Friday, April 28, 2006

While I was weeding

So last evening, around 7:00, I was in the garden weeding and mulching around the newly sprouted peas and teeny little lettuce leaves that are poking up. On the road that crosses ours road, about 1000 feet away, I heard a car going very fast and I shook my head and wondered why people have to drive like that. Then I heard I sickening, crunching metal sound and I didn't hear the car anymore. I stood up and started walking through the field behind us in the direction of the road hoping I wasn't going to see what I pretty much knew had happened. The car was upside down and a young boy was standing down along the road and screaming for help. The barley in the field is over a foot high now and I couldn't see if there were other people, just the car wheels and the upper part of the boys body. He looked okay and was walking around so I yelled to him that I was getting help and ran back to the house and called 911. After that I walked back towards the accident and saw that a motorist had pulled over and was helping the boy. So I stopped walking and stood at the rear of our yard and watched. I should have kept going but I stopped because I was afraid of what I was going to see. The boy was running around screaming for the emergency responders to hurry up and then I heard him say that "They're all going to die". So there were other people in that car that is flipped over and, I notice now, crunched around a pole. The ambulance gets there and I see them putting a sheet over someone in the field, but I wasn't sure if it was to prevent shock or because they were dead. It seemed like it was all in slow motion. Then I hear the Life Line helicopter coming and he circles around our house and lands in the field behind us. The barley looks like water as it ripples from the wind from the blades and I stare at it and think that it is so pretty at this awful moment. Someone was still in the car apparently and when they began to remove her, I heard the most horrible screaming I've ever heard in my life. I hope I never hear anything like that again, ever. I stood there for awhile and then walked to the corner where a number of my neighbors had gathered. Nobody knew the kids or knew if there were fatalities. They said that 4 had been thrown from the vehicle and probably had not been wearing seatbelts. I'm not sure how the boy who yelled for help was able to walk around. I walked back to my garden a little dazed and started weeding again, thinking about how a momentary decision by one person (the driver) had so dramatically impacted so many families, maybe permanently. I imagined those families out doing yardwork on this nice warm evening and walking into the house to answer the phone that just won't stop ringing. Things change so quickly, don't they? I should have gone to help before the emergency people got there, there might have been a difference I could have made. I am embarassed that I didn't. I froze with fear and stood and watched.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

whistle pig

Things might get interesting in the garden this year. We've been here for almost four years now. I have a relatively large garden and have never had a fence around it. We have rabbits but they've never posed a serious problem as there is so much for them to eat besides whats in the garden. Half the damn lawn is clover. And for the last two years, there has been a groundhog (otherwise known as a whistle pig) that has appeared in the spring but has been frustrated by the dogs, packed up and moved to parts unknown. This year he doesn't seem to be getting frustrated. In fact he seems downright confident. He hibernated under the shed all winter and has apparently done some remodeling down there the last few months.

Northern entrance. He also apparently enjoys the view from atop the brick terrace as I have personally witnessed him several times climbing up and climbing down this stack of bricks.

Southern entrance with freshly pushed out dirt. What is he doing under there?

Eastern entrance complete with overhang to keep out rain.

Western entrance.

There is he, right out in the open. Kind of hard to see, but that brown spot in the center of the picture is him.

Here he is again....peering over the top of the Rudbekia, just to the left of the edge of the shed. The garden is right past him....that brown area.

My precious asparagus, with no way to protect themselves, is just feet away. So do I wait and see if he wreaks havoc? Or trap him and relocate him right away?

BTW, do you know why they are referred to as whistle pigs? Because if you startle them, they will let out this ear-piercing whistle to alert other groundhogs. I have been startled many many times by this behavior while tromping around woods or fields.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The best Sunday in recent memory

I'm not hard to please and probably a totally cheap date. I had a totally satisfying Sunday. I weeded. Now we've had a few inches of rain over the last two rained all day saturday, steadily, and that makes for good weeding. There is something addictive about pulling dandelions and getting the whole foot-long tap root to come up with it. I pulled two wheelbarrow loads. And with these dandelions and roots came lots of worms. So I'd gather a handful and make my way over to the happy chickens and watch them get simply beside themselves with happiness. I found they also love...slugs. They were free-rangin it for the first time yesterday. I was a little nervous but they didn't go far. Mostly they were on me. I must have been a sight yesterday, on my hands and knees feverishly yanking dandelions....with Claire on my head. Yes, it seems Claire likes heights and quickly figured a way to flutter up my arm or back to perch on my head. At one point I laid back in the grass and all six chickens were happily perched on my legs preening themselves. This is so fun. I picked my first asaparagus yesterday, although not much made it's way into the house. It's just so very good and reasonably clean right from the ground. Yum.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Great Depression 2

Since we're all about sequels these days......

So every day I drive to work in my fuel efficient 10 year old Honda (156,000 miles and hoping for 300,000!) and I watch the gas prices jump and jump and jump and I listen to NPR which this morning reported that 8 gas stations in the Philadelphia area ran out of gasoline yesterday and I wonder how soon it will be before people reach the breaking point. The last time I filled up my car it was the first time ever that it was over 20$. That hurt. But I cannot imagine what it is like to routinely have to pay $50 or 60$. And I only have to fill up my car every two weeks if I'm just doing the commute to work and running a few errands on Saturday. I wonder if they will start rationing soon or if people will start stealing gas from cars like in the 1970s? One person I work with, who in years past has made fun of my conservationist leanings and actually was proud of their gas guzzling SUV is now selling said car becasue they can no longer afford to fuel it.

Then I read a a letter in one of my financial newsletters that scares me. Scares me only because I've been thinking about it a lot recently and it freaks me out to know that other people are having the same thoughts. I couldn't find it online (it was in an email) so I'm just gonna copy and paste it here. It is from the Daily Reckoning Financial Newsletter:

"The dollar of my childhood is worth about 7¢ today and I expect to see it
plunge to 2¢ or less before I die," writes John Wrisley, of Columbia, SC.
"It's a shame inflation can't be suspended and attempts made to restore
the dollar to a little of its former glory, but that's not the way long
episodes of monetary inflation end. Unfortunately, the chips must fall
where they will, the chickens must return to the roost, and people will
notice the punch bowl is empty and the party will be over.

"As a child of Great Depression 1, I grew up believing 'they' would never
let anything like that happen again. Not that being raised by grandparents
in a small rented house was an unhappy experience. They couldn't afford
luxuries like an automobile or vacation trips, but life was not
unbearable. Besides, radio entertainment was free! Not until I became an
adult did I realize how Spartan my childhood was.

"I don't look forward to enduring Great Depression 2 because I think it
will be far more unpleasant than the episode of the 1930s. I fear the
level of violence most of all, as young people trained by movies, videos,
and vicious 'music' notice the raunchy party is winding down and they must
go out and take what they want to sustain themselves.

"I remember the adults of the 1930s being very adept at growing food in
the backyard and raising a few chickens to augment the vegetables. Clothes
were repaired when necessary, and no one worried particularly about
drifters coming through town looking for handouts. You either helped them
if you could, or shrugged in sympathy if you couldn't. They usually
understood and roamed on.

"Not only will average people be less self-sufficient in Great Depression
2, but the new social phenomenon of huge numbers of old people must be
faced. In the '30s, the over-65 crowd usually lived with family when they
couldn't work any more. Now, they live apart from their families and
science is keeping them alive longer. A preview of things to come can be
found in the mailing piece of an upscale retirement center in our town,
which asks for contributions to help certain residents who have 'outlived
their reserve.' Imagine! These are people who thought they had provided
for their future and plunked their money down to be taken care of until
the Grim Reaper came to fetch them. And now, they have 'outlived their
reserves!' (There's a book title there.)

"There is no way to avoid this difficult economic setback, unless the laws
of nature have been rescinded. No inflation has ever not ended amid pain
and confusion. And no economic boom, funded mainly be debt, ever led to
anything but a depression. We've been very clever devising ways to
postpone the grim payoff, but an awareness of the fictions is creeping
across the land, and here and there people are saying, 'Wait a minute!
Maybe all this debt is not such a good thing! Let's find the guy who told
us we could borrow ourselves rich and hang him!'

"Arnold Toynbee remarked, 'The fall of a great nation is always a
suicide.' I have a vague understanding of why all the great empires of the
past did themselves in, but I never expected to live long enough to
witness this strand of history repeat itself in the United States.
"However, it will only be another transition. It will be grossly painful
for some, and a minor inconvenience for others. Life will continue. When
the going gets tough I shall walk the streets with a sign that quotes
Thomas Paine; 'We have it in our power to begin the world over again!'"

When I transpose the world of the Great Depression of the 30s with how things are today, it is scary. People are less self sufficient and I do think crime will rise rapidly. The families with the Hummers and the 10,000 sf homes they can no longer afford to heat, that were living paycheck to paycheck won't be able to take this hit. The majority are unprepared. What will happen to them? Will these same families be coming to my backdoor looking for handouts? I know I'm being paranoid, and I don't think this will happen this year, but it could happen soon. It will be an inconvenience for us. We will have to tighten things more. But we live almost debt free. We have no car payments, no credit card balances, no latest gadgets, I dress cheaply...we bought a house in the middle of our price range that we could easily afford. We live realtively simply although certainly there are things that we could give up to save even more money. But I'm an island as far as I can tell. With the exception of the farmers and Mennonites around us, the majority of people that live in our area are maxed out. I think things are going to get really bad.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Meet Claire

Okay, a little blurry...but this is Claire. She is the only chicken I've named so far. Truthfully, I can't tell most of them apart. Claire is the lightest yellow and still has a really fuzzy head. She is also the one that comes running as soon as she sees me and hops into my hand. If I am wearing something longsleeved, Claire runs up my arm and sits on my shoulder where she proceeds to pull on loose hair strands and peck the sides of my mouth and ears. The bigger Claire gets, the more this is starting to hurt. She is pecking pretty hard now.
Right here I am sure she is looking at hair strands just waiting to hop back on my shoulder. I probably shouldn't encourage this behavior. Buff Orpingtons can weigh up to 10 pounds when fully grown. Having a 10 pound chicken flying up on your shoulder and pecking the sides of your face will quickly convert me to a shut-in.

And here are some more photos of the rapid progression of Spring in the yard. I feel like I'm missing it half the time.

Do tulips multiply? I didn't think they did. I swear there were not this many red tulips in this bed last year.

My little "Jane" Magnolia that I planted last year. She had 8 blooms on her this year. And I didn't realize that Magnolias were fragrant. I can't wait til she grows up.

I seem to have the perfect environment for violets. They grow everywhere and I pull literally hundreds out of my beds and in the garden every year, yet come spring new ones pop up everywhere. They are slowly taking over parts of the lawn. I have white violets, purple violets and variegated ones. While lovely, they are becoming a bit of a nuisance, bordering on invasive. If left unchecked in one of my perennial beds, they would choke things out in one season. Who knew violets had a dark side?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bits and pieces from the last few days

  • Fed the chickens their first worm yesterday. At first they didn't know what to do with it, then one of the Plymouth Barred Rocks decided to take the plunge and grab it. The other chickens chased him round and round while he desperately tried to gobble it down. They are very fun to watch.
  • Husband bought oil-based paint for trim in dining room in a high-gloss finish. Why? It had to be oil-based to go over the century of old oil based paint present....but why high-gloss? Why?
  • Planted bunches of stuff in the garden yesterday. Strawberries (Sparkle), lettuce (4 kinds), Swiss chard, spinach, scallions, and cippolini onions. I am really late though. Most of this stuff should have gone in a few weeks ago. My arms and back hurt today from hauling compost.
  • My tomato and pepper seedlings need to be transplanted into pots soon. They are all about 3 or 4 inches high. The Mignonette got damping off disease, so must start over. They were the only thing planted in Jiffy peat pots. Everything else was in sphagnum moss in trays. Will never buy Jiffy pots again.
  • My kitty died on saturday. She was 14 and was sick for the last two weeks. Cancer. And being 14, I couldn't rationalize treatment. We buried her in the yard on Saturday afternoon. I still hear her meow and still feel her paws kneading my pillow when I go to sleep at night. 14 years is a long time. Roy is now a very lonely boy cat. It was the first time I've seen my husband cry for a long period of time. Even longer than me. Somehow, he was transformed into a cat person as I have been hopelessly changed into a dog person. Not to say I don't still love cats.
  • Filled pots with Stock below the bedroom windows. I can't wait to be able to smell them.
  • Bought a perennial of the year "Firewitch" dianthus. I am not a huge fan of pinks, but I couldn't resist. We'll see how it does.

Monday, April 10, 2006

spring runs in on giant chicken feet

I was only gone for four days. But what a difference that makes in chickens. I left 6 little adorable balls of fuzz and came back to chicks that uhhhh....lets say have entered an awkward stage. They have these giant chicken feet now, and these sad little tails.

This little chicken looks very serious doesn't she? They love to be outside on warm days. Unfortunately that has only been twice and it is getting harder and harder to keep them in their box since they've had a taste of the great outdoors.

This is so not fair.

I came home to peaches blooming.

Apple trees bursting forth.

Furious nest building. See the nest at the top of the wreath, between the wreath and the door?

Tete a tetes and windflower. Pretty.

Daffodils in the lawn. It seemed like a good idea, but only because I'm not the one that has to mow around the foliage until the beginning of June.

Looks like most of the perennials made it through the winter. But that doesn't mean I won't make many, many trips to the garden center to buy more, more, and more.

My week up north

So I spent last week in Connecticut and Massachusetts delineating wetlands for Amtrak. Amtrak typically does culvert repairs in the summer and needs to know where exactly the wetland boudary occurs for permitting purposes. Connecticut should really consider changing it's name to the wetland state, as I have never seen so many wetlands in my life. Giant sprawling systems stretching as far as you could see. It was pretty amazing. My co-worker and I got to Connecticut on Monday evening and stayed in Old Saybrook. What a charming little town. We worked with three Amtrak safety workers the next three days visiting sites along the coast of Connecticut and one site in Massachusetts. They kept us safe and entertained as they were really fun to work with. Even with their supervision and the safety class we had to take before working on Amtrak property, it is still scary standing 10 feet away from an Acela train going 140 mph, as was the case in Massachusetts. Thankfully you could see the trains coming from several miles away. In areas without that kind of visibility, the trains were not moving quite as fast. A fun thing I picked up during our time with Amtrak was yelling "Hot Rail" everytime a train is coming. At home, we live less than a mile from Amtrak lines and hear trains frequently. I drove my husband crazy over the weekend, yelling "Hot Rail" everytime I heard the train whistle. And as a parting gift I received a penny, squished beyond all recognition by a Providence and Worcester Freight train, as a reminder to always be safe and stay away from the tracks. Here are some pictures of wetlands and other things I saw.

Here we are in Massachusetts. It snowed that day. As you can see, there really isn't anywhere to go off to the side. The Acelas there traveled close to full speed, about 130-140 mph.

Skunk Cabbage growing at the base of the railroad ballast.

A wooded wetland in Connecticut. Look at those buttressed tree roots. A telltale wetland indicator.

A very large scrub/shrub wetland complex in Connecticut.

Hot Rail. I liked this site. The fact that we were on the other side of the fence from the train was a good thing.

Swans on a pond in Connecticut.

Tidal Marsh near Groton, Connecticut.

Tidal Marsh right along the Connecticut coast.

Vernal pool in Connecitcut. Valuable amphibian breeding territory as it is dry most of the year and cannot support a fish (predator) population.

Tidal pond in Connecticut. The ocean is just past that far tree line.

Tree covered in some type of fungi. Really neat looking.

Can you spot the two wild turkeys in this picture?

This is the view north from the drawbridge in Mystic. We toured around a lot in the afternoons. I liked Old Mystic but espcially liked Old Lyme. Really, really pretty.

I loved the time I spent this past week and look forward to going again in the future. Special thanks to Mike, Rick, and Paul for keeping me from being squished beyond all recognition and for not getting mad when I asked them for the umpteenth time when the train was coming.

Friday, April 07, 2006


I just got back from Connecticut and Massachusetts. What was I doing there? Wetland delineations for Amtrak. Will tell you all about it on Monday.