Celebrating Solstice At the Farm

It is just me and Tina hanging out on the porch watching the sky slowly darken on the longest day of the year.  It got hazy and humid about an hour ago, harbingers of the hot weather that is on its way.  Just in time for our first official houseguest who are venturing out of the cool environs of the Pacific Northwest for a visit back east.  We’re buying a new air conditioner and putting them upstairs in the back room with its outside porch and lovely views.

My biggest issue right now is furniture, specifically sofas and chairs.  We have kitchen chairs and one sad futon sofa that I ordered from LL Bean many many years ago.  I know of at least two more chairs still to come but that’s about it.  We only really had the one sitting room.  Now, I have three or four rooms that could use at least one comfortable chair and two rooms that could use a sofa.  I really want a chaise lounge for the library along with a couple chairs for the first place.  I need to run out tomorrow so may stop by the local antique store to see if there are any treasures around with small price tags on them.  I’m not a great decorator but I know what I like and was practicing shabby chic before they even coined the term.

The rest of the crew-husband, nephew and friend-are staying in Williamsburg where they are very close to finishing up the house improvements as we prepare for our first tenants.  We discovered nice hard wood floors under some of the “tired” grey carpeting and the renters are bringing their own carpet for the newest sections of the house that are just plywood.  It’s sort of hard to believe we lived in that little house for all those years.

The friend who came with my nephew to help us out with all the work commented about my cute teapots and other trinkets that are all around the house and showed me an adorable box she had.  I found myself telling her that it has been so many years since many of the items have seen the light of day.  I had forgotten a few things and was delighted to see them.  I also found that there were some things I really had learned to live without and so they are on their way to new owners by way of the local thrift shop.  And then there are things that have never been out of the boxes, like my great grandmother’s Johnson Brothers china. It is the Wild Rose pattern in green and I have a fairly complete set considering how old it is.  My mother had it and passed it along to me some time ago.  I’ll eventually get the china closet, too, but for now the china is enjoying new life in the built in cupboard in the paneled room.  I can’t wait to have a dinner party and use it!

The weather has been so nice that I put the hammock on the front porch on Sunday and read and relaxed.  It takes up a bit too much room so I’m going to set up the gazebo we bought and put the hammock inside.  It will help with the bugs in the evening.

It is now full on dark and my battery is complaining so I think it’s time to head inside. I was tempted to stay with the crew in the burg but wanted to wake up at the farm.  Latte on the porch, quiet morning of reading email and doing chores, some antique shopping…sounds like a perfect day lays ahead.  A train calls at the crossing, my candle burns low, and I feel content.

NB: I have talked to a couple people lately who really need a break from either work or personal problems.  While I have no interest in running a bed and breakfast, I would love to create a retreat of some sort, maybe using the cottage.  Instead of doing long term renters, rent it by the week or weekend as an efficiency since it has a kitchen and laundry.  You can work on the farm if you like, sit on the front porch and watch the garden grow or sprawl on the chaise lounge in the library and read.  I like the idea more and more…

NB: Like all those ppsss you put on letters as a kid: there’s an old church building for sale in Waverly.  I haven’t been able to find the listing online but it would be a great art/music center for the town.  Hmmm…maybe it’s the Solstice talking and I should just go to bed.

Dear Mother Nature

I am SO sorry about Spot!  He really is a good dog who takes his job of protecting me and the farm very seriously.  Well, maybe a little too seriously.  But how was I supposed to know that when he dove into the bush this morning, he was going to come up with a baby rabbit?  It was early, I was under-caffeinated, and it took me a split second too long to realize what was going on.  It was over quickly with nary a sound from the bunny.

Two days ago, it was a mole.  Really.  Those little denizens of the deep that most dogs find infuriating as they dig up the tunnels.  Not Spot.  He sat for a moment, cocked his head at the ground, dug–once, twice–and there was a big fat mole with it little light brown paws rolling out onto the ground.  I was more aware that time and able to pull him off before he did any damage.  And, of course, he has a track record.  Even before we adopted him, when he was just the new dog next door, he killed my pretty little Silver Spangled Hamburg when she dared to venture over the fence.  And his first night at the farm, despite being tied, he was close enough to grab Dotty, our silver Wyandotte, but all he got was a mouth full of feathers before Bob wrestled him to the ground.

Right now, he is tied out front watching the corn field across the drive way as it is full of furry creatures.  And I’m remembering reading Gary Paulsen’s Woodsong when I taught middle school.  It is book full of the sudden, brutal violence of nature.  Not my usual book–I haven’t ever made it through Old Yeller or The Red Pony–but the kids liked Paulsen and I was determined to try. Paulsen talks about how we are raised on a somewhat sanitized view of nature, that of Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom, one of my favorite shows as a kid.  The lions stalk the gazelle, we see them running and then we see the lions eating something that might have been a gazelle. The actual death took place off camera so we didn’t have to watch the struggles, see the blood, experience the violence.  Spot killing a bunny was certainly not that graphic but it was brutal and unexpected and a reminder that, for all his domesticated qualities, he harbors the soul of a hunter and killer and no amount of human intervention will ever train that out of him.

And then he is also a big baby who is afraid of thunder storms.  The wind is kicking up, and he has retired to the front porch to be near me.  I don’t think this storm will hit us but there are some cells out to the west.  At least the breeze has brought some relief to the humid day we had.  I am planning to head upstairs to do some organizing now that we’ve got some more furniture in place.

And, Mother Nature, I promise I will be more vigilant.

Mostly Moved

I am always surprised when I log in and discover it has been two weeks since I’ve posted.  I know I’ve been thinking about it, but life has really intruded.  I guess that’s what reality TV is all about: capture people as they move through their activities because they won’t have time to write about it during and after the fact they will do all sorts of interpretations.  Did I just provide justification for the Kardashians??  Cinema verite for the 21st century.

It is a divine late evening at the farm.  I tore myself away from unpacking…it seems like there are a million little things I could do to make things better and more livable.  The dining room is filled with boxes from out last few trips, but  I made a huge dent by getting all the Christmas stuff into a closet upstairs.  Where did I get all this stuff?  I barely decorated last year because I figured we were moving somewhere in 2011 and didn’t want to unpack.  I had also, over the past few years, been taking advantage of post-holiday container sales to buy big plastic tubs so at the least it was easy to transport the decorations. But what could possibly be in the six or seven tubs in the closet? I guess I’m glad I have a seeming excess since it is going to be a hoot to decorate this house with its 7 mantels, huge ceilings (can’t WAIT to put the tree in the library and hang all the nature and bird ornaments that I’ve collected, many treasured gifts, over the years), and front porch.  I’m guessing that wreaths at the windows are obligatory.

I’m sitting on the front porch right now.  I finally got around to filling the baskets I bought at Big Lots last week.  I bought an already cultivated “basket” mix from my local greenhouse, actually I bought four. Two for each of two baskets. They are basically plugs with three different flowers that will spread over the course of the summer.   Another basket that hangs in a pretty shady spot is sports a fuschia.  The fourth basket has a lovely foamy lavender flower, some thyme and some mint.

They replaced some very scraggly Boston Ferns that should really have been declared DOA when they came out of the green house this Spring, but we just can’t seem to kill things outright if they show any signs of life.  To the end, I filled two pots with a few tomatillos and basil plants that were languishing in pots.  My husband believes that if you get 50 seeds in a packet, you are expecting to get 50 plants.  And, he usually does, which means we have plenty of extra plants.  We put a long row of tomatoes along the front of the property for the neighbors to share.  I have a salsa pot (tomato, pepper, onions, basil, and parsley) that I planted some time ago.  The tomato is gorgeous but wasn’t meant for a pot and is shading out everything else.

The good news is that we have renters for the house who want to move in on July 1.  Husband and nephew have been painting feverishly and there is the ceiling in the bathroom to fix.  But with the exception of a few pieces of furniture including the piano, we are mostly out.  The attic and garage are even mostly empty.  A few more car/truck loads and we will be here.

I AM here.  I work on unpacking around my other work so we have both empty boxes, which we really don’t need since stuff in the attic and garage were mostly packed.  We found a couple surprising boxes of books in the garage: mostly first editions.  I also found my old book spinner from my middle school classroom.  It sits quite nicely on a round table, and I may add some of the firsts to it, but I am also realizing I am going to have to put books in other rooms of the house.  The handyman books that my husband inherited from someone went on the pantry bookshelf, and I will have a nice selection in the guest room and my room.

I find myself defining pieces of furniture I need.  In the library, I need a book display rack for some of my bigger volumes; my Audobon is open to orchard orioles, of which we have several pairs around the farm, but I may flip to bobwhite since I listened to one call at dusk as I trudged up and down the steps with boxes.  I also need a cabinet for sheet music and musical instruments as well as a way to display some of them.  I have a beautiful dulcimer with hummingbird cutouts that I bought from the maker in eastern Kentucky when I went on a work week there more than 20 years ago.  I know how to play a bit.

But that is all in the future.  Right now, it is about getting furniture into rooms and putting things away.  We are blessed with closets in most rooms and an amazing built in china cabinet in the den.  We are also using the milking parlor for more long term storage.  Suddenly, we have space!

I have been trying to outwit nature a bit.  We have a honey bee hive in the front part of the house where the decorative wood has broken away from the house.  They discovered my hummingbird feeders and quickly became a nuisance.  I got stung trying to refill a feeder and they were chasing away the hummers as they piled around the openings of the small hanging feeders.  We played around with some bee guard designs but none of them worked.  I did a little research and decided the best course was compromise.  I moved the feeders they liked off the porch and nearer the hive.  I put the two feeders they didn’t use on or near the porch.  I have seen a hummer at one of them and the bees seemed to have moved on so perhaps I have succeeded.  We would very much like to figure out how to relocate the hive to the hives we have but they still need work and we just haven’t had time to pursue it.  They need painted and we need to get the beeswax foundation in place.  Then, it’s a matter of somehow capturing the hive and the queen.  So, maybe it isn’t a priority.  They aren’t a problem in the house and I like thinking that somewhere under the floor boards upstairs there is honey.  We should have sweet dreams 😉

I have been reading.  I finally settled on an odd choice: Norman Mailer’s story of Lee Harvey Oswald called Oswald’s Tale.  It is this odd third person/first person, narrator/primary source narrative interwoven with statements from the Warren Commission, interview transcripts, KGB and CIA reports, and Oswald’s diary.

NB: I lost my network connection when the battery died on the wireless device.  I took a break and managed to unpack another box or two, discovering my collection of old fashioned table cloths in one of the tubs.  For now, linens go on the shelves between the den and the dining room so that box was easy to unpack. There is a wide passageway created by the chimney that services the fireplace in both rooms and it is great storage.  For now it is a staging ground, first for the candles which are now back in their cupboard, now for linens that I think will end up in the marble top. I also found the doorway curtains I made for our old house. They could be used to cover the doors and keep the air conditioning in the living room.  One panel will make a nice curtain to cover the open shelving in the passageway.  And so it goes…I could walk a few more things upstairs before heading to bed.  Every thing that moves gets me one step closer to being done or at least as far along as I can get as I wait for the rest of the furniture to get moved upstairs. And walking up the stairs is good exercise.

If you have read this far, congratulations…you are up to date on the world of the farm!  The weather has cooled off so we can keep the windows open to catch the breezes and the cool night air.  A train is going past, its whistle warning of its approach, and I feel at home.

A What-To-Read-Next Dilemma

Reading time has been slim these days, but a short vacation to visit an old friend afforded a bit of time on her gorgeously comfortable leather sofa to finish a book and a begin another, a gift from that said friend.

The book I finally managed to complete was Doug Brinkley’s The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey.  This has been on my shelf forever and I got to it from my revisionist history reading.  Brinkley created an on-the-road history course and spent a summer criss-crossing the country with his students, immersing themselves in America, using the country as textbook.  The book itself was a hybrid: part textbook when Brinkley took time to provide background as well as his own personal and professional spin on the locations being visited and part travelogue with details about attractions, restaurants and night spots.  Mostly, I walked away with a huge list of musicians and writers added to my must-listen, must-read lists, starting with Robert Johnson and Thomas Wolfe.  Johnson was easy…I found recordings on the Internet archive.  Locating Wolfe was actually easy as well since I inherited a copy of both Look Homeward Angel and You Can’t Go Home Again from the good doctor whose spirit enshrouds the farmhouse.

I had started the former right before leaving and then did not take it along.  When Brinkley’s chronicle came to an end, I turned to one of the books from my friend whose preference is British lit: A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz. Each chapter revolves around one of the novels and I found myself connecting to the network to download Emma, a book I read many years ago.

We also went to see the newest version of Jane Eyre, which was terrific, atmospheric, moody, just the perfect vision of the novel.  I actually prefer the Brontes to Austen and have read Jane Eyre multiple times, but a new copy now resides on my Nook.

This morning, I stole a few minutes from unpacking to pick up Thomas Wolfe and begin the story of Eugene Gant from the beginning.  The sweeping panorama of the first few pages was beginning to make me wonder if there would be something more intimate when Wolfe pulled me down to the very birth of Eugene.  But before that it was the description of his tortured father’s garden that washed over me:

Then, in the cool long glade of yard that stretched four hundred feet behind the house he planted trees and grape vines. And whatever he touched in that rich fortress of his soul sprang into golden life: as the years passed, the fruit trees–the peach, the plum, the cherry, the apple–grew great and bent beneath their clusters. His grape vines thickened into brawny ropes of brown and coiled down the high wire fences of his lot, and hung in a dense fabric, upon his trellises, roping his domain twice around. They climbed the porch end of the house and framed the upper windows in thick bowers. And the flowers grew in rioting glory in his yard–the velvet-leaved nasturtium, slashed with a hundred tawny dyes, the rose, the snowball, the redcupped tulip, and the lily. The honeysuckle dropped its have mass upon the fence; wherever his great hands touched the earth, it grew fruitful for him.

Aah…I suppose some might find it too prosey but I just dove in, relishing the thick description, thinking about our own property with its sprawling vines and towering trees.

So, I suppose I don’t have a dilemma: I’m going American for now.

NB: It took me two days to write this entry and I haven’t picked up Wolfe in all that time. We are making almost daily trips back and forth between the city house and the farm with car loads of our possessions.  The weather is horribly hot so if we take a break, we end up napping, storing up energy for the next explosion of energy.  So, the reading dilemma may be a moot point.


Settling In and Sharing Our New Home

The past two weeks have been a bit nuttier than even that past two months as we have hosted visitors for the past two weekends. First, an open house for our “city” friends so they could see what we are up to out here in the country.  We had a weekend-long drop in and were happily surprised with the number of people who were willing to make the trek especially since, with the largest ferry out of commission, the float across the James River is longer than usual.

This weekend, my family arrived to celebrate the shared birthdays of me and my nephew.  My sister hadn’t seen the place, and she was full of great ideas for making some changes.  Everyone offered their time for painting and cleaning as well.  We could make great progress if we had a work week.  Just need a few more beds and another working shower so they could stay with us.

Now, everyone is gone and our small group are all resting.  My husband and Tina Turner are napping on the bedroom while Spot and I share the porch where a lovely light breeze is keeping it cooler, and we can hear the birds.  Spot and I were out early this morning for a walk and then some trash clean up along the road.  I try not to be too judgmental of others, but I really wonder about the moral leanings of those who would throw an almost empty plastic milk jug out of the car window as they cruised down the road.  Really?  The world is your trash can?  My bag filled up and I still have a bit to go so we’ll head back later.
But, I thought I should catch up on the chronicle.  Between working for clients and working to get the place in shape for visitors, I have had neither time to write nor read.  How ironic!  I finally have a place where I can see and touch my books, but I don’t have any spare time.  I try at night but am so tired, I rarely last more than a page or two.  I picked up Mark Kurlansky’s anthology of food writing, Choice Cuts, thinking essays would be the way to go but haven’t made it much past the introduction and I’m not sure I completely connected with his distinctions between gourmet and gourmand as I just found it difficult to concentrate.
My life is much more physical than it was in Williamsburg,  That is one of the huge differences for me.  I still have seat work for my clients and am thrilled that my Aeron desk chair came over on the last truck load.  But, I spend at least two hours and sometimes many more engaged in physical work.  Here’s one of those “be careful what you wish for” stories:  I was always an early riser and loved the early morning, thinking of it as my time before the rest of the world awoke and the world of work intruded.  But once I stopped commuting and the dogs got so old, I found that I was sleeping later and later.  Still getting up earlier than my husband but sometimes sleeping until the unheard of hour of 8 AM!  I found myself missing seeing the sun rise and watching the fog burn off the fields, the first bird song and the contented clucking of the chickens.
Well, I am an early riser again!  Spot wakes with first light and waits patiently in his crate until he sees some movement in the bed.  I’m usually just slumbering by then and it doesn’t take long to hear the shake and then open my eyes to the big black speckled muzzle pushing gently but insistently under the sheet. We’re outside in a few minutes, usually with Tina tagging along.  This morning, she stuck with us through the back alleys near the silo, emerging in the field where we turned for home.  On mornings when Tina bails out before the silo, preferring to head home and tuck back into bed with my husband, we turn right and walk the perimeter of the field, out to the road for a short bit and then up the curving driveway to the house.  I haven’t managed to measure it yet.  I have an app on my phone but haven’t been alert enough to turn it on.  Perhaps when I finish here, I will take him around to give it a try.
And then there’s just house and farm work in general: planting flowers, watering tomato plants, scrubbing floors and walls.  We also finally moved out our bed, a refrigerator and freezer as well as some chairs.  With the trailer, we will be able to move most of the rest of our furniture and it was amazing how having a few more things along with some treasured paintings and picture suddenly made us feel like this was our home
So, the transition is mostly over.  It had its rocky moments, certainly, but as we settle into a schedule here, we find we like the somewhat slower pace.  And I appreciate the distraction from the digital world.  I do my work and keep track of things from my phone, but without television, I feel like I am more focused and productive.  We get a few channels through the converter box out here but no cable news channels, no food tv, no discovery. I don’t really miss the chattering voices.  I get my news more from reading than listening or viewing these days, a practice which I hope encourages me to be more reflective.  We do take advantage of NPR for news and entertainment so will be sending them a hefty contribution this year, even as we cancel our cable television service in the burg.
The sun is out and there is an apple tree that has needed planted for a week now. I also want to put in sunflower and zinnia seeds around the telephone down by the road.  I’m going to put on grubby clothes and head out with my shovel and rake.  Later, I’ll try to find time to enjoy the porch and a good book.  They are promising more storms so if I can plant a few things, they will benefit from the natural rain.
We love the company but it is different from our normally quiet days, and it is nice to have the calm restored.  But having the visitors also forced us to make the place a little more personally liveable.  We even set up an informal guest room for my nephew.  So it all works out and now it’s back to normal, whatever that means!

Easter 2011

Easter Sunday, 2011, at Bottle Tree Farm.  I designed the logo yesterday, a snappy flash graphic that also translates nicely as a still.  Our first crops are in the ground in the large garden in the back, courtesy of Bob’s new tractor, a neighbor’s plow, and a lot of hard work.  The rows are 150 feet or so long and filled with potatoes, peas, lettuce, onion, cabbage and broccoli.  If only a few survive, we’ll have an abundance!  It is still a bit too early to set out the tomato plants but they are thriving on the greenhouse porch with its southern exposure and sliding glass doors.

I’ve started working on planting flowers that Bob raised from seed: Bells of Ireland and Hollyhocks near the house to start with.  I decorated the front porch with baskets and pots of herbs culled from the burg garden. There’s even a flowering orchid from the greenhouse!  I hung a bird feeder and tucked in a small bird bath made from flower pots.  They surround the “shabby chic” table and chairs.  The table came out of the milking parlor, round rusty metal with removable legs.  A little sanding and some green and white rustoleum, and I have a cute cafe table.

The chairs came from the dump.  They weren’t actually in the dumpster but had been set off to the side by some folks who bought them at an auction and then decided they didn’t want them.  They were just setting them there when Bob showed up so he rescued them.  Two white wooden kitchen chairs with scalloped tops and small painted flowers.  We’ve learned that the dump is something of a public freecycle with everyone having a story of some treasure they found.

The front porch is going to be a popular spot to hang out.  We sat at until after dark last night after having margaritas and nachos at the local Mexican restaurant.  With the long front drive, we feel very secluded under the trees.  There are a few security lights across the way, but things quiet down pretty early.

I’m sitting on the front porch right now, our new dog Spot at my side.  We adopted him from the burg neighbor who just couldn’t afford to keep him.  He is a big dog, perfect for the farm, and we knew he was pretty well behaved but figured we had some training to do since we had seen him take off before and he had killed one of our chickens that hopped the fence.

Well, it turns out Spot is already pretty well trained.  It only took one day to get him used to the property, and this morning he trotted contentedly along beside me off the leash as we explored the back acres near the silo.  He spent most of yesterday snoozing in Bob’s truck down by the garden.  We did lose control when the neighborhood dog pack showed up this morning and he followed them across the road, but I think we can tackle that by both discouraging the other dogs and just keeping an eye on him.  Meanwhile, it just seems like a match made in heaven.  He is even crate trained so at night tucks himself in and sleeps away at the bottom of the bed.

Life is good here at Bottle Tree Farm. The local farmer and sons have been working on the surrounding fields all week and this morning are planting.  They are the family of Dr. Chamberlain, the previous owner of the farm so they stop by to say hello.  We already feel part of the community and are looking forward to watching his crops grow right along with ours.  They evidently tuck in a patch of sweet corn each year and have welcomed us to partake.  Oh…tomatoes and corn are the thrills of the summer!  I can’t wait.

We are going into town for dinner with friends and are a little reluctant to leave the peace and quiet for the Williamsburg bustle.  I have been riding my bike into town; in fact, I haven’t driven the station wagon since I came back last Monday.  I took a pleasure ride this morning to check out the surrounding neighborhood.  Small, neat homes on quiet streets and cul de sacs, the outskirts of Waverly.  I also got my wish: I raced a train home along Railroad Avenue, which as you might suspect, runs directly along the tracks that also border our property.

Update From Bottle Tree Farm(s)

We’re still deciding on the “s”…some of it may depend on the availability of domain names.

It is a beautiful Sunday morning at the farm and I was checking in on my online classes so, since I’m tethered, I thought I’d do a quick farm update.  This weekend was all about the chickens.  We had four in our pen in Williamsburg.  They had an automatic door so it was easy for them to get in and out, and since they live on the compost pile, food wasn’t a problem.  The SmokehouseUnfortunately, they had also discovered how to escape and when we went home last week, I discovered three of them roosting outside of the pen.  (Chickens are really good at getting out but not so good about getting back in.) It was time to bring them to the farm.

We’re using part of the old smokehouse, which took me several days of work to clean out.  The pen was easier, and now they are happily scratching away and clucking contentedly.  Chickens evidently deal with change pretty easily as I’ve even found three eggs in the past 24 hours.

Bob is making trips back and forth to the convenience center; there was lots of plain old junk and trash in the smokehouse. But there were a few treasures as well: bee smokers, two file cabinets filled with interesting stuff, a metal table, buckets, several tool boxes, and lots of other interesting bits.   We donated the two lawn chairs to the chickens for roosting, along with two crutches.  (The former owner was a doctor.)  The center section is next and it is similarly filled, as is the dairy barn.  The secret is to just hack away a bit at a time without thinking too much about the big picture.

I am especially excited about the library.  I spent some quality time in there on a cold, rainy day last week, getting organized by figuring out where various collections would go: education, history,  and nature are my three big groups along with lots of fiction, of course.  I have the next group of boxes ready to go inside and unpacking should go much more quickly.  After years of having books everywhere, including the linen closet, I find myself just standing in the room looking at the spines and imagining all the hours of reading ahead of me.  The same rule goes there as with the farm: a bit at a time.

I did take a day away from revisionist history to read The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.  It was refreshingly good with its insights into history, religion and politics.  It makes connections between the past and present in ways that would make people like James Loewen (Lies My Teachers Told Me) happy.  I did find the story a bit thin in some places with a reliance on coincidences that were a bit too coincidental.

Now, it’s back into history with Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. It is a bit depressing really, especially when you consider that the attitudes and ideas he discusses are still very much part of our lives even now as reflected in all the budget conversations and deliberations that are going on.  I’ll leave you with this story from Weekend Edition about the school funding fight in New Jersey.

Really Going Mobile

Another week of feeling disjointed. I left my laptop power supply in the burg so had to use husband’s windows 7 machine all week. I found it easy to use and I mostly work in the cloud anyway but it wasn’t my air.  Plus I found myself missing the comfort of my desk and office.

Being without my air did have one interesting effect: I found myself relying more on my phone. I finally figured out how to both retrieve my bluehost mail and send using the built in email client. I discovered the librarything scanner and started entering books. And the mobile learning event on Saturday gave me some great tips for reading blogs and being more productive. This afternoon, as we cleaned up walls in preparation for painting, I kept up with the VCU game.

Now, I am reluctant to turn on the laptop so am experimenting with the WordPress plugin on the Droid. I have gotten pretty good with the virtual keyboard. I also installed swype but I wasn’t completely in love with it. I may try it again but for now auto complete has been doing a great job.

I have been reading nonstop despite traveling. I did take advantage of cable in the hotel room to watch Who Do You Think You Are? Steve Buscemi was looking into his past and went first to Pennsylvania and then ended up in Fredericksburg just a few miles away from my Hampton Inn.  I have been to those battlefields and stood at the base of Marye’s Heights wondering at the courage of those farm boys and office clerks. I was also in the middle of a Civil War anthology that I finished today. Blood: Stories of Life and Death From the Civil War was a wonderful if sometimes horrifying collection of both primary documents and classic nonfiction that brought a living, breathing perspective to history and made me wonder why we used textbooks at all to teach history? I was able to quickly and easily download Sam Watkins’ memoir Co. Aytch from Project Gutenberg. There are plenty of timelines and historical websites to provide dates and names. Watkins gives us a reason to care, to want to learn more, to understand that war in a way that no history standard can dictate.

At Home

It is a lovely day…not quite spring but not winter either.  I am sitting on the front porch of my old house listening to the train come along the tracks.  The whistle blows just at our property and I can’t get enough of it. It’s part of the soundtrack of this place and the rhythm of the clattering cars is reassuring somehow.

After a week away and then two days in Williamsburg to get caught up on laundry and life, I am back at the farm and ready to stay.  The main house has a useable kitchen and bathroom that just need a really good scrubbing.  We sleep and hang out in the cottage as it is easier to warm and have created a little living area amidst the clutter of tools and supplies.  A little shuffling between the two houses, but it works and is certainly preferable to shuffling between the burg and the farm.  I knew going into this adventure that I would not be good at living in two places as I’ve never quite been able to imagine people who have weekend homes.

I am a homebody and very much a creature of habit.  I have a morning routine.  I have an evening routine.  And, I suppose I’m showing my aspberger’s when I say that, if those routines get disrupted for more than about a week, I get cranky. It’s been ten days since I left for Pennsylvania.  I love my visits with stops at the farmer’s markets and favorite restaurants, but the already difficult reentry was more complex as I had to decide where to go–burg or farm–and ended up splitting the difference by moving between both places and back in the space of 24 hours.  Add a client with a last minute programming project and I’ve been a little shaky.

But, as my car slid onto the noon time ferry today, and I saw the newly-arrived osprey land on a piling, I felt some calm returning.  I packed to stay.  Internet access is still a little wonky, but I think I can run the webinar from here.  Mostly, I need to declare one residence rather than trying to live in two.  And for now, the house needs the work.  I’m loving puttering in my library!  I’m going to experiment with scanning bar codes this afternoon as I clean shelves and stack books.  Even cleaning the kitchen and bathroom seems downright fun as it makes so much difference in our quality of life.

The previous owner’s daughter stopped by with her husband and son and we chatted about the farm and books.  He has offered to plow the field for our garden and will do soybeans on the bulk of the farm.  Our realtor lives in the next county and has ideas for forming an informal coop. So, we seem to be settling right in.  Now, if I could just find a drive-through ATM.

I knew I would fall in love with this place, but it’s happening sooner than I thought.  There is something to do all the time, but there are also moments to savor.  I am a bit less connected as I have to tether my phone, so I am better able to monitor my email and work in general.  I find I do it in chunks and then put it away to concentrate on something else.  We haven’t brought a television so I have lots more free time from the sometimes mindless surfing I do. We listen to a lot more music and stream NPR news and that seems to be enough media for right now.

I’ve been reading nonstop and I watched most of the HBO John Adams series yesterday as I wrote code and played with databases.  There is much to report about how important it is for us to understand our current partisanship in light of our early history. I’m also going to commit a bit of heresy by suggesting that I didn’t really like Diana Galbadon.   But that’s all for another post.

Bob just headed down the driveway in his pickup, Tina Turner the beagle riding shotgun.  It is time for me to head inside and do some of my own work.

Preserving the Past While Working in the Present

Back at the farm…took the ferry yesterday afternoon and stayed the night.  It is still cold, but the air mattress made a real difference!  I am just too old to sleep on the floor.  I spent yesterday working in the library, looking through cupboards and making piles of left behind books that I really don’t want.  The previous owner and I shared some interests–nature and history–but he was much more conservative than I am, and I don’t want to have to explain the Ann Coulter books to anyone.

Today was cleaning day.  With hot, running water available in the main house, I could finally tackle the kitchen floor and walls of the cottage where we will be camping out.  I’ve gotten at least the top coat of dirt off the floor and made real progress on the white paneled walls.  We’ll paint them eventually and replace the kitchen tile but for now, I’m just trying to make them passable for us to live.   I took a few before pictures but I’m actually a little concerned about showing people as I don’t want them to think Bob and I are completely crazy!

We had a visit from our Williamsburg neighbors who were over working with a friend who lives on this side of the river.  He owns an old farm himself and was full of great information about the farm and some of the things we’ve been wondering about, including the smokehouse.  And, he made me feel good about what we doing because he could see past all the work to the beautiful homestead we are imagining.  Despite all the dirt that needs cleaned and work that needs done, it is a special place that deserves to be preserved.  He commented, as I have, on the solid roof and foundation.  The rest is just time and elbow grease.  And he noticed my rocking chair on the porch of the cottage. The perfect place to rest at the end of the day, looking out over the barns and fields.

And, I really have been able to do my regular work from here.  The tethered phone allows me to send and receive email and in about three minutes, I’m doing a test webinar connect as well.  I’m pretty confident it will work since it was the same setup I’ve used before.  It is amazing to be able to combine work and play (if you can consider scrubbing a kitchen floor play) in this kind of way.  Being able to be connected means that work becomes more humane, something done as part of your regular life, rather than being disconnected.  And then I start thinking about school and what it could mean for how we teach our kids.  But the latter is much more complex so I’m going to leave that for another day…