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!