Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Day

Not much for pictures from this weekend, which is a shame since everybody looked sweet. But with horses, lamb and kids to deal with during the parade, I just didn't have a free hand left for my camera. Eli and Rose rode with the Icelandic Horse farm, so big and proud looking, I could have cried seeing how grown up and capable they seemed, up high on those giant beasties. Justin and I walked the minis, and Ira led the lamb up front for a ways, but then she laid down mid-parade route and wouldn't budge. Ira shrilled "We are the LEADERS!!!" at her, but nope, nothin' doing...had to pass her off to people on the sidelines. Next a picnic on the fairgrounds while Jelly very accommodatingly gave pony rides, followed by heading to Will's for ice cream, and lastly: the summer's first swim in a friend's pond. Exhausting but fabulous day.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Honey...I'm home!

Just returning from a trip to Prince Edward Island! And yes, I'm one of those irritating people who reads every sign out loud in a singsong voice on road trips. I think it's a recent thing actually, something that happened as we started making these sixteen hour drives a half dozen times a summer. Saw some signs I just didn't GET, no matter how I read them. One sign in Canada somewhere, outside a grocery store said: 'SAVE $10 ON FROZEN UTILITY TURKEY!' At least we passed several miles laughing outrageously about it. Once you are crazy-hysterical-tired, and sick to death of being in the car, really strange things seem funny. Stopping for a late breakfast in a diner, the kids were beyond excited, inexplicably, about those dinky, little packets of butter they give you with your meal, only the waitress didn't bring nearly enough to cover their enormous pancakes... When packing up the 'fridge in the cabin before hitting the road, we put a giant block of leftover butter in our cooler. Example of over-tired hysteria: Justin suggested we go out to the car and get OUR butter for the pancakes...and I said it was a BYOB restaurant, (Bring Your Own Butter, obviously)...and then I cracked up, and spit my orange juice everywhere. Christ. Get me home. Where signs make sense, and the butter isn't funny.

Ira must have remembered that he used to get horribly carsick, so there were quite a few fun/vomit-filled stops on the drive, using up entire containers of baby wipes and all of our towels. We almost turned back at one point, but he wouldn't let us.

The vacation week was lovely otherwise. Still cool on The Island, but there was sun, and mostly nice, mild days, unlike back here in Vermont where Mother Nature gave you the smack down, so we heard. We did plenty of beach walks, the boys donned wetsuits and went in the water some. Lots of sponges washed up, and the wind was salty and brisk. I found a smooth, bleached, driftwood rootball that Justin created a chandelier out of. The coastline seems so rugged with the big red rocks, but it was ravaged by the winter, so much erosion this spring, with trees tipping out of the cliffs. We filled our pockets with treasures, as usual. Stones that are prettier when they are wet, shells with rainbows glossed over their interior, foggy bits of beach glass. Young seals kept popping up, curious as to what the boys were doing. Scuffed our toes in sand that sings as you walk.

Drove up to East Point and explored. Justin wanted to tour a new distillery up that way. So bizarre, how tiny and rural everything is when you get away from the touristy sections, we drove through one village that was named, no joke, "Five Houses". Can you imagine living in a town actually called Five Houses? Our neighbors have said, in the winter months, only a few cars drive by all day long, and they can tell, just by the sound of them, who it is. Very neat. Passed a field of windmills built up over several abandoned, decrepit farmhouses, interesting...the mix of yesterday and tomorrow. The Island is almost entirely powered by wind which is amazing.

In some ways, the place appears behind the times. Through the Acadian areas, women still wear skirts and nobody has ever left home. Islandwide, everyone goes to church on Sunday, (all stores close even) they farm/fish for a living, fashion is unheard of, no high speed Internet, teeny schools, etc, but it's like they've picked and chosen the areas of life that really MATTER and moved out to the front of the pack there. They are light years ahead of us when it comes to the environment. Mandatory composting, they recycle EVERYTHING and make almost no waste. Every community has shared farm equipment, they rotate crops by law to protect the soil. People drive fuel efficient cars. The Island prides itself on being self sufficient, they raise their own food and are so close to being entirely independent power-wise. Also it's CLEAN and pretty. They award money to people who have the nicest yard/flowers/gardens yearly...I suppose that's because of the whole tourism thing, but it's admirable to see such a tidy, picturesque place. People are all (well, the ones we've met anyhow) incredibly welcoming, and such characters! I love it.

Our friends and neighbors, Ethan and Lila have become surrogate parents/grandparents when we visit. I can't think of anything they haven't offered us...extra beds, huge, homecooked meals, showers, allergy meds...sweetest folks on the planet. They watch out for our cabin all year. Ethan even mows our lawn, not that we asked him to...he just does it. They have four children around our age, spread across the globe...China, Cuba, Toronto and...I forget where the other one is right now. Good people. We're lucky to know them.

Let's see...what else did we do...? Built a new bed with a trundle beneath for the boys. Our cabin is adorable, but when it rains, the kiddos seem like huge, noisy beasts, far too big to contain in such a wee house. Hopefully expansion coming in the future. It feels necessary to spread out a bit more. It IS such a cozy cottage now though. We had the potbelly wood stove humming in the evenings, with cocoa heating on top, of course. Lots of simple things, that are beautiful to me there. I love laying in bed and watching geese and gulls shadow the curtains in early morning light, and seeing the sun set over swayback ridge-poles of sagging, shingled barns. The way the fog rolls in and hides the sea out the front window. The ferry horn, long and low, right as we fall asleep. I needle-felted gnomes in candle glow, and whenever the weather was iffy.

And here we are, home, with birthday parties, barn chores, bills, laundry and the Memorial Day parade to be reckoned with. Part of the Island charm may be the fact that those things don't really exist to us there! But...Cest la vie. A busy summer ahead, and hopefully another trip in our near future. As we came down the hill in Chelsea, after sitting in the car for a zillion loooonnnnnng hours, I was thrilled to sing out, in obnoxious opera style..."Tunbridge...6 miles!!!!" after spotting the beloved road sign. Home again, home again, jig, jig, jog.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Welcome Bumble

Well, our little "farm" which thus far has included one dog, two horses, nine chickens, an evil rooster, and a big batch of new chicks, expanded yesterday to include a lamb. A bottle-baby, gift from our friend John, to be a gas-free lawn mower this summer. My favorite joke of the week: when we went to pick up the lamb, waaaay up on the hill, in the middle of Tunbridge-nowhere, we pulled our rusty Honda into the driveway, right next to John's Honda, and he remarked "Ah, good, a Honda Accord is THE prefered truck of Vermont sheep farmers". So, I guess we're sheep farmers now. Kids are excited and in love with her. She's a very pretty Romney, the kind with spiraled wool locks and pretty eyelashes.. The original deal was: how about she goes away in the Fall?...but, you know, maybe not...Bumble could be the start of something. Yesterday was also Justin's birthday, so in between bottle feedings, we made a cake and apple pie... and only a LITTLE of the lamb's milk formula splashed in while I was baking. Whatever, it's not like we'll grow woolly ears or anything. It's been a rainy week, the plum trees are spectacular but the bees are no where to be seen as of yet. Feeling giddy about Spring and Life and Lambs and Blossoms.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Summer Lovin'

You people who know us well enough to know our dirty, little secrets, know this about our family: fitness freak that I've turned into, we still go to Will's Store EVERY NIGHT in the summer for Creamees. I don't mean we go sometimes, or a lot, or often...I mean EVERY NIGHT. Unless there's an act of God preventing us, the woman who runs the register expects us to walk in around quarter to eight, the rusty cowbell over the door jangling as we enter, and order two baby sized cones, one small, and one medium.

The Creamees aren't the only thing I love about Will's. The place is like something out of a movie...but one that hasn't been made yet. An old brick store where the fishing bait sits next to the Yankee Candle selection, ammo next to the aspirin, along with incredibly bad wine, toys that have been on the same shelves since 1979, movie rentals, yellowed postcards, beef jerky, knick-knacks, a surprising variety of great books. They also make their own terrific hard ice cream, a fact that few people care about because the Creamee machine reigns supreme, commanding the front of the store, most folks don't even venture further in than that, never wander to the back where you can find paperclips and glittery resin figurines of wolves and bald eagles. Their loss. But on rainy days we roam around back there with our creamees, finding odd merchandise, stuff we've never seen before, every time. If we're lucky, the side door will be open and the Chelsea Town Marching Band (which is really just five people, one of them Will himself, wheelchair bound, but who says marching has to mean MARCHING?) will be practicing on the covered ramp.

There are a couple women who alternate nights working at Will's, we call them "Good Jimmie Lady" and "Bad Jimmie Lady". (Not to their faces, obviously, although the kids have let it slip a couple times and we've had to fake a coughing fit.) Good Jimmie Lady takes your ice cream and boldly plops it down in the container of sprinkles, rolling it around and COATING it with either chocolate or rainbow. Right on! Bad Jimmie Lady holds the cone over the sink, and kind of gingerly flicks some sprinkles at it with a spoon, while she gives you the evil eye for ordering sprinkles in the first place. The result is: a sink full of delicious, wasted jimmies, and an ice cream with seven actually stuck to it.

This has been going on for a few years now, with the entire universe afraid to speak up to Bad Jimmie Lady.

The most awesome, miraculous thing happened as this summer's creamee season began...Good Jimmie Lady gave Bad Jimmie Lady a crash course in proper jimmie application! No more wondering if we'll have to pay that extra 15 cents for a whole lotta nothin'. No more agonizing on the way over to recall whose night it is behind the counter. It doesn't even matter. Now that they're BOTH Good Jimmie Ladies, I think we'll ask them their real names. Summer's here, the marching band is tuning up, and all is right in the world.

To Eat, Or Not To Eat...

The circle of life...it seems pretty sad this weekend. A carton full of chicks arrived a few days ago, all sweet and fluffy and peeping. (Yes, they're meat birds, but I still think they are darling...for now... is that warped?) Anyway, Eli is totally a red-blooded meat eater, as is Justin, both very matter-of-fact about it all. I've always felt a little bad, but you know, if I feel like it lived a good life, died humanly, and isn't pumped full of chemicals, I'm OK with meat. But Ira, at three, is a vegetarian through and through. He randomly burst into tears in the car yesterday, and said: "I'll never eat the chicks! No! Not in FOREVER!" It's such a delicate subject, telling him he doesn't have to eat them, of course, if he feels that way, but gently letting him know that somebody else certainly will.

Apparently, when you order day-old chicks in bulk, you tend to get a few defective ones, which has shockingly never happened to us before this batch. We've had an adult chicken break a leg once, and she still lived happily in the coop, with room service delivering her meals daily, but never had to deal with something happening to a cute, baby chick. One with a neck deformity died this afternoon, and another really, really, small, weak one is still breathing, but won't possibly last the night. I keep wondering if I should put it out of it's misery, but I just can't do it.

I feel awful for Ira...home and the things that go on here are his whole world. Eli has friends, school, lessons, hobbies and big kid things that occupy a lot of his brain, but Ira's EVERYTHING centers around his house and pets. He's sat and watched those chicks non-stop since they got here. And now tomorrow we'll shed some more tears as we bury a couple of them, nestled in the toy pirate chest he picked out this evening...and eat the rest with stuffing in twelve weeks.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fiddlehead Tanning Booth

(This will be one of those jump-around, what-the-hell-is-she-talking-about posts. Warning you ahead of time.) Just getting in from a nice hike and Fiddlehead hunt. Those things just TASTE like spring to me, strong and musky and fresh, sauteed in butter, melting in your mouth. Yum! Can't wait! We got a basketful, and wham, we got all tan too. I'm not a fan of tanning just to tan, I think that's gross. But I'm not into keeping out of the sun either. I love the sun. I wear a hat, but the rest of my body doesn't seem to care either way...I've only gotten a sunburn a very few times in my whole life, so I don't feel like it's a huge deal. I just brown up instantly in the spring, and then nothing else happens. Must be genetics. (Although genetics have dealt me a weird hand, what with the yeller hair I've got going on...Summer finds me looking like some creepy, tropical Barbie doll, minus the boobs and permanent high-heel-shaped-foot. Whatever.) Mom and Dad spent part of the weekend visiting cemeteries because Mom was looking to fill in the blanks of some genealogy research. They went up North somewhere to find the grave of her Indian Great Grandmother, who was a chief's daughter from Canada, married off to a Quaker. Growing up, I always envisioned her as some sort of Pocahontas-glamorous-princess type. Finally seeing photos, and finding out she was short and squat, (nearly as wide as she was tall, really) was a bit of a letdown. Of course, there's other Native American heritage in the mix, and I'm sure some of them may, more or less, fit my romantic childhood ideals, but that one was, you know, ROYALTY, sort of. Oh well. At least her tan was pretty sweet. Anyway, there was some sort of mystery about her death that Mom wanted to clear up...so she turned Nancy Drew for a day and made all these little hand-drawn maps for Dad to follow, I saw them, and they were literally two squiggly lines across a piece of paper...and a star. That's all. Which, apparently, she would study intently and then turn upside down and study some more, while directing Dad where to drive. Native American navigation skills? She also got Poison Ivy on her knuckles from somewhere in their travels, rooting around in old graveyards. Native American oneness with the earth? It's cute, my Mom's occasional, adorable cluelessness. (My recent favorite example was when she and I were on the computer, zooming in on everyone's houses with Google Earth...It was a few months ago, and we were looking at my aunt's home, also in New England. The Google Earth shots were from summer, everything was sunny, green, lush and blooming. Mom, always astounded by technology, said: "Wow! That's amazing! I can see my sister's house, RIGHT THIS MINUTE?! Her garden looks amazing!" It didn't occur to her that there was three feet of snow outside. Sometimes....you just wonder, is all. "Mom? It's February".) Anyway, of course the 'rents eventually found what they were looking for, they always do, it just takes twenty times longer than it ought, but that's half the fun, I suspect. They like to go for drives to "find things"...usually they come home with lots of stories about meeting strange folks, and a digital camera full of shots of I-never-can-tell-what-it-is: headless people, blurry trees, sideways barns. (The photography gene skips a generation.) So, that's what they did for weekend fun. And what a beautiful weekend it was. Sun galore. Flowers. Peepers singing in the pools at dusk. Ferns, starting to poke up. Just perfect. Spring, spring, SPRING! Hope everyone got some sun on their shoulders this weekend, not by tanning, but just by LIVING. Finding Fiddleheads, ancient cemeteries, talking a walk, raking up all those pesky leaves from last fall, getting ice cream, whatever floats your boat. It's SPRING. Live it up.