Monday, August 21, 2017

This Eclipse Viewing Brought To You By the Public Library


It's a good thing I'm such a devoted library patron. Otherwise I wouldn't have received four pairs of eclipse-viewing glasses and a print-out of the relevant information for our location from the librarian at the tiny library in the village awhile ago.

As it was, I almost forgot I had them until today when I was like, "Oh, wait. Today's the eclipse, right? I wonder when it is."

Obviously, the hype and hysteria that I read about online totally passed me by. I could never be considered a news junkie.

Anyway.

I got out the information sheet and discovered that we're nowhere near a place that could view the total eclipse. Also that the eclipse here was going to occur just when I was driving to the large village for a doctor's appointment. (For the grandmothers who are probably wondering: Just routine, everything's cool.)

But before I left, I set everyone up with the eclipse glasses.


And all of a sudden, it looked like 1987 all over again.


A. was very concerned that Jack wouldn't keep his on and would burn his eyes irrevocably. He didn't.

I took a look through the glasses myself before I left, and you know, it was really pretty cool. 

But not as cool as those little dudes in the shades there. Totally rad.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ahhhh, Home


Where the sheep are yelling for corn and the tomatoes are sloooooowly ripening.

The first thing Cubby did when he got out of the car at home was run to the garden to see if there were any ripe tomatoes. Because he is definitely his mother's child.


It's a far cry from the late-summer liquor cabinet of old, but it's a start.

There was also a very large Mortgage Lifter tomato that I cooked for dinner last night, along with the green beans that I also sent Cubby out to harvest.*

So handy having a child to harvest things for me. Also handy to be able to come home and browse in the garden for dinner instead of stopping at a store.

We're supposed to have a few days of warm, sunny weather that should help the tomatoes along. If I'm lucky, I may even get enough to make some of Finny's tomato sauce, which is the highest calling for summer tomatoes.

Fingers crossed.

* Plus bacon and eggs and rice, because man cannot live on tomatoes and green beans alone. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Drizzled


We're heading home to the north today from Blackrock, and in the trailer we'll be hauling with us will be many small outfits for a little girl.*

Yes! That means baby shower!

Actually, the invitation to it said it wasn't so much a shower as a drizzle, so as to keep everyone's expectations nice and low. Because this is for the fourth child, you see. A shower--or whatever you want to call it--for a fourth child is a whole different thing from the fancy, elaborate first-child shower.

Some of you may recall the shower the MiL's sister kindly hosted for me at her house lo these many years ago (eight? what? how?) when we were anticipating the arrival of our first-born. There was nicely arranged food and a truly impressive cake and even champagne glasses. And champagne. My mom and my sister flew up here for it. There were no (ex-utero) children present, and it was lovely.

The shower another of the MiL's sisters (she has three) hosted for me this week was held at Cubby's old school. This is the school that sister runs, and she thought it would be convenient because not only does it mean no one has to clean her house, but it's all set up for kids.

None of my family were there, although two of my friends were. Between us, we have nine children so far. Combined with the young cousin who came, that meant there were 10 children under the age of 10. The school location was perfect for them.

There was no champagne, although there was some Corona Light being consumed straight out the bottle. A., who I had asked to come as playground monitor for all the children so the women could possibly actually have a conversation, appreciated the Corona greatly.

There was no elaborate cake, for which I was very grateful, since I can't eat it anyway at the moment. Instead I ate quite a lot of a really delicious curried chickpea salad and surprisingly good raw summer squash salad. We all sat around in tiny chairs at low tables in the school room for our inside picnic and took turns serving the various children present.

Of course, there were also lots of little girl clothes in festive wrappings. Because these women who seem to have no luck when it comes to the next generation producing female offspring really just wanted to buy some adorable little girl rompers. How could I deny them that pleasure?

We can all go ahead and acknowledge here that little girl clothes are way more fun than little boy clothes. I received many very cute items of clothing. In fact, I'm pretty sure this baby is going to be more fashionable than I am.

I don't have any photos. It was just that relaxed. But it was perfect. The perfect small party to celebrate the imminent arrival of this small person who will be welcomed into a family and circle of friends featuring generous hearts, delicious food, and lots of kids to play with.

Lucky girl. And lucky me.

* Also, a forty-year-old woodstove A. is bringing to set up in the barn for the winter so he can hang out in there with any boys who want to be manly and carve stuff or whatever. Because I'm afraid one girl baby is not going to tip the testosterone-heavy balance in our family.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Liquor, Doughnuts, and Other Forbidden Pleasures


I had my big outing in the Small City today, the main purpose of which was to check thrift stores for maternity clothing for me and any clothing at all for my clothes-destroying sons. A. asked me to pick up some whiskey for him at the liquor store while I was in the city, too.

There happens to be a liquor store just down the street from the thrift store, so after I did my shopping, I decided to walk to the liquor store. It was only about 300 yards. Definitely not worth getting in the car again.

This did mean, however, that I had to walk back to my car parked at the thrift store on the busiest road in the city, obviously pregnant and carrying a similarly obvious brown paper liquor store package.

Super.

In addition, my little walk took me directly past the bakery that sells the best doughnuts in the entire world. Thanks to that little issue with gestational diabetes--which is entirely controllable for me if I'm careful of what I eat--I am no longer eating doughnuts.

Harsh. Way harsh.

I marched resolutely past the bakery, holding a bottle of liquor that I am also not permitted to ingest.

The only thing I could take comfort in was the coffee mug that I found at the thrift store. See, I dropped my coffee mug last week and broke it. This was my special mug. The mug in which I drank my coffee every single morning for the past eight years or so.

It was one of those camp-style mugs, the kind that are extra wide and straight-sided. I like that style because they are particularly stable around rampaging children, and also hold a little more than a standard mug. This is important because of the amount of milk I put in my very strong coffee with chicory.

I thought I could just use one of the many other mugs we have. But none of them were the same shape, and I was sad every morning when I drank my coffee out of an inferior mug.

Because of this, I was actually planning on going back to the local Huge Outdoor store from which I originally purchased my mug to get another. Even though it had a picture of a gaping fish on it that I really did not care to see first thing in the morning.

But while I was at the thrift store, I decided to check their selection of mugs and ta da! There was just the right kind of camp mug for 99 cents, with the benign logo of the YMCA on it. So it's even an improvement on the ugly fish mug.

I may not be able to have liquor or doughnuts, but at least I can once again enjoy my coffee from a proper (and gratifyingly cheap) mug. It'll have to do.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Just Call Me The Crazy Garden Lady


This morning I actually said to A., "I hate to leave my garden for a whole week. But I guess I've done everything I can to prepare it for my absence."

Apparently, the garden is my fifth child.

Then again, all my children are coming with me tomorrow when we leave for Blackrock for a week, but the garden will be left to fend for itself.

My preparation mostly consisted of stripping the pea and bean plants of every last small pea and bean, so that I don't come home to overly matured legumes that have caused the plants to stop producing.

Can we just talk for a moment about how incredible it is that I'm still harvesting peas in mid-August?

Peas are a cool-weather crop. They stop producing when it gets hot and dry. At Blackrock, I would rarely get more than one good harvest from the pea plants before they would wither away. But here, this year, it's been so cool and wet that it took forever for the peas to start producing anything at all, but once they did they don't seem to be giving up.

I did pull the shelling peas out this morning, though. They were starting to die, and were harboring an alarming colony of slugs (another result of our cool, wet summer), so I decided to rip them out. I left the snap peas in, though, after harvesting a full two quarts of snap peas from three plants.

The carrots have also been outstanding this year. A. planted a full two packets of seed in April, and they all came up. We started eating the thinnings from the carrots about two months ago, and we've had a steady supply since. The kids more or less free-range in the carrot rows, eating however many they want whenever they want, and we still have incredible quantities of quite large carrots out there.

Unfortunately, the weather that has been so beneficial for the peas and carrots has been very, very sad for the summer crops. Particularly the cucumbers and tomatoes.

There are dozens upon dozens of tomatoes on my sixteen plants and not a single one was ripe. Not one. What a screw. And here we are facing down a killing frost in about a month.

However!

As I was working my way around the tomato forest to get to another patch of green beans to harvest, I spied . . . is that red?

Yes! It's the much-anticipated First Tomato!

I found it in the very center of a remarkably bushy Juliet plant. I haven't been checking the interiors of the plants much, figuring the tomatoes on the outside that are more exposed to the sun would ripen first. I guess I was wrong, because I found the one Juliet that was entirely ripe, and then a few more that were almost ripe, and all were way inside the tomato jungle.

Cubby was in the garden with me when I found it, and he was so excited that he raced into the house yelling to the household at large that there was a ripe tomato.

That's my boy.

Everyone came out to admire the tomatoes I had found. And then I ate the ripe one. Myself. Oh yes, I did. It's a tradition.

I now have some hope that when we get back in a week there will be a lot more red to greet us in the tomato patch. That would be a sweet homecoming indeed.

And in the meantime, we have lots of snap peas and carrots for our long drive tomorrow.


Nothing like homegrown carrot sticks.

Farewell, beloved garden. Ripen lots of tomatoes while I'm gone, okay?

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Don't Use That Word


This morning when I announced my intention of sorting through and organizing the disaster of clothing bins in the utility room, A. said The Word. The Word that always comes up with pregnant women and that inspires irrational irritation in me.

"Ah, nesting."

Ugh.

There is no doubt that nesting is an actual phenomenon. It's just the way it's said that always annoys me. Kind of condescendingly, as if hormones are the only reason a woman would choose to, say, scrub the grout in the shower. Never mind the fact that a pregnant woman--especially a woman who has been pregnant a time (or three) before--knows damn well that if that grout doesn't get cleaned now, she's going to be staring at filthy grout for months as she slowly loses her mind with newborn-related sleep deprivation.

Anyway.

The reason I wanted to do all the clothes sorting now is so I could figure out what the kids might need when the colder weather comes. Then I can look for those things at thrift stores when we're at Blackrock next week. There are no thrift stores up here, so I want to look at the thrift stores there first, and then buy online what I can't find there.

While I was sorting clothes, I pulled out the extra convertible carseat we have so A. could put it in the Subaru for Jack. Except when I pulled it out, I noticed that the cover and straps were covered in mildew.

Sigh. Must I be plagued by mildew wherever I go?

I pulled off the cover to wash, which was surprisingly complicated. Many little elastic pieces to be unhooked and buckles to be disconnected and so forth. Then I decided I might as well do the same for the infant car seat I got from someone recently. That was also amazingly complicated to disassemble.

I then hauled the plastic shells outside to hose them down and scrub them with vinegar. They're drying outside right now, as are the covers.

I suspect that I will need A.'s help to figure out how to get those covers back on, however. They will probably defeat me on my own. Besides, if I'm going to be nesting, I might as well drag Papa Drake into it with me, right? Right.

At least we have two months to figure it out.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

You Can Take the Boy Out of Blackrock . . .


A. had to learn many home repair skills while living at Blackrock. Unless you want to spend a literal fortune to pay carpenters and so forth, it's kind of a necessity with a 160-year-old house. 

One of the skills he learned that is definitely unusual was masonry. Because, of course, Blackrock is not just an old house, it's an old cobblestone house. With stone foundations. And those foundations require periodic repair if you don't want your house to literally fall out from under your feet.

So he learned how to replace stones and re-point mortar. He even learned how to mix his own mortar, because the mortar used on old houses like Blackrock is not the same as the modern pre-mixed bags of concrete and so forth available at places like Home Depot. Apparently the old mortar was more flexible than the modern mixes, and therefore is less likely to crack as the foundations shift with freezing and thawing and so on. 

A. also discovered that he has a great affinity and liking for stonework. Handy if you live in a place like Blackrock. He got pretty good at it.

But then we moved. Our current home is only fifteen years old and made of wood on a poured foundation. No need for masonry here.

Except . . .

The church we attend in the village happens to be an imposing stone edifice. And one of the first things A. the Amateur Mason noted was the sad condition of the mortar on the cut-stone front steps. It's crumbling and in many cases completely missing and growing grass. There are other areas that need repair work, but he was pretty sure he could repair the steps in an appropriately professional fashion.

However, the fact that he's not a professional made him a little shy to bring this up with those in charge of church maintenance. I mean, how many random people would really be able to do a repair like that in any kind of acceptable manner? Most people would just slap some modern concrete in there and call it good. 

The thought of this horrifies A., however, and he was particularly concerned that if the deterioration continued, the powers that be would decide to just take out the existing cut-stone steps and replace them with poured concrete steps.

Sacrilege in A.'s eyes.

So he got up the courage to ask the deacon if he might repair the steps for them. (For free, obviously.) After the deacon consulted with whoever he needed to consult, A. got the go-ahead.

Last time we were at Blackrock, he stopped at his favorite masonry supply yard to pick up the supplies he would need. And then he got to work.

This is very slow work. It takes him about two hours to do one step. There are ten steps. He can only work if there's at least a 12-hour window with no rain to enable the mortar to set. This has been somewhat difficult to achieve during this cool, wet summer we've been having.

There is also the issue that the children do not appreciate it when Daddy disappears for hours without them.

A. brought Cubby along with him the first time he went, figuring Cubby might find it interesting. He did find it interesting. He also learned how to do it. It seems ridiculous to think that a seven-year-old can do masonry work, but apparently Cubby's affinity with tools extends to trowels. A. reported with some amazement that not only does Cubby help, but he can actually just DO the work. Like, the two of them just work along side by side. Cubby actually makes the work go faster.

Of course, then Charlie wanted to try. Which meant Jack had to go. And THAT meant that I had to go, too. So we all loaded up on Sunday afternoon and descended upon the church.


Charlie's contribution was mostly scraping and sweeping the old mortar and dirt and grass from the cracks so A. and Cubby could mortar it. Charlie tried working with the trowels, but he doesn't appear to have the same natural feel for it that Cubby does. 

Thankfully, the third (and definitely least helpful) apprentice mason fell asleep in the car on the way to the church, so I just left him sleeping in there while the other three worked. When the inevitable fighting over tools began, I removed Charlie and Jack to the playground. Cubby elected to stay behind to keep working.

A.'s goal is to finish the steps before freezing weather arrives. Mortar won't set in freezing temperatures. So he's got about a month and half. With Cubby's able assistance--and mine in the form of keeping the other two out of the way--he should make it.

So the church gets its steps repaired for free and A. gets to do his beloved masonry. Everyone wins.