Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sun Wonder

The Wise Old Hen wonders:

OK, so we like this 50 degree weather well enough, but WHAT the heck is going on?!? This is Minnesota and it’s nearly December, after all. I sense climatic shift, and I’m not sure I should be happy about it... Is it OK to enjoy a day wrought by massive human changes to the planet?

(On the plus side, it gave WF time to wrestle with the outdoor window plastic, in background). Ah, the old practiced guilt can even get in the way of enjoying a rare sunny day in November! Was anyone else torn about enjoying this warm weekend?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hppy Bdy WF!

(My assistant is getting better at typing, heh!)

Early Happy B-day to WF: a great guy, loving husband, inveterate Peak Oil worrier AND apple tree tender extraordinaire! I did a little photoshopping for his birthday:

Have a grateful few days, no matter what events you decide to celebrate!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Asp;odiawwij’pwV ijp’wga
[-04GVY ddddddddddddddddddddddddd.

Ooops. You’ll have to excuse my new assistant:
She types like she’s all thumbs, er, feet.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Word DNA

Etymology: the study of the origin of words.

(Not Entomology, the study of insects; another fascinating realm).

I may have given the wrong impression in that last post: I am frustrated with the need to learn a whole new vocabulary to take care of our house, not the idea of using Old and Middle English in word origins. I don’t mean to denigrate the “DNA of our culture” (a quote from NPR yesterday in a story about Barry Lopez’s intriguing new project, HomeGround).

I graduated from college with an English minor, and fondly remember deciphering the “different” English of Chaucer and Shakespeare. I also had a Biology major, which meant some heavy-duty Entomology along with my side of Etymology. I needed the words to stay sane, acknowledging the cultural context of the science I was learning.

Subtle variations in British/Canadian/New Zealand versions of English fascinate me. Of course, there’s the obvious ones: boot/trunk, bonnet/hood, etc. But did you know that, at least among the family I stayed with in New Zealand for a few months years ago, tasty food is “nice” but a really sunny day is “good”? It’s subtle, but around here, people tend to say “Wow, this cake is really good!” rather than “This cake is really nice!” I love that tiny bit of variety and the careful listening required to catch it. Garbage dumps become “rubbish tips,” moving companies are “removal companies” and kids don’t review for tests, they “revise.” Why? I have no idea, but it’s fun to hear.

Balance and variety in all things; even house door terms. But I still curse the kerf, for slowing down our quest for blocking the drafts in our entryway. So there!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Kerf-es! What the kerf?!

We’ve been working fairly diligently to seal up the house for winter, trying to avoid early symptoms of hypothermia while actually INSIDE the house (ahem). We’ve put up LOTS of plastic on the drafty windows, even some on the outside of windows to accommodate indoor cat windowsill-sitting. (We’re such softies!) It's helped quite a bit.

But one thing that’s been stumping me is the silly front door seal. The old one is disintegrating, and it seemed like a fairly obvious fix. Run to the home store, buy something, stick it on and we’re done, right? Nope. I’ve purchased a couple things, and really none would even begin to fit. Puzzling.

WF and the Internets to the rescue! He recently found the perfect thing:
A kerf-fitted compression door set. (say that 10 times fast). Well, of course! I was forgetting to consider the kerf! (!?!?!). I love language and words, but this was a new one to me. From

kerf (kûrf)
1. A groove or notch made by a cutting tool, such as a saw or an ax.
2. The width of a groove made by a cutting tool.

[Middle English, from Old English cyrf, a cutting.]

So, now not only do we have to try to decipher home-improvement projects and the copious inventory of these crazy warehouse stores and their apathetic teenaged employees, but we need to learn Middle English, too. I’ll get right on that.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Winter, Hats, One Year!

Tada! The winter wonderland arrived this morning; here’s a view of the chicken coop before work today. Unhappy chicken can be glimpsed through the window.

I am also happy to report that after 3 years together, I have finally managed to provide WF with a real, live HAT THAT FITS! I’ve nearly given up knitting hats (can never get the size right, grrrr) with my glacial pace, and so have been yearning to find a bit of time with the sewing machine. Finally, this weekend, success! I am very proud. I am really a neophyte seamstress, so this is a nice, simple, attainable finished object. Mine feels very comfy, too- it’s always hard to find hats that fit. Helps with the cold house issue, too!

Just in time for winter’s arrival, and to wear in celebration of the one year anniversary of this blog. Hello and best wishes from us to you! Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Solar power!

Today's post brought to you by real sun-power...

The sun came out today! Very exciting: celebration included treats for the chickens (they are NOT pets- ahem) and enthusiastic use of the electric sewing machine. Yeah!

We DO live off the grid here, but we don’t depend solely on our solar panels for electricity. That would be nearly impossible this time of year in MN. November is one of the worst months, ironically, even worse than later winter. So, we have a small generator hooked up to our big propane tank to make more power when the batteries need help. (We also use propane for heat and cooking in the winter).

We’re in the lap of luxury if we choose to run the generator. (Wash clothes AND vacuum at the same time: Crazy!) It’s just a bit stinky and loud. The whole point of solar panels is to reduce our contribution to air pollution and greenhouse gas emission, etc. So, we scrimp (and pester each other to turn off lights, ahem) until the batteries absolutely need a recharge.

So, no feeling sorry for us: it was a conscious decision to take this “standard suburban/rural” house of the grid a while back. WF chose not to reconnect the house to the grid a few years ago when some neighbor projects necessitated taking down the power poles, and so we’re in a sort of “artificial” off-grid world. Our house is definitely not a typical off-grid house, and needs quite a bit of electricity to run “normally”- ie well pump and septic. We end up scrimping more than most people would with a solar array of this size, but live very comfortably with a small, efficient fridge (w/ tiny freezer), efficient washer but no dryer, etc. We use the septic system as little as possible (WF is a humanure convert). All lights are compact flourescent; an incandescent bulb would be a ridiculous waste.

The solar decision was made before my time here, and I actually don’t think about it that much. Some of my co-workers are convinced I’m living in a cave without “real” electricity, but really, is it THAT weird to live without toasters or waffle irons or microwaves? Or electric sewing machines? I am coveting my grandmother’s old treadle machine these days. If you’re set up for it and give it a bit of thought, it really IS easy to live without much electricity.

Friday, November 10, 2006

10 November

Around this part of the country, today is remembered as a somber anniversary: the day a “modern” ship went down, taking the entire crew to the bottom of a very big lake.

While some of the observances over the years seem a bit macabre (a CD with “amazing” vocalists?), it is something that deserves to be remembered. This documentary was on the radio again last night, and the story can definitely draw you in.

Lake Superior is amazing and beautiful, but it can also be an awe-inspiring force, capable of cold destruction. Can you imagine a lake with 30 foot waves? “Green water” coming over your boat’s deck? It can happen here.

I’ve spent some time on Lake Superior in small, government boats, and have felt a bit of Her power. I’ve lived alone at a lighthouse, lonely outposts built to prevent shipwrecks in another era. I am oddly fascinated by maritime history, and have purported to “remember” shipwrecks while playing a character from Lake Superior lighthouse history.

I don’t consciously remember the Edmund Fitzgerald, but the story always gives me pause. The power of nature is something to be reckoned with...

Edited later to add: OK, I still found the ads on the radio for the "great new musical" disturbing last year, but the Gales of November CD description has won me over.

"At the heart of it is the Great Lake Superior: a serene beauty, a fearsome force, a giver and taker of life."

I think that sums it up very well.

Wattle Wind

Don’t you just hate it when the wind is so strong it blows your wattles sideways?

They didn’t stay out very long after the picture was taken; it was a brave attempt, anyway. That’s the senior rooster, the one who is still living despite all respiratory odds. He’s still molting, so his tail feathers are not nearly as impressive as they should be.

Hmmm, Buff Orpingtons don’t really stand out for stunning photographs in this blah dead-grass season, do they? Ah, well, the green grass (that just sets off their feathers so nicely!) will come again someday... Even snow might be nice for the scenic view. Soon!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What, posting?

It’s dark. It’s cold and drizzley. I want to eat chocolate. I want to sew hats, but I have no time to sew hats. Plus the sewing machine takes electricity, which is in very short supply these dark, foggy days. We just ate the last fresh garden tomato, harvested on this day. Waaaaaa....

OK, OK. I had planned to post more this month, but I’m afraid so far it would all come out whiney like that. It’s NOVEMBER, people. It’s that time of adjustment to the fact that we drive to work in the dark and get home in the dark. I was shocked by the darkness at 5:10 tonight when I left the office: solstice (and lengthening days) can’t come soon enough!

I was very heartened to hear the final election results, though: whoohoo! Mostly good! A cheery spot in this month. So, OK, let’s see. What did I used to write about here? Oh, yeah… Chickens!

The chickens have been literally cooped up (awww…) for a few days now to keep them out of the rain and to save our guilt for leaving their door open in the dark before we get home and perhaps let in predators (oh, the weight of responsibility!). The young ones are mixed into the coop community for the first time (it was getting too cold to house them in the tractor anymore). 2 roosters of varying age are still getting along, knock on woodshavings!

WF has been on regular chicken duty, as he usually is, and reports no injuries or major altercations. The young ones HAVE been pushed to the side of the coop with only box edges to perch on most nights. WF goes in and moves them to the perches, turning around the older chickens so they can’t peck at the younger ones. Gotta love a drowsy chicken: so pliant and docile! Only occasional vicious pecks to the newcomers! Also gotta love a hubby who does all that for the young chickens. Perhaps they are pampered poultry, but gosh darn it, they’re healthy. Maybe they’ll give eggs again, someday, right? Darn molting.

I better go forage for some protein, missing the egg protein as I am. I wonder about chocolate as a source...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Syllable slinging

From an article in today's paper:

“With one word, Mike Hatch offended all of Minnesota. By calling a newspaper reporter a ‘whore,’ the angry, slash-and-burn Hatch that he’s tried to hide over the past year has finally been revealed. Hatch has a long history bullying and attacking those who question him,” said Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Ron Carey. “Hatch’s latest blow-up shows he doesn’t have the temperament to lead our state.”

My response:
"With rabid focus one syllable from certain opponents, the Republican Party has finally revealed their true fear of defeat and lack of substance in their own policies and campaigns. With juvenile finger-pointing at that one syllable, they hope to down Democrats who might actually care about issues like health care and the environment. This latest blow-up shows that they are so desperate, they should hardly be taken seriously (if only this wasn’t about real live and leadership, or lack thereof!). Definitely not fit to lead our state or any government at all."


Do they really think we’re that stupid, or that all we need to worry about are one-sylable words?? So, maybe Kerry forgot to say “us” in the “get stuck in Iraq” flap. So what? Does it really mean he’s therefore unfit to campaign for other candidates (????). And now grown men are trying to convince us that ANY use of the word whore is offending everyone in the (apparently delicate) state of MN? Come on, guys, give us more credit than that! There’s more important things in the world to worry about. Who’s “bullying and attacking” now?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lap cats

Can you hear the purring? Bill-cat and Schroeder enjoying a rare bit of togetherness. He may look drunk, but that's the special Bill-cat squint and smile of contentment. Purrrrrr.....

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A daily write?

So. It’s November. Should I try to post every day, ala NaBloPoMo? I haven’t signed up, and have noticed that most “homestead” bloggers haven’t either. (Likely because we have too much to do at home already?!?) There’s a different online “clique” that seems to be embracing it. (Isn’t it weird how the circles of “who knows who” overlap and evolve online just like in real life? Sometimes I feel like I’m spying on the “popular kids” by reading their thousand-hits-a-day blogs!) Aha!

But regular writing deadlines ARE a good idea. My first “blogiversary” is coming up this month. Hmmm. Nah….I think I’ll just embrace the idea of writing a bit more, but do it on my own schedule. It’s good motivation, just having the blog. But I don’t want it to overshadow direct emails to friends, other writing projects, etc.

The other day someone said to me: “That was a good story on your blog- you should publish it!” Um….but that’s what this is, right? But I know what she meant. This is a whole ‘nother ball of wax: there’s the possibility for instant feedback, for connection, etc, but this sort of writing can really “hide out”, visible only to the select few who seek it out. I don’t always take it terribly seriously, with minimal editing.

When I used to write for a “real” paper, I knew that 10,000 copies were going out into the wide world each week. I could put physical copies into my clipping file. Occasionally people would comment in person, but if no one did, I didn’t really mind. I was just thrilled to see my name in print for the first time.

Now, in this smaller, yet more personal setting, I find myself craving comments. I’ll admit to being thrilled when something gets a larger response. A weird dichotomy, eh?

Which sort of writing seems more “real” or worthwhile to you??