscribed world, and enlarging the horizon is a magic thing. Whether it be history, or philosophy, or how to plant petunias, no matter. It is a good thing to exercise our minds on something outside the routine of living.
In addition to the writing and gardening and tending to an old house and friends, Gladys and Eleanor raised and showed cocker spaniels! What energy! In this particular July, there were fifteen puppies! Three litters were born in the same week. Maybe dog breeders have a special energy gene. The woman who sold us our Lucy the Labrador has seven children and isn't 40 yet! We call her wonder woman.

I'm not a fisherwoman, obviously since I'm a vegetarian, but Gladys was. She described fishing in a way that sounded a bit like a gambling addiction! At the end of her day,
The banks grow dark, and the sky is peach. It is hard to see the bait on the hook. It is hours after we should have gone home. I see in my mind's eye the dogs, hungry, the puppies wriggling, the people who did not get to come with us looking at the clock every five seconds. The curious thing about fishing is that you never want to go home. If you catch something, you can't stop. If you don't catch anything, you hate to leave in case something might bite. There never is a time to stop.
She says what we all know to be true - "the days go by too fast in midsummer", and ends with
"Stay a little, summer, do not go," I whisper, as I take a last look around me before I go in. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Jacob's Room is Full of Books - June

The only mention of the natural world in the June entry of Susan Hill's Jacob's Room is Full of Books is that she goes to France for a month every year, sometimes in June and sometimes in September. When she goes in June, she misses the irises and the peonies, "but June is the best month in France." She doesn't offer much description except to mention the roses and swifts. And the wild boar which are "menacing then because they have young." One year she hit one on the road. To me, these are among the world's worst creatures. They did not originate here but were introduced in the 1500s. You may read more here, if you really want to!

The rest of her month is devoted to a variety of interesting subjects. She begins with literary prizes.
It ill behooves me to complain that there are too many book prizes, having won some in my early career. They came at just the right time, they were lifesavers in terms of the money, but more - they gave me confidence that I was right all along. They were recognition. And they are there. No one can take them away. Forty-five years later, they still count.
So I can't complain. But every year the prizes proliferate and every year, a few of them at least come to mean less - particularly the lucrative prizes for the best short story of the year. £20K or £30K for one story? These almost always go to unknowns who may have written a single stunning story and then vanish without trace. The point about book prizes is partly to give the recipient's career a boost, to provide time and financial support for them to climb the next rung of the ladder.
Such an interesting section because she has been both a winner and a judge so she has a unique outlook on the whole business.

Susan goes on to talk about "lit fests." Have you ever been to one? I wonder if they are similar to the various mystery conventions we have in the US. Anyway, she says the large ones
get large sponsorship, from newspapers or TV companies or local magnates with deep pockets and cultural aspirations. Small ones survive on volunteers and goodwill. Often they cannot pay authors, in which case the authors have to decide whether the gig is worth their while.
But the joy of the lit fest is meeting with people who come to say they have always loved your books, or that this one has meant much to them, or that one kicked off their teenager's love of reading, or was their late mother's favorite ...  I asked the organiser of one small book festival why they didn't apply for Arts Council or area arts funding. They had. They were turned down because lit fests are, apparently, too middle class.
Completely fascinating.

She has a personal slant on Edward VIII, who became the Duke of Windsor, and Wallis Simpson. They are an endlessly interesting subject to so many people, and I loved reading what Susan Hill had to say.

She offers The Old Shepherd's Prayer by Charlotte Mew which brought tears to my eyes.
Heavenly Master, I wud like to wake to they same green places
Where I be know'd for breakin' dogs and follerin' sheep.
And if I may not walk in th' old ways and look on th' old faces
I wud sooner sleep.
Susan Hill ends the month with three cautionary tales, two of them concerned with social media and the other with bullying. Lives were changed. A doctor was
tricked and betrayed by her fellow partners, maligned and undermined by a process of passive-aggressive bullying, to the extent that she was forced to resign and lost her confidence as a doctor. ... It broke her, and when she was exonerated and proven innocent of all the trumped-up charges, it was too late. The damage was done.
She took early retirement and has not worked since.

The other two instances, one involving the author herself, were horrendous examples of the dangers inherent in bullying on a huge scale via the internet. Very upsetting.

I am so enjoying this book. Honestly Susan Hill knows so much about so many things that I read her with awe.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Stillmeadow - June

Gladys Taber begins her June entry so beautifully.
It might seem as if June is an old story, with so much poetry written about it, and so many songs sung. And yet every time it comes it is as much of a wonder, as much of a delight.
If I had Aladdin's lamp and the usual three wishes, the first would always be, "Give me the first day of June." The whole complete day, with the sky-blue dawn, and the golden noon, and the violet dusk, and the silvered night. With early roses unfolding and a hummingbird over the border. And a whole packet of smells too. New-cut grass, and pea vines, and freshly hoed garden soil.
What was June this year like where you live? Other than ticks, I'd say mine was pretty close to Gladys' description. There is always the odd weather June, but most every year is the same, bringing the end of spring and the beginning of summer. Here are a few pictures from Windy Poplars.

blackberry flowers

looking up toward the house 

a volunteer lupine that popped up beside the road

a tremendous year for locust flowers

the patio garden

My very favorite Gladys quote appears in her June entry. These words have a permanent place here on the blog in the Recipes folder under the blog header picture.
When I get to Heaven, I am not going to put on golden shoes or cast down golden crowns around a glassy sea or play on my harp. No, I am going to eat all the hot bread and potatoes I want. Cinnamon rolls, pinwheel biscuits, hot muffins. French-fried potatoes, baked potatoes, creamy mashed potatoes. Potato fluff. Butter will go well, too. And fresh-made jam. Or clear amber honey.
Amen! Though I'm not waiting for Heaven.

I was delighted when I came upon a passage about whippoorwills. I wanted to put up the link to my mention of this bird here, so I did a search for whippoorwill. And I could.not.believe one result. It hasn't been decades since we've had one here, as I said in the post. In June 2013 I wrote about hearing them. Tom and I have absolutely NO memory of this. And we think we know why. Four months after that day, the whole roller coaster of fear and worry began. And afterwards, the joy of having grandchildren - one, two, three. If you are a new reader, you may learn what I'm talking about here.

So after that long digression, here is Gladys' humorous take on her whippoorwills.
I used to think of the whippoorwill as a most romantic bird; once or twice I heard one crying in the north woods in Wisconsin and the sound was exquisite. But that was before I got so intimate with the whippoorwill. He has lost his charms for me. All night long I am jerked from my sleep at ten minute intervals, not by one lone one, but by all his sisters and his cousins and his aunts. I never knew they came in bevies, but if this is just one family group going on so furiously, I know they have sore throats.
The voice of the whippoorwill has a penetrating quality, a kind of feverish intensity as he implores me to whip poor Will. I rise up and assure him, and his relations, just as feverishly, that I would be glad to if I could only get a my hands on them. Romance or not, I like a few hours' sleep.
 She goes on to talk about visiting a man's beautiful place in the country.
"Oh, it is so lovely and peaceful here," I said.
Mr. Bellamy gave me an odd look. "You have any whippoorwills at Stillmeadow?" he asked.
We didn't mind being woken up one single bit. We hope he found a mate, and that more and more whippoorwills will come next spring.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Today's picture/Week three CSA flowers - 2018

Beautiful, cheery flowers. I love all the colors together. A lot cooler than last Wednesday - in the seventies instead of the nineties!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Caught up!

Just wanted to pop in and say that I've just caught up with all your comments, so if you are interested you can go back and check!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Mrs Bale showing you today's picture/Hot, hot, hot

Can you imagine Mrs Bale if she saw this temperature?! 

4.18 pm, north side of the house. Never seen it this hot in my 70 years. Fans in every room, drinking water, reading. Addendum: 24 hours later it was 20 degrees cooler!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Today's picture/Week two CSA flowers - 2018

In the nineties here! These flowers didn't stay outside for long!