Posted by: David | November 10, 2013

Fall Back

Hey Internet! It’s been a while. Sorry about that. You know that this whole personal blog thing is “sunsetting” don’t you? Anyhoo, how you doin’? Are ya listening?

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Pampas grass in front of the Ivey Science Center. The light hit it so many different ways, I photographed it often this fall.

As indicated in the previous post, this has been a very busy fall semester. The lovely little college where I work now has the largest student population in its 176 year history. I feel very lucky to have spent the last 15 years working there. The past few years have been especially exciting, and sometimes a bit scary. Higher education is changing, they say, and small colleges like ours are especially challenged by the changing landscape. If you don’t believe me just do a Google search: higher education challenges. Books, studies and monographs galore.

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Not sure what most of this means, but seeing it makes me happy to work at a college.

Trying to predict what will happen with higher education in the future is impossible. Believe it or not, as a young nerd I realized in the 1970s that there would be a convergence or melding of the technologies of computing, telephony and television. Duh, who didn’t know that, right? It was obvious. But the ways in which those technologies actually did blend were so varied and profuse as to defy any detailed prediction. Smart phones, streaming video and music, and all the crap we so take for granted now– who could have predicted? As technology impinges on education another unpredictable convergence evolves before our eyes. What’s next?

It is mid-to-late autumn now, the first snowflakes and brief snow squalls have flown, and the garden has been put to bed for the Long Winter of Zone 5b. The final cabbages were small and dense, hit by a few frosts. And this year only half as much garlic was planted– about 300 cloves. The photos below are before and after the planting. In between a picture of a lonely radicchio.

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I was up on the roof a few weekends back brushing out the chimney. It was a chilly but sunny afternoon. Got a nice panorama of the back yard. There was hardly any creosote to be collected at the chimney’s cleanout door. But enough to blacken the clothes and hands of course.

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An unexpected crop this fall was black walnuts. There is a pretty tall tree on our property and usually the squirrels or some other rodents take all the nuts. This year there were just too many I guess. There were tons of apples too– I dehydrated lots of them. Anyway, the walnuts have a smelly and objectionable outer husk that must be removed before setting the nuts in a dry place to cure. The inner shells are very hard. I’ve been cracking them in a vise on my workbench to monitor the curing. The nutmeats are smaller and stronger tasting than store-bought nuts, and a lot smaller and harder to remove from the shell.

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Black walnuts curing.

This fall has been more temperate than last, the couple of cold snaps surrounded by days warm enough to get the bicycle on the road. The autumnal foliage was pretty good this year, though not spectacular. It’s so beautiful here anyway that the fall colors don’t even have to be spectacular.

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Lake Todd, Newbury, New Hampshire.

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Sumac bushes behind Kearsarge Regional High School.

On a couple of recent bike rides through Sutton, the town just north of mine, I found some interesting graffiti under an overpass of Interstate 89. The road is a favorite for cyclists, dog-walkers and other folks looking for a quiet stroll. Not much traffic, hence, a good place to spend a few minutes tagging the concrete abutments without fear of the interruption. Maybe that begets more interesting graffiti.

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Back on a beautiful late September day, an old friend, the dog and I climbed Mt. Kearsarge. Actually we drove most of the way up, but the mile or so hike was well worth the spectacular view. The weather was so clear that Mt. Washington was faintly visible on the horizon, as well as (maybe) some of the Boston skyline. There were lots of folks up there that day, and one woman was kind enough to point out the unusually clear and distant views.


Oliver hadn’t had this much exercise in quite some time.

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In closing, I’d like to thank you for stopping by.

Posted by: David | September 2, 2013

Labor Day 2013

So I went to work today. And yesterday, and the day before. This week is when all our new students arrive, along with returning faculty, most of whom have  avoided their offices since a week or two after last May’s commencement. We year-round staff are all abuzz with excitement and busy-ness, excited to see our new and returning students and feverishly getting every last little detail ready for them.

The longer I wait, the more up-to-date the computer labs will be when the students arrive.

The longer I wait, the more up-to-date the computer labs will be when the students arrive.

I set a couple of keyboards on top of the paper towel dispenser. They fall down (as granddaughter says).

I set a couple of keyboards on top of the paper towel dispenser. They fall down (as granddaughter says).

August just zips by so fast. Now it’s gone. The corn, as the saying goes, is now in the freezer. They don’t say that do they? What evs. I just did. This post will feature more photos than words, lucky for you, dear reader.

Sweet corn. Critters enjoyed a few ears too.

Sweet corn. Critters enjoyed a few ears too. A cute young fox found its way into the Havahart trap. It had blue eyes. Wish I’d taken a picture before releasing it.

Processed 51 ears. Smaller crop than usual.

Processed 51 ears. Smaller crop than usual.

Managed to get in a few nice bike rides in the first half of August. I’m now way overdue. Though my sanity is safe, I tweeted this question, which struck me as slightly hilarious: Ever feel like you’re living your own life vicariously? I like to respond to the tweets and Facebook posts of famous comedians too. Thought you should know. They generally don’t respond. Never actually. Although, once, at the mention gourmet jelly beans in an early blog post, the actual inventor of Jelly Belly brand jelly beans left a comment. As I now Google his name, this sort of sad story appears … He left a nice comment though.

THIS IS A TEST SITE.

THIS IS A TEST SITE.

Feeling somewhat random. It’s just fatigue. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.

Zinnia grown in one of my wife's many lovely flower gardens.

Zinnia bloom in one of my wife’s many lovely flower gardens.

A few weeks back we had some great weather, dry and not too hot, but good and sunny. Perfect weather for the farmers around here to cut, dry and bale their hay. On one nice bike ride through Henniker and Hillsborough there were no less than 3 or 4 different farms at various stages of the process.

This, perhaps, is the world's smallest hayfield. It's in Henniker.

This, perhaps, is the world’s smallest hayfield. It’s in Henniker.

And here's the latest in green pavement. Actually it's just preparation for a skating rink coming this winter.

And here’s the latest in green pavement. Actually it’s just preparation for a skating rink coming this winter to the campus quad.

So a few weeks back I was shopping and stopped to look at all the many premium ales at the Market Basket. One stood out.

So a few weeks back I was shopping and stopped to look at all the many premium ales at the Market Basket. One stood out. And it was not Terrible at all.

I sold a freezer and a really old Lange woodstove on Craigslist. Nobody wants the old Rockwell table saw though. Maybe I’ll end up restoring it after all. If I can get parts. Or I’ll put it up by the road with a sign that says FREE. One advantage of living on a state route with a fair amount of traffic. You can recycle stuff pretty easily. We actually had two freezers to get out of the garage. One left by Craigslist and one left via the driveway.

This photo was taken today. It's something we've all seen before.

This photo was taken today. It’s something we’ve all seen before.

Here’s hoping that this week goes well for all of us. Another school year begins.

Posted by: David | August 8, 2013

Thirty Years Old

The dogwood tree that my wife's mother planted 15 or 20 years ago in front of their home in Connecticut.

The dogwood tree that my wife’s mother planted 15 or 20 years ago in front of their home in Connecticut.

On Sunday, August 4th, 2013, our late son Daniel would have reached that milestone age of 30. Recollecting  the first year of my 3rd decade, there was nothing notable. Nothing significant.  My body was still young and able to sustain all the damage I was inflicting on it, and neither my heart nor mind was anywhere near that maturity level one was supposed to reach as one headed “over the hill”.  All there was was this ingrained expectation that having reached one’s 30th year, some sense of arrival should materialize. It didn’t.

The last photo of Dan, taken in March 1993. It was a very snowy winter. He loved the whole spring lamb deal.

The last photo of Dan, taken in March 1993. It was a very snowy winter. He loved the whole spring lamb deal.

Perhaps that why It seems important for me to think up better stuff for how Danny would have appreciated some of the things that have happened in his family since his departure just over 20 years ago. As a family, we’ve observed the anniversaries of his arrival and departure many times now. Most of those times have been happy recollections, a few times bittersweet, wet with loss and grief, much like the nearly ten years he spent with us. If we got a do-over the only thing I’d request to change would be that poor little ticker of his.

On Saturday the 3rd we took a 3-hour drive to pick up a load of furniture from my in-laws’ home in Connecticut. They sold the place to spend their remaining years having to look after only one home. In Florida. We scored a great bedroom set, a nice chest freezer and a couple of nice recliners. It was a one day trip and we burned about 50 gallons of gas. A long day, but a good one.

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This is a small framed mirror I noticed at work this week. The silvering on the back has aged and corroded to form this lovely pattern.

On Sunday, Dan’s 30th birthday, we had some family over to see about distributing some of the furniture. We were tired from the day before, but it wasn’t too bad. We got our bedroom set up with the new furniture. There was a lot of dust under the old bed. We graduated to a queen sized mattress, after 35 years of sleeping on full sized beds. Even though the mattress is pretty old, it’s a really good one, nice and firm. I’ve been sleeping in this week, only on Tuesday did I manage to drag ass down to the cellar at 5 for the morning workout routine.

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Fruit of the dogwood tree.

Late in the afternoon, after the last of the furniture was emptied from the horse trailer into our daughter and son-in-law’s house, our daughter suggested that we take a little walk. In honor of the birthday. It was a very sweet suggestion, and our granddaughter thought it sounded like a fine idea. I felt guilty about it, but I was just too tired. Lame. Thanks for suggesting it big sister! They mention “Uncle Danny” to our granddaughter sometimes, and one thing that we all know for certain is that if 30 year old Danny was around to celebrate his birthday with his adorable niece, he’d have definitely wanted to go for that walk too.

Posted by: David | July 6, 2013

… auspicious beginnings

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Four killdeer eggs in a nest next to my daughter & son-in-law’s driveway. Three of them hatched.

Today started out so well. Or so it seemed. We’d had to curtail the desired Saturday habit of lazing in bed until after 8 am because the hay man was bringing the 100 bales of first-cut hay. Funny thing was when he called and asked my wife what time she’d like him to bring it over, he’d said “It’s gonna hafta be a little earlier than that …” to her requested time of 8:30. 7:30 it would be. Considering that the temperature (and dew point) were right about 73°F his delivery time was the smart choice. It meant about a quart less sweat per person.

Unloading and stowing 100 bales of hay into the barn with the stupid, wanna-be hayloft (it’s too short to stand up, and bumping your head or back on a collar tie is a requirement) may not sound like the best way to start one’s Saturday, but as a friend from work used to say, it beats a sharp stick in the eye. But then, I’m an advocate of early morning exercise, preferably not on a Saturday or Sunday early morning. Those mornings are for sleeping in, not for sharp sticks in the eyes.

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We had a huge puddle in our front yard and this wood turtle came to visit for a couple days.

Three serious farm-folk that we are, we completed the task in under an hour. While not exactly in the category of fun, it’s one of those tasks that must happen a couple times a year if one has a horse or horses. Or a pony, which is what we have.

After a quick hoeing of the corn, it was time to make the traditional Saturday breakfast. We’ve left off the bacon part of this tradition, since mine and my wife’s cholesterol stats were a little on the high side last year. This year it’s been just the eggs and toast, which is just fine. This morning’s selection of the largest 4 eggs for over-easy frying in butter (yes, butter) was pretty much incredible. All four eggs had double yolks! And not a single broken yolk in the flipping. The icing on this cake took the form of the first sampling, on toast, of the large batch of garlic scape pesto I’d made and frozen  a couple weeks back. Mmmm.

Nowhere to go but downhill. I decided a quick bike ride would be in order. On the road, just after 9, heading south on Route 114 to Henniker. Took the cheapo Giant, the bike I tend to neglect in favor of the big, heavy Fuji Touring bike. The blue Fuji is for when I can take a big chunk of the day, not sure at the outset where to go. The Giant is lighter and I can ride faster, but I have to cut back to the essential items that can be stuffed into the Camelbak, wallet, keys, Leatherman tool, Clif bar and 2.5x reading glasses in case I should need to focus closely on a task like, say, fixing a flat tire. Oops, did I say that out loud?

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Inconspicuous advertising for … ??

Yeah, so much for beating the recent personal best (on the Giant I often try to see how many miles I can ride in one hour) of 16.8 miles. Almost in sight of the 35 MPH speed limit sign just north of Henniker, my front tire starts making squishy sounds. Dammit. OK, fair enough, it’s been a while since I’ve had a flat tire. And if you’ve seen 3 other cyclists changing tires so far this season, it’s your turn. My turn that is. So this is when I discover that the spare tube in the under-the-seat tool kit is actually an old, patched one. And the patch looks bad. More to the point, the little hand pump I’d been carrying on the bike, and used once a couple years ago, turns out to have been RUBBISH. Had my mood been less upbeat, I would have at least visualized chucking that stupid pump into the woods.

But several nice cyclists and a couple of motorists stopped to offer assistance, which I declined, pretty sure I could resolve this situation one way or another. One pair of cyclists, Henniker residents, just getting started on their way up to Lake Sunapee, offered to let me walk my bike to their garage, open and not too far, where I’d find a good quality floor pump to with with to reinflate my tube. I actually started walking that way before I called my wife for a rescue. While waiting for her, a couple more cyclists and a motorist with Vermont plates asked me if I was OK or needed help. Gotta love the cycling community, they’re some really nice folks. And what I needed to do Saturday was mow the lawn. That took most of the day.

My wife’s truck was nice and cool. Almost cold with all the sweat evaporating from me, and Oliver was in a state of agitated bewilderment. That’s his general behavior when in an automobile with my wife and I. He’s not sure of the destination, so he’s compelled to hyperventilate, whine and jump around. The Sunday morning trip to the dump is a much calmer deal. Just him and me. He knows where we’re going and that we’ll be back home in less than one dog-eternity: 30 minutes.  He may see some exciting things, like people walking other dogs, but these things he handles with a degree of control.

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A luna moth visited this window at Colby-Sawyer in early June.

In conclusion, an explanation of the title of this post. Obvious on the surface with today’s events, it also alludes to a line fragment in an early (1970) Jack Nicholson film, Five Easy Pieces. Can’t remember when I’d last (first?) seen this movie, but I watched it recently on Netflix streaming and was reminded why it had resonated with me however many years ago it had been. It’s a low budget period piece with interesting characters and lots of personality, and I recommend it. As with many older films, it may require some patience. Jack’s character has a one-way conversation with his wheelchair/dementia-bound father in which he sort of apologizes for never reaching his potential and intended career as a concert pianist. ” … auspicious beginnings ...” he says, by way of explanation, to his unresponsive dad. Dad just stares the thousand yard stare.

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