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I Kan Haz Kar Nao?

Miss E will be 13 in less than 2 months. Her latest hand x-ray places her bone age at 10.5 years or so. This is good news. Her bones aren't fused yet. If you know us at all, you know that Miss E's petite size has been a source of concern. And there were so many things other kids can do as they grow that she couldn't do. Like drive the Walkabout Farm John Deere, which requires at least 50lbs of weight in the seat to keep the engine running. So one can't stand up and run it. One has to be able to reach the pedals while seated. And one has to be over 50lbs. Miss E was 50lbs or less for the longest time. It was the most amazing moment for us to watch her today. And the smile on her face, the concentration on her driving, as she did this for the very first time ever. She has undergone a rite of passage, passed through a gate....

Frog Out


A Poem

By Miss E:

Where I'm From

I am from penguins come from the sea,
black and white featherly birds
I am friendship rocks found on the beach
I am the waves from the ocean
reckless and wild
I am tide pools
filled with mysteries and treasure no knowing what you can find within

I am Mrs. Gaines
mysterious and not knowing what i will do next
I'm put your cat down
I am from the cat bed
lying next to me while i do my homework
I am from cats
that come from the wild

This was a class assignment to write a poem in the same style as a poem by the same title where the poet (George Ella Lyon) lists various things from her childhood memories http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html.
She was stumped at first, but I helped her tap into herself, using the books she's written and the earlier ones my sister created for her from her summer adventures. This intensely personal poem was the result. Go kid.


Loss and Life at Walkabout Farm

One of the chickens is going to die. She can't get back up the ramp at night. She can't climb to the roost anymore. This morning she was going down the ramp and another chicken landed on her (flying down from the roost) and knocked her off the plank and she didn't have the strength to get back up. I went in and put her by the food dish, but she's not eating. I knew she was going to fade weeks ago. Her comb had gray edges to it. Now her head is shrunken in, a sign that the end is near. Poor old thing, she was kind of a friend, one of the chickens that would let me lift her down from the roost in the mornings.

Goliath passed away at the end of March. He died in the neighbor's yard and we think it was a heart attack, his body giving out. He was just about sixteen. He was my cat, living life with his claws fully extended. Quick to anger, but attached to us all, climbing in our laps without waiting for an invitation. We hadn't had him even five years, but he crawled inside our hearts and took up residence there, the cat that sat up on his hind legs and "begged" for attention http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ySjZTB-HCU. I fell in love with him the moment I saw him. "That's my cat," I thought. I just knew.

The farm manager for our neighbors blew his brains out at one of their other properties. I'd known Matt for almost ten years. He was what being here was all about for me. You can keep your suburbans in their huge houses, your exurbans and folks looking for breathing room. Matt was the real deal, a local kid who wanted to work on a farm all his life, work with animals. When a bull got out (as they do) and walked into our yard, Matt was there to move him back over to their property. Matt would come down in the snow to keep the generator running next door. Matt hayed our 5-acre field each year, which was a little silly considering that the farm had two 50-acre fields as well. I blogged last fall that Matt was hit on the head by a front-end loader and flown to the trauma center in Fairfax http://birdhousefrog.livejournal.com/176945.html. It's believed by many of us that the head injury led to this, whether from pain or some sort of hidden damage. His viewing in town had a line out the door, his funeral at the cemetery in tiny Hillsboro was overflowing despite some rain, and the old school's room was packed for the reception. Matt had a generous soul and he made me laugh, gave me story ideas, made us shake our heads (there was this large coyote he had shot lying in the back of his pickup...).

I realized with the chicken this morning that there was nothing I could do. Nothing in any of these three passings. Sometimes you can do something. But each one of these was/is out of my control. They're sad, and hard to get my head around, but there are good things happening in my life as well. For example, my mother, who was touch and go all winter, has improved with the coming of spring and summer. Her prognosis has gone from a matter of days or weeks, to anyone's guess, but months or longer, most likely.

Someone new will hay our field this year. There are eight cats and soon-to-be twelve chickens on Walkabout Farm. Flowers bloom, grass grows. Tax season is over and sixth grade draws to a close.

Frog Out


Ack! TIme Slipping Awaaaaay....

Between the DDOS on Livejournal for the Russian elections and our spotty internet at home due to Hughes Satellite (Miss E recently told the tech who called that there were no issues...), it's been difficult to get a consistent post up. And then there's the whole Disney thing.

At any rate, I have these photos that were taken for Miss E's new book, The New Queen (preview is out there, if you know what to look for on Blurb or in Google).

Grady, looking quite elegant for such a teensy little cat.

Ferb asking his sister Doodledorf Casey how she got herself into this mess. (It was an open casting call?)

"I've got you now, my pretty!" (Thomas, Casey, and Shy Ozzie totally obscured by her sister's bulk.)

Frog Out


I'm King (and Queen) of the World!!!

Dateline: Late August or early September, 1948, New Hamphsire

King of the World

Queen of the World (with Princess)

Keep your Rockies, your Tetons, your Cascades, all splendid in their own right.
I think it's safe to say that a fear of heights doesn't run in my family, don't you?


Frog Out


I Blame the Wine

So we went to Nahant for Thansgiving. No, not a typo. On Wednesday evening, there was this accident. A laptop was pushed bac on a table. A wine glass was behind the laptop. A mom moment where my brain saw the future and I ended up grabbing the glass in mid-air as it fell. Only then it sloshed in the opposite direction. Onto the eyboard of my laptop which contained the photos that someone was showing to others.


I wiped up everything as carefully as possible, but a couple of hours later, the 8 and the I wouldn't wor. Both were needed for passwords and whatever I was logging into ept saying my password was wrong, no matter how carefully I typed it. Someone suggested I reboot the computer because that's what they did when their iPhone acted up. I did. Only...an 8 is part of my basic login on my computer. Oops. No can log in.

Eventually, the 8 and the letter i came bac. But then I lost the letter k from the row below. That loss was more stubborn and suddenly I was also losing s through l, including k. By Thursday night, I could mae all but k wor if I persisted on hitting the eys. And then k suddenly started eying by itself. Long strings of the letter k would eep typing until another ey was hit to stop it. But by Friday morning, the s through l was dead. Nothing wored.

Wine seems to do this. The acids can wrea havoc with the eyboard or logic board or both. I had taen off and cleaned eys, but we didn't have the tools to tae the bac off. So I've been thanful that my computer wasn't completely dead, but frustrated that it was essentially a bric until we got home last night and I could try using a USB eyboard. Which I happened to have as a spare, still in its box.

It sort of feels lie I'm on Sesame Street and I've lost my sponsors, especially the letter K.

Frog Out

PS: Now that my laptop has warmed up this morning (it's been off for several days), it seems I've lost the 8 and I again.


Consistency Not Possible At Times

I'm posting more often, but attempting to make the posts more interesting. You don't really want to read about my writing process, do you? And I'm not one to post when I submit stories or when I receive rejections. I'm not one to post about the current state of the marketplace, stock or writing, equally hideous. I do occasionally post about taxes, but that's always in general and this isn't a tax blog. It's the chicken and cat blog, the Walkabout Farm blog. Which isn't at all the same as that Pioneer Woman blog I've heard of. Trust me.

I could tell you I was at Philcon last weekend, but I also saw some of you already. So it would be redundant and outdated to say that I moderated two panels, critiqued 5 novel excerpts for the writing workshop and was on a third panel. Philcon treats me well and I'm highly appreciative. But you know what? I'm going to be redundant and outdated anyway. And I'm going to say I saw a few faces that I wished had come up to say hi or said hi to some faces and had no time for more, alas. People I would love to sit down with, but it didn't happen for one reason or another.

The panel for 50 story ideas in 50 minutes was a blast to moderate. I had six able panelists with me and the ideas flew around the room. Some were even worth writing. The audience asked at the beginning if we would do plot, character and worldbuilding, but I put my foot down. That would take far more than 50 minutes to do. The blurb was explicit that it was 50 IDEAS and that they were to be unplanned. So we did about half going down the row and some riffed off previous ideas and most were new. The default was something from Ef Deal the night before: "A Llama walks into a bar..." We never needed to use it. For the second half, we took words from the audience and riffed ideas from those: grace; eyeglasses; island; etc. I kept count and we finished well before the 50 minutes. So then we built on each other for a couple of rounds. There was laughter in the audience, so as far as I was concerned, we had entertained.

The workshop went well. I mustn't talk about the details, but Greg Frost and I were sorted into one group while Darrell Schweitzer and Stephen Segal took the other. It's Darrell's workshop and he did the sorting. Somehow Greg and I ended up with the novels. Thanks to some good local publicity (probably jongibbs), we had 11 submissions, which is a half dozen more than the average. But we lost our usual room and time. Not to mention how could we handle so many? Hence, Darrell's split. So Greg and I and our group of writers were sent downstairs to the bar, which, alas, wasn't open at 10AM on a Saturday. It was encouraging to see so many nodding heads when we gave our critiques. I wish them all the best for the rewrites.

I had breakfast with Vickie oracne, which was mahvelous. And I babbled away with Ray Ridenour and Fran Wilde and it was an all-round fun time. The best part was being finished on Saturday so I could go spend time with Greg's wife, Barbara, before coming home.

And now? Well, Miss E has taken her math test and Thanksgiving vacation starts tomorrow and we're driving to Nahant. We're also trying to decide if we will spend xmas at Disney World and use up our disney reward dollars.

The chickens are wet and cranky, but I just bought and filled the feed barrels so they will have food while we're gone. The cats are not wet, but are hunkering down indoors today. I made cranberry jelly and I need to vacuum. Oh the excitement!

So there you go. A filler post of no particular interest.

Frog Out


Let Chickens Out, Then Blog Phineas...

I'm trying to finish up this post while Phineas is still romping outdoors this morning.

Guess that didn't work out.

We have a clock that meows on the hour. It's supposed to have different (real) meows, but it seems to be stuck on just one at this point. At any rate, Phineas is the only cat in the house that when he hears the clock strike the hour (meow-meow-meow. meow-meow-meow) he often comes running and sits at the base of the clock, staring up at it fixedly.

"There's a cat stuck in there."

He doesn't do this every hour. It's somewhat hit or miss, depends on what he's doing at the time. But he did it again this afternoon. We grabbed the camera and I triggered the meows again and again until Miss E got the shots.

Ozzie asks "Whatcha doin'?" Note the scuzzy black line where cats have been rubbing their chins for several years now.

"There's a cat caught in that clock, see?"
"I don't get it."

"Nobody gets me."
It's lonely being Phineas sometimes. He lives in a world of one.

And no, we did not train him to do this stunt. All on his own.

Frog Out


With Comment

Once upon a time, there was a kitten. No one knows why he was sent back every weekend to the Pet Store for adoption, but there he went for eight weekends straight. He was sweet-tempered and cuddly and lively and well, if he did have a tendency to bite one's face or neck, it was just a nip. His markings were good for a cat from a feral colony. Weatherdude liked him immediately. He wasn't on the list of kittenz who needed a home and weren't "showing" well, but we realized he wasn't showing well. People would pick him up and cuddle him but never took him home. Maybe he was waiting for the right family. Ours.

So Phineas joined the Walkabout Collection of cats and kittenz. We took three boy kittenz home that weekend and the girl kittenz from the same colony we'd adopted eight weeks earlier objected to their existence, hissing at them. Everyone wondered what the big boys would make of the three new ones, but I wasn't concerned.

"They can't count," I assured everyone.

And indeed, that's pretty much what happened. No one was fooled. They knew there were new kittenz hanging around in the house, but no one could figure out how many there were supposed to be. They were just EVERYWHERE. Goliath and PD took to spending a lot of the fall outdoors.

We went to the Capitol Cat Show that year and brought home a large collection of cat toys. Catnip and non-catnip toys, in all shapes and sizes, to see what appealed to the growing posse of cats. Phineas became obsessed with one toy, which we later learned is named "mouse on a stick" by its creator. It's a plastic rod with a string on the end and one of those rabbit-fur tiny mice attached to the end of the string. We had a number of 'cat teasers' as they are called, but 'mouse on a stick' was Phineas' favorite.

Phineas played with it, dragged it about the house, destroyed the fur on the mouse, broke the string, and all of that. We retied the string any number of times. He would chase it in circles until he got dizzy, which always got a laugh. He would get fed up with our games and drag it off down the hall, another cat chasing and stepping on the plastic stick, causing us to fall over laughing all over again. While the other cats enjoyed playing with it, none of them developed an obsession with it. Except Phineas. We took to putting it up on a shelf of the bookcase to keep it from being stepped on or lost. Phineas knew where we kept it. When it was low, he pulled it back down. When we put it higher, he sat and looked at us to get it for him. And eventually, there was nothing left of it but a pole and a tattered string stuck in a corner by my bed for about a year.

I looked for 'mouse on a stick' on the internet. I couldn't find anything like it. Phineas continued to ask for his toy by sitting on the bookshelf. "Sorry buddy," we would tell him. We missed the next cat show, so it was two years before we went back and searched for 'mouse on a stick.' When we found the booth, we discovered that the husband had designed it himself (fairly basic, but still). He had named it and as far as we could tell, no one else had them. So we bought four of them. And got their card, too.

Phineas knew immediately what we'd brought home. We had a new place, higher up, on the Robertson Davies (that's his photo on the spine of his biography) and R. F. Delderfield shelf to place 'mouse on a stick' out of his reach. He continued to look at us to get it down with big, sad, Puss in Boots eyes, his ears all alert, his head on its side.

Phineas looks at me to get the toy down for him.

Phineas looks at Weatherdude, because I have clearly failed him.

The world will have to wait until tomorrow for the rest of the story, I'm afraid. Phineas is sitting on me and I can't finish the entry just now. Sorry.


Journey Home

Most of us have a place that resonates. Amherst, Mass. resonates for me. I went to high school there. I transferred to college there. I came back and was married there, even though my parents had moved away several years before. The college on the hill belongs to me. The town belongs to me. And even the University belongs to me in a more disconnected way. My sister went there for two years and I visited her when I was in 7th and 8th grades. I slept on her floor and went to see a Jefferson Airplane concert, among other concerts. My mother was born no more than 30 miles from there and my father grew up no more than 50 miles from there. He also went to the college on the hill, my mother to the college over the mountain (as opposed to over the river).

Miss E thought the campus looked pretty and asked to go see it. She had two days off of school, so off we went. The trip was cut a day short, but we still managed to see the new fossil museum, which is quite stunning. I knew about these fossils, but had never seen them before. I showed her where I lived, where her grandfather lived. Despite her complaints, we climbed the back stairs of Johnson Chapel and she stood in the very spot her mother and father were married by her grandfather, thirty years ago.

I showed her where I had lived while in high school. And where my father bought a lot, but never built on it. The hemlock twigs he planted are a 20 foot high hedge now. They've been that height for a while. They didn't seem any higher than when I last saw them, a decade ago. I pointed to a 60-foot pine and said, "That was my Christmas tree." She said, "That was NEVER a Christmas tree. It's too big."

But it was. There should be three Colorado Blue Spruce trees on that lot, all about the same age. In the same tradition that Miss E and her father go out to cut down a tree each year, I went out to a tree farm with my father. Only he dug up the tree, balled it in burlap, and then planted it around 12th night. Which, if the ground were frozen, couldn't have been easy. And this massive tree still stands on that lot with a story to tell of the man who didn't kill it, but instead respected its right to live and thrive.

Another house, another part of town, and this is where my mother made her huge rya rug while watching the House of Representatives debate whether to impeach President Nixon. She has many unfinished craft projects. This is one of the finished ones. Hours every afternoon in front of the television, knotting bits of yarn and cutting the loops.

I was the only child still living at home and the Amherst years really belong to myself and my parents. It's difficult for me to imagine that they were my age then. And then I remember their 30th wedding anniversary occurred in those years we lived there.

Miss E was fascinated by some of the stories, though she really didn't want to stay. She wanted to go home to her own place, a house she recently compared to being her castle, complete with cats. Me? I want to go back and spend at least a week in Amherst.

Frog Out


The Great Clean Up

To know where you are today, you should really go look at photos from yesterday. Yes, you. Really. Unless, of course, you're sensitive to photos of absolute horror. I should have posted those on Halloween, shouldn't I?

I come from a family of hoarders. We can blame it on The Great Depression, because that's how old my parents are. This doesn't really explain my mother's taste for garbage-picking in Cambridge in the 60's, but well, maybe we should gloss over that? Weatherdude even said he understood how my father ended up with his immense collection of bolts and screws (and also string). Weatherdude took apart a chair to haul it to the landfill and pocketed the screws, thinking "hey, I might need these someday." There's a tendency in some New England families to make do. Weatherdude and I both seem to be from one of those families. I feel guilty when I throw things out or buy new things. OTOH, I'm still using the same stoneware I bought and received as wedding presents over 30 years ago, so yay me.

My mother's boxes of yarn and wool scraps are irreplaceable today, or only replaceable at great expense. She has wool felts in many colors, some of it from clothes, some from paper mills. They don't squeeze the water out with wool felts anymore. And there aren't many paper mills left in New England. The yarns are in many colors, but in scratchy wool. Honestly, I can let go of my own things before I can let go of my mother's half-finished work and raw materials. And with Miss E coming up on her Intro to Weaving seminar, she wants me to keep grandmother's fiber raw materials.

So a new project will be to turn the guest closet into a storage space filled with all the raw materials for fiber art a kid could want. Then she and I will learn how to make our own wool felt and how to braid and hook rugs and maybe knit, too. I already knit, but fitfully. I have little patience for an extended pattern. As in, I can knit a scarf, but I never finished making a sweater for Weatherdude that was supposed to be his pre-wedding personal gift from the bride. (And yes, the half-finished sweater is probably still in the house somewhere.)

So all of the wools and the sewing machine went to the basement for now with the promise that I will tackle the guest closet soon.

And now for the photos you've been waiting for...Collapse )

Clean Up Your Room!

How and where do you start? When I was a kid, I made a big pile in the middle of the room.

Then I swept it all under my bed and pretended I was done.

My father wasn't fooled. He always looked under there and got you for dust bunnies, if not for actual piles of junk.

And if you swept it all into a drawer? Or any part of it? Well, he would pull the drawer out and turn it upside down in the middle of the floor and you had to start over.

Now I've heard that my Dad wasn't all that unusual, especially for his generation. Someone's mother used to make a pile in the hall of everything from her room and she had to sort through it. It taught her how to approach large jobs, such as editing a messy manuscript. "Begin with a single blouse," she suggested when I was stuck on an edit. I don't actually dump anything of Miss E's. I just go in and point "here, and this, and that, and there." Then she picks up "here." But sometimes she just decides she's had enough of the mess in her room and she begins going through her things and I pitch in and help her put it all into bags, trash or donate.

Which is what happened about a year ago. Our living room became the intersecting point between the parallel lines of Weatherdude's plants coming inside for the winter and Miss E's massive fall cleanup in her room. And it wasn't exactly in great shape to begin with, since it already housed various boxes leftover from downsizing the parental units into a retirement community. Boxes that held such treasures as a sewing machine, braiding felts, rug wool for hooking, yarn, and some miscellaneous books, pots, a tea service, and clothing.

Which means you have to click through to see...Collapse )


Snow Photos...

So I was the one who went out Sunday morning after the snow to let the chickens out. Here we have Walkabout Farm at 8am eastern in the early morning sun on Sunday...

And the yard looking toward the trampoline and my cabin...(can't see my cabin and my windows are still open because, well, it's just fall, not winter).

And in the other direction, hidden behind bushes, our access to the outside world. I banged snow off the dish twice, but the real culprit when connectivity went from 53 to 0 was the Rose of Sharon behind it. Weatherdude had to trim some more branches to keep them free of the dish. Always fun to bang on branches and have oodles of wet snow drop down the back of your neck, isn't it?

The chicken run has wire across the top to keep hawks out. Most snows go through, but a wet one makes pretty patterns.

I was late letting them out on Saturday during the snow. The most aggressive one (a new hen from this year) ran for the ramp and then stopped short at the sight of the snow. "Hell no, we won't go," was clearly her reaction. How do they know? None of them ever do white stuff. But on Sunday, when I took these photos, five of the new girls did go out so I put their feed back out in the run.

The living room has been occupying most of our time. We spent both days of the weekend on it, a family event, sorting and cleaning. That slowed down my blogging. Next post will be of the living room. Last night on Halloween, Weatherdude and Miss E carved three pumpkins since Miss E saw no point in collecting candy she won't eat.

Frog Out



I'll try to post a photo later.

In the meantime, here is Phineas trying to figure out why the chair is now in the dining room and why I was acting so strangely yesterday (i.e. on my hands and knees cleaning tiles).

The glare behind him is the living room in the sunlight yesterday. No sun today. No internet, either, until I went out with a broom and swept the dish and knocked snow off the Rose of Sharon branches that were covering the top half of the dish.

Frog Out


Cats Make Lousy Housekeepers

Honestly, they do. We rented them the living room while it had a lot of stuff in it that we needed to sort through and get rid of, as well as a lot of Weatherdude's plants. And like a lot of tenants, they trashed the place. On Tuesday night, I began cleaning the floor, tile by tile. Friday afternoon and I finally have a good chunk done:

The windows were washed inside as well.

And no, you may not see the rest of the room for comparison. You can see an approximate "before" shot two days back in my journal. Some shifting has occurred to facilitate washing the floor. This is only 1/3 of the room, alas. On the plus side, it's probably 1/2 the total tile because there's this big piece of plywood where a hot tub once went when this addition was built. Maybe we should put one back in? Woodstove, windows and hot tub, what could be more hedonistic?

The actual plan is to have both the recumbent bike and the rowing machine in this room, along with some pieces of furniture that make it a pleasant place to read or laze. Right now, the recumbent bike is (where else?) in the foyer. A room for both activity and snoozing, now there's a concept. Miss E seems to think it will make a great workroom for her one day. She can keep several looms in there and also her schoolwork. Well, yes. But it does get a bit chilly in there in the dead of winter and she's forgetting that.

There's still a lot to be done.

Ozzie would like to know why a perfectly good chair is out on the deck (because it's broken?)

I find that cats don't really like change. They don't mind the occasional chair moving. It might be nice to find its new location and claim it. But an overall upheaval of THEIR room? Let's just say several complaints have been lodged and I cleaned up one of them this morning.

Frog Out

Oh..look what I found in the driveway this morning! Weatherdude's new car!

Missing: One New Car

I would post a photo of Weatherdude's new car today, but it seems to have gone AWOL. And I do mean that in the literal, military, sense of the acronym. Telling me at o'dark-thirty that you intend to drive a new car (uninsured) to a train station does not constitute "leave" in any sense of the word. The commanding officer was non compos mentis at the time and being snuggled by a Furry Phineas.

So yes. Rumor has it that Weatherdude has a new car and I am now shopping for a home for the black Volvo (front wheel drive and deer damage included). I'm contemplating a donation to "Vehicles for Change" a local charity.

Muzak will now play where a 2012 Hyundai Sonata should be pictured.

This is most likely a youtube of Weatherdude's car, because this is the dealer that first got the car:

And here is presumably Weatherdude's car again, as it wanders around the Mid-Atlantic region: http://www.annapoliscars.net/new/Hyundai/2012-Hyundai-Sonata-5f3bdef50a0d048d00d75f7af32a843f.htm

That second link should disappear soon. They seem to update their website more regularly than in Danville.

Anyway, the car seems to have wandered from Southern Virginia to Maryland's state capitol to the seat of Loudoun County, Virginia. Every time it wanders, a car is exchanged. Yesterday it was exchanged for a banana-yellow Veloster. Nice car, but no pickup. Once there's a turbo version, I recommend it for a sporty ride that won't break the bank.

So the count is now two aged Volvos, one VW diesel, and one gas Hyundai with all its maintenance-free advertising.

Yesterday evening, I mostly hung out at the dealership while Weatherdude signed papers, bored out of my skull, texting to Miss E back at home.

Frog Out


Oh the Excitement!

When I read my f-list in the morning, it's difficult to compose an exciting post about life on Walkabout Farm. The woodchuck has settled down for the winter and well, it's just not as adventurous here. Except for the rats. The essential lawn tractor went into the shop after years of Weatherdude maintenance and we are now $1.5k poorer as a result. But as it's in its 10th year and as a new one costs considerably more, the accountant paid up without complaint. Weatherdude is pondering cars again. This might be sensible as BOTH Volvos threw the same ignition coil at the same time (to the tune of $600 for both). Our Volvos have been part of our life for the past decade and we're very fond of them, but when we go out looking, it appears that Volvo is behind the curve in terms of car technology. As in, the salesman tried to sell me a gas-guzzling SUV version of my old car. Ummm, no.

Yesterday was one of those gorgeous fall days with almost no clouds in a brilliant blue sky and a fair amount of leaf color to boot. It seemed silly to sit inside with my hormones all day, so I drove to Leesburg to do such exciting things as buying cat food, Dunkin' k-cups, and washing the VW. Yes, I have to drive nearly 15 miles to wash a car now that they've closed the carwash in town to make way for a new strip mall we don't need.

Back in our town, I did some grocery shopping, including picking up a bottle (used to be powder) of Spic N Span, a product my parents used for cleaning (partly because my dad worked for the company that makes it). I began testing it undiluted on the tile floor in the living room and it seems to clean up the general mess in there quite well (when each tile is scrubbed with a Dobie pad). The mess is a concoction of a year's worth of cats and sticky bug stuff from the two Ficus trees. This cleaning is necessitated by Weatherdude announcing that the tree(s) will need to come back into the house a mere month after finally moving out onto the deck. (They're supposed to spend the entire summer outdoors.)

I took this photo 11 months ago when Weatherdude's plants came back inside for the winter...not much has changed except the level of crud. Which must now go. So the plants can come back in. Ahem.

Over the weekend, the family tackled Miss E's PE homework by doing the Corn Maze in the The Plains. http://www.cornmazeintheplains.com/ It took us 100 minutes (worth 10 PE blocks) to solve a maze on 5 acres and 2.5 miles of trails. Commentary was mostly Miss E complaining that she simply couldn't do it. Until, of course, she did. I've tackled their maze more than once, my last (successful) attempt was with mindseas and tcastleb three years ago. http://birdhousefrog.livejournal.com/2008/10/23/ Here's a jpg of this year's maze:

After, we visited a friend who lives nearby. Today, I shall tackle more of the tile and clean bathrooms. See? Exciting.

Frog Out


Writer's Workshop at Philcon

Philcon is November 18-20 in Cherry Hill, NJ. I will be there.

Darrell Schweitzer (editor, writer, used book hawker, expert) has been running a workshop for the convention for many years. He gets up to six authors to critique manuscripts, either a short story or an opening chapter from a novel. I've critiqued for him twice and I hope to critique for him again this year. I enjoy doing it. This is a fairly low-key workshop where the pros do all the work. It's usually held on Saturday afternoon and it's open to anyone, including friends and family.

It's submit-in-advance, so get those submissions ready! Then when you arrive, you have a chance to read the other submissions before the workshop starts. The usual count is three to five manuscripts. Each one gets a good chunk of time.

This is a good place to get some basic feedback from people who have been there and seen it all, writers with many years of experience. It's not always easy to listen to, but you'll get a nice range of comments.

So what are you waiting for? Put on your flame-retardant outfit and join us. http://2011.philcon.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=15&Itemid=9

Frog Out

PS: Even if you're not going to be there, pass the word along.

Farm Stuff

I just rescued a baby snake from one of the cats (Shy Ozzie) in the living room. I have no idea how this snake got into the living room in the first place. I went to investigate because a cat was having far too much fun. I hope the snake is more or less ok. It tried to escape into the wet grass as I carried it (with gloves on) down to the barn where I knew the sun had warmed the soil and dried the grass already. I had to pull it back out. It then sat still for a bit when I finally let it go, probably playing dead again. Then it went under the barn door. Go snake. Find a place to sleep for the winter, grow big, eat rats. I'm not sure what this tiny thing can eat. About 12 inches long, but a lot thinner than a pencil. Baby Northern Racer.

The woodchuck is finally not fighting me over the feed barrels. I think I'll leave the barricade up, but take the gas container off the lid. Today there's a real chill in the air. And the light is so much less than it was. I'm not seeing woodchucks around in general, so I think we've found places to settle into and stopped trying to eat everything in sight. The rats, of course, are still going strong. Weatherdude continues to gas them every other weekend or so.

The cats think we've had enough rain. Another 1.2 inches yesterday. There's water in the pond again. The grass is still growing and we're still mowing whenever it stops raining long enough for the grass to dry out.

Both Volvos ran rough after we came home from Tucson. Very odd. Weatherdude's had a bad ignition coil. Chances are that mine does too. Which is about as odd as anything can get that's just a coincidence. Once again, very glad to have a 3rd car which has yet to develop problems.

Frog Out


That Trip Down Memory Lane

Oh, that was a bad idea. But it's typical of what happens during tax season. Heidi made a comment on the last post and that dredged up memories. Names sprang into my head as I typed. Things buried deep. One paticular name, thankfully, has remained buried so far, but I can feel my subconscious noodling away at it. Stop. Just stop. Sleeping dogs should just be left where they are. Old dogs. But still with a bite to them.

I think it's about the same for Heidi, so this was like picking at a scab or turning over a rock together to see the ewwww! underneath.

Public accounting can do quite a number on people. Not all people. I have old friends who have had a successful career in public accounting, more power to them. But not me. While I appreciate the knowledge, the sheer volume of things I worked on, I also have scars from the abuse. I think they try to be less abusive these days. But not back then. It was all part of the hazing ritual. Oh and did we mention, you women won't have a future with us. There was a glass ceiling. It shattered later, but I don't know if parts still remain intact. When I was there, my offices had no women who were full partners. They were, at best, partial partners, known as principals and national partners. Never fully part of the fraternity. They used to say "in ten years, you'll see a more balanced representation of women at the top. Women haven't been working for us long enough." Right. Not the way they were promoting people. They promoted 75% of the men and 25% of the women. It took men two years to make senior and women three, for the most part. In ten years, that does not spell equal numbers after a few more promotions and a lot of annual reviews.

And people wonder why I'm the way I am. There's no sexism. There's no problem. Never was. Opportunity was always there and it's fully equalized now. Right. Pull the other one, it's got bells on it.

But I do, deeply, appreciate the good things that came from that experience, even as I express bitterness over the bad. My clients get the benefit of those years at every turn. I didn't crank out basic returns. I spent years learning complex issues that still continue to come up. I've filed in almost every state, corporate and individual returns. My next job was strictly corporate tax, but deepened certain skils. Still, it's my years of working with complex individuals in public accounting that's of the most use to me today. What it means to be self-employed, how to present a business case, what's gray and what's black & white. And how to do kickass estimated tax calculations.

Frog Out


Tax Post

Oh boy! It's October 17th and my last tax return will be e-filed today! It could have been yesterday, but I think my client was hung over. He moved our meeting to today. Which wasn't a total surprise. Even when not on extension, I end up meeting with him on the last possible day. No, no, no. I already have a client who owns my last spot, my ritual is to go downtown into DC and sit in his apartment and fill it out with him and then go home and print it out and deliver it back again. On the 15th, I like to file my own tax return and breathe. (And that's a tax preparer's secret. We're usually just hanging around on the 15th or doing our own taxes. At Arthur Andersen, we stopped answering the phone after lunch.)

I think I'm excited about this.

Frog Out


Process Post

I'm not posting much about process these days. I think it's something that mostly interests process hounds like myself. And I think readers would like to see photos and hear about Walkabout Farm and things like that. But today I'm going to post about process.

I've been working on a story called "Ditchrider." It was supposed to be finished in July. Early July. Because I was supposed to finish another story by early August. This did not happen. Instead I got stuck on Dtich. And then other things came up and I had no good block of time to figure out what was going on with Ditch and why I was stuck. I wrote the initial raw mess for a NaNoWriMo (coming up in about two weeks, yanno) three years ago. Three years can be a lifetime. So the draft was a mess and I had progressed as a writer and that made it difficult to work with. But I ripped apart the draft in May and June and got the story set and researched some things. All fine and good. I wrote bits and pieces of later scenes, of things I wanted to add. All fine and good. But about three scenes into a full, decent draft, I got stuck. The scene is all about some water, about measuring it. That's all. And I couldn't write it. Grrrr.

Months later, I'm on the plane coming home from horse camp and I started to noodle the notes i had with me, just in case. And a thought came out of nowhere. Water goes somewhere. It has to. It has to flow into a river somewhere, go downstream. See, Weatherdude had warned me that I was setting up a world that wouldn't work and I thought I had fixed that. Until I got stuck, that is. And once my brain had focused on the fact that water flows downstream, my idea got turned on its head and I saw the solution to the problem. Which, oddly, will also address a problem Weatherdude voiced. He had said he didn't see how I could do what I was doing convincingly. And apparently my subconscious agreed with him.

I know, I know. You're going "duh." But see, it has to do with how I do my worldbuilding. From scratch. Over a period of years. I don't just grab something familiar and work with it. No, I work to see the place wider than what I need for the story and sometimes that won't happen right away. It takes time. Where Weatherdude eats, sleeps, and breathes physics, I don't. I have to feel my way into a world and have to become aware of its physics. I can feel when something isn't working, apparently, but can't always figure it out right away.

So the question is, now that it's all been turned on its head and now that the physical situation makes sense, will i be able to finish a draft of Ditch after I submit my last three tax returns this weekend? Inquiring minds want to know.
Miss E has a huge collection of "My Little Pony" ponies. I think she's trying to add to her collection...

In the end, Traci loaned Carrma to Miss E for her first real riding lesson. Carrma sort of made it obvious she was going to have Miss E on her back by following Miss E around. In fact, Miss E has been popular with the entire herd, most especially the Moms in the herd. They have done the horsey equivalent of squeeing over the cute little human foal. (Miss E might not approve of being characterized this way, but that's pretty much how it went down here at DHF.) I took her out in the herd both evenings. The first evening, I was projecting a lot of "don't you dare try anything" because, well, she's my foal. And they all got that. (Pandora has been most interested in both Weatherdude and Miss E this trip. "So this is your family? Let me talk to them.") Tia was in Miss E's face tonight. She just stood there and inhaled. And then let Miss E stroke her nose. Tia intends to be a Mom someday and is very interested in what it's all about. As for the lesson, the decision was that Miss E is so light that she wouldn't stress Carrma, which made both Carrma and Miss E happy. Finding Miss E a riding hat was tricky, but we managed by borrowing it from Traci (again). Stacey (of Desert Horse Inc.) provided lessons for the entire family (now via PayPal!) and a child's saddle (a saddle to make Goldilocks jealous). Eloise has been on a horse's back before, but not for several years and not in any serious way.

She learned how to lead Carrma on her own:

She learned how to sit, steer, walk:

Stacey was right there, through it all:

She even did an obstacle course of hay barrels, partly on her own. Not bad for a starting rider. No concern about the horse or how much it weighed. Good balance, good posture. And Carrma had happy ears through it all.

Tonight she spent time talking to Carrma and thanking her, which was a bit tricky when just about every horse wanted to talk to Miss E. I had to distract Khep. And at one point, Miss E said I needed to come pet my own horse (Pandora). I looked over and there was Pandora face to face with Miss E, solid and steady. She was just minding my kid for me and like Tia, breathing in who she was. Miss E was becoming part of the herd. (She even learned to push back into their space when they crowded hers.) Even when Tia turned her back (which was a miscommunication with Tia because of how Khep likes his butt scratched) and even when a sudden static shock spooked Camilla and made her hop, Miss E stayed calm. She made sure she wasn't stuck between two moving bodies, but she enjoyed watching how Capria would shoo her son Khep away when he began hogging our attention too long.

Frog Out

Ok, one last photo...Miss E leads Carrma back after her ride.

Oh and those "My Little Ponies"? Miss E's are mostly stored in a sealed box in our basement now. She gave them up a few years ago. And the new collection? Miss E has a list of which horses she intends to ride at DHF and in what order.

30th Anniversary at Horse Camp

So Scott Edelman blogged for all of us that his 35th anniversary was a do-over of his honeymoon. He and Irene went to Disney World and had a lovely time. http://scottedelman.livejournal.com/244233.html I know I have a good time at Disney World, too. Weatherdude and I have a special restaurant where we like to have a dinner-date. Miss E is always a fun companion the rest of the trip. Originally, she thought she was meeting the REAL Disney princesses. It didn't throw her that Jasmine left a present inside our hotel room door. It didn't throw her that she met 3 different Pocahontas' in one day.

But that was Scott and Irene's 35th, the Disney Anniversary. I get to do that in five years. This year was our 30th and may legally be celebrated anytime between Oct 2nd and Oct 11th. Like many major holidays, our anniversary is a festival. Actually, what usually happens is that Weatherdude forgets our first anniversary, a tiny civil ceremony in our tiny apartment in Seattle with seven people, inclusive, on a Friday evening. But then he can recover and remember our church service in Johnson Chapel of Amherst College officiated by his father-in-law on a beautiful fall day in New England with all the color and most of our respective families in attendance.

We are at DHF in Tucson to celebrate our 30th. It seems to be the Yard Work Anniversary. Travel to an exotic location in order to do the same kind of yard work you could be doing at home but with borrowed gloves and tools.



Brush Pile:

Happy Anniversary, Weatherdude. (The Couple poses with their 30th Anniversary Brush Pile...wish we could make a bonfire with it, but it's the desert, yanno?)

Frog Out

Walkabout Farm Goes Walkabout

Leaving Maralton in charge of the cat and chicken farm, Weatherdude, Miss E, and I are all going to DHF in Arizona for HORSE CAMP!

It's a very brief one because of school for Miss E and Weatherdude's weather and my Oct 17 tax deadlines. But it's the first time they've been there, so I'm very excited. And it's been a year for me, so I'm excited about that part too.

I was able to cash in a lot of Southwest old free tickets to get us all on a flight that was meant to be.

I will pack my camera. I plan to do yoga with the herd, and Stacey, the Wonder Equine Massager, is coming to give lessons on Monday.

So far, so good with my knee. ::knock, knock, knock:::

Frog Out

Busy Weekend

A truly busy weekend where I spent 2 hours on Friday going about 30 miles. Good old Rte 128. I finally reached Wakefield and suddenly traffic just eased up as if it had never been gridlocked. I discovered that changing lanes on Rte 128 is a great time to turn OFF the stabilizer on the VW. There's a manual cutoff switch for things like, well, "Launchpad." It seems it's similar to the winter setting on my Volvo, which one turns ON manually, not off. Where the car ensures that it adjusts the amount of torque applied to the wheels and keeps the wheels from spinning. Only when one is changing lanes, hesitation is NOT a good thing. Not the way I drive.

I left Virginia at about 8:30 and arrived at my destination in Peabody at 6pm, an hour late for dinner. But my parents had delayed and we still had dinner together. That was a bit more stress than I would have liked. One stop for a break halfway in NJ on 287 in Boonton and one stop for 10 minutes in Natick to fill the tank and I'm glad I did. Under normal driving conditions, the car would have completed the journey to Peabody. But I'm not sure I could have trusted the roughly 550 miles per tank at highway to hold true for Rte 128. Still, up to Natick, I had a 44mpg avg. I just hadn't scoped out where to buy diesel in Peabody yet. We will remedy that.

On the way back, I topped off the tank with 3.5 gallons of diesel at the last service station before 90 meets 84. And never stopped again. This time, I left about 10AM and arrived home about 610PM. Talk about a good run for 510 miles. I think my stop was about 15 minutes and I didn't feel the need for another one after that, esp. as I got closer to the end of the journey. But I would like to complain about MD drivers. Jeez. One Ford Explorer tailgated me in the left lane from the PA border to Allentown. Every time I pulled over to the right lane, the Explorer hung back and didn't pass. When I came back out to pass the next person, the Explorer sped up again to sit on my bumper. At about 75 mph. People, this is not safe driving. And on 15 South from Harrisburg, the drivers were just sitting in the left lane. When I finally tried to pass on the right in a space, this MD car gunned the accelerator to cut me off. Twice. And then, for no apparent reason, moved over to the right lane before the MD border. I had a tail all the way to Frederick of cars that were hanging in the left lane while I was moving in and out of the right only to pass. They never passed me, never attempted it. They just barreled along at 70mph, but at least they weren't sitting on my bumper like the red Ford Explorer was. :::glares::: See, I don't use brakes a lot, so you have to pay attention. You can't rely on my brake lights to tell you that I'm slowing down. Watch the brake lights of the cars ahead of me.

Oh and the Merritt Parkway was most enjoyable in both directions this trip. No slowing down to a crawl and everyone flying like a bat out of hell. Oh those curves! I've driven it in the Volvo too, but I have to admit, the VW was just EASY.

Basically with music blasting, it was a pleasant drive. Not too much weather in either direction and the Tappan Zee Bridge even cooperated. Just that Rte 128 thing. Oh and 90 was a pain on Sunday morning. Where were these people going who were all driving west and slowing down the road to below the speed limit?

Lots of work on Saturday doing research and answering questions, then off to dinner with parents again. Nice to be home.

Yesterday, Miss E and I had an appt with a geneticist. More blood work, but some possibles. We were able to rule out Turner's Syndrome immediately because I had an amnio back when I was pregnant. I'm not sure we'll get an answer from any of these tests either, but we'll rule out more things. Maybe, just maybe, Miss E will eat more and let her body grow now that she's on the right dose for reflux. Otherwise, I'm going to have to get her some sort of teensy car to drive. Or modify the pedals. 50 inches is not the best height for a driver.

Today it's back to tax work.
Frog Out


Play Nice

Play nice on the internets while I'm driving, would you?


Missed a Day

Oh, shoot. I finally missed a day of updating the blog. Well, let's just blame it on the tricky tax return I finished last night. And having to check my facts with Weatherdude.

Goliath: Pitcher
Benny: Catcher
Rainbow Tom: First Base
Phineas: Second Base
Doodledorf Casey: Third Base
PD: Right Field
Ferb: Center Field
Shy Ozzie: Left Field
Grady: Short Stop

Coach: Weatherdude
General Manager: Moi
Owner: Miss E
Mascot: Holly
Number One Fan: Maralton

Mascot Shot:

Frog Out


Farm Interlude

Weatherdude at work:

My HS best friend's brother has been a nurse for many years, including an ER nurse in Maine. When he surfed my blog a couple of months back, he was horrified by the photos of Weatherdude cutting up the last of the Red Cedars. Because he wasn't wearing a visor or leg guards or workshoes with steel toes. Joe (the nurse's name, really) had seen far too many chainsaw accidents while living in Maine.

Joe probably won't read this update because he's rehearsing for Oktoberfest in Honolulu. No lie. When he's not teaching nursing or traveling to the Himalayas to teach nurses there, he's apparently rehearsing in parks for Oktoberfest in Hawaii. His band is called The Royal Elephants and they only play for Oktoberfest. And they're also working on their fake book, which seems to consist of polkas and beer songs people like to sing along to. Weatherdude knew what one was. He used to use one too, back when he played in a wedding band. It's a musician thing.

Anyhoo, here at Walkabout Farm we have a 5 acre field that we have cut for hay for our neighbor's cows. They usually do only 1 cut, in July. This year, not even that. But Matt (their farm manager and chief cow herder) called me a couple of weeks ago and said they'd be by to cut it because the grass under the dead stuff is good due to the lots of rain we've been having this month. Which is why they're having trouble getting enough dry weather for cutting.

But that's not the only problem. Matt broke his arm (I don't remember how), and a cow kicked him in the sternum, and a tractor hit his head. Say what? (He had called me on my cell and I was sure I heard him wrong.)

It seems he and his son were putting in fence posts and they devised a 'clever' way to do it, the old-fashioned way being somewhat tedious. It seems that Matt held the post and his son then dropped the bucket of a front end loader onto the post to drive it into the ground. Only one of the posts broke when hit by the front end loader. Which means the bucket continued downward and hit Matt on the head. With his son at the controls.

Matt says he woke up on the helicopter being airlifted from our area to the nearest trauma hospital. And he says his son was convinced he'd killed his father. Patricide. Yeah, what every kid of 19 needs in his life.

People you just can't make this stuff up.

Matt says he's more or less fine now, except for the being kicked in the sternum by one of the cows bit. That, apparently, still hurts. And as soon as the weather dries out enough, he'll be by to cut and bale the 5 acre field. I hope so. Matt is always an endless source of gossip and stories.

Frog Out

ETA: http://joesar.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/die-schonste-wiesn-hits/ and from a few weeks back, his first trumpet practice sessions of the year: http://joesar.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/striking-up-the-band-in-honolulu/


Oz Whiston writing as Oz Drummond

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January 2014


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