Thursday, June 28, 2012

Over the river and through the woods...

From mid-morning on Wednesday to mid-afternoon on Thursday, the kids were at their grandparent's house.

I'll try to cover the things they did, but as I was not there, and the sheer number of adventures they had is hard to remember, it's going to be an incomplete telling.

Suffice to say, they had an awesome time, and cried when they had to leave with me.

The went for walks, explored the garden, hunted for worms, went fishing, made cookies, ate cookies, made bread, made play-dough, played with play-dough, played with legos, did puzzles, read lots of books, had a fort made for them, rode bikes, ate well, had a bath, played played and played some more.

My mother's energy levels have always impressed me, they continue to.

Suited up and ready to go to the brook and fish.

They caught one little one, and had a near miss with something bigger.

I love that they're fly-fishing.

Play dough.

Story time.

Indoor bike riding. Safety first! :)

(These pictures were uploaded from my mother's computer, fixing the orientation would be a pain now, apologies for the head tilting.)

Bike repair.  Pretty cool tricycle.

Outdoor bike riding.

In general they had an amazing time with their grandparents, I had an amazing time to myself, and having these two generations spend quality time together is good for everyone.

Rain Rain Rain SUN!

Monday to Wednesday this week it rained.

Monday was a fun day after our weekend away, filled with books and movies and snacking in the morning, and rock picking/fountain construction in the afternoon.  The rain was intermittent most of the day, heavier as the day came to a close, just enough to keep the mortar in the fountain from drying.  We went to sleep with a roaring fire in the 50 degree chilly Vermont evening, and woke up to another cold and wet morning.

Day two of cold and wet we maxed out the indoor activities by the end of the morning.  

As luck would have it, the world provided us with a new project.  Mid-nap, there was a crack/bang, and a tree limb fell on the truck. (Full disclosure, this is a tree limb u.Harry had noticed a week ago while eating around the campfire and said, "that's going to come down soon, you should move your truck.")


Smashed windshield, severely crinkled cab roof, bent top edge of the door. 

I called the insurance company, they put me in touch with an appraisal company, and an appraiser from NY happened to be heading towards Rutland.  We suited up and went to town to meet him.  Stopped at the hardware store for some stuff, went shoe shopping for the kids, and he met us and did his thing in 5 minutes.

The end of that story is, I'm very thankful that limb didn't hit anyone, the insurance company is already wiring the money to our account, and as soon as we have time to leave the truck somewhere, we'll get that fixed.  

That closed out a rainy Tuesday, and we had another chilly summer night with a roaring fire and a movie.  (We watched MIB, which with constant narration from me and question answering for all of Annaliese's questions about aliens, was lots of fun for all of us.  Aside: the first time we discussed aliens about a month ago, Annaliese pondered our talk of other planets and life forms, and her response was, "does that mean we're aliens to other people?")

Wednesday morning was exciting.  The kids were going for a sleep over at their grandparents' house.  (Read: Kagan's first night alone in a month!)

I won't say I was excited, but we got an early start, and I was foot loose and child free well before noon.

The kids were very excited about their new flip flops, set them out at the base of the loft-ladder the previous night, and insisted on wearing them for the trip to the grandparents.  Annaliese insisted on her pirate panties as well.

Caspian changed his mind and wore his new shoes and shirt.  At the rate these kids destroy clothes, especially up here, I'm a big fan of Old Navy.

The kids barely said goodbye to me.  We had been selling the sleepover for a week or so, and they were beyond sold.  When I left they were already headed out on a walk with their grandmaman being pulled in this wagon.

I stopped for a new chain for my chainsaw on the way back, and then spent the day playing.

It continued to rain on me most of the afternoon/evening, but it was just me!

I played with my wife via-iphone...

Cleaned my cabin, finished the hot water system, worked on opening up the view, hauled trees up the hill with my truck and long cables, and split wood until it was too dark to see.  Then I ate all by myself, did the dishes while listening to the end of the newest Pratchett collaboration on audible, started a roaring fire, had a bath, and went to sleep in the flannel bed in the loft ALL BY MYSELF!

After a leisurely morning, lunch in downtown Springfield and a wander through the gallery on Main Street that has been open for 11 years now, I went to get the kids in the early afternoon.  Annaliese cried when I came in and said she didn't want to leave.  After hearing what their visit was like, I can understand.  I'll cover that in a bit.  

We had a lovely dinner at my parents' house, packed up with clean laundry courtesy of my mother, (yep, did our laundry, line dried, folded, while doing all the incredible things you'll see in a moment,) and the kids were asleep before we got out of Springfield.  I had a lovely drive in the crisp Vermont evening, listening to "Mort", (Pratchett's latest was good, but I needed a discworld fix,) and eating frozen blueberries.

Kids asleep, cabin clean, ready for us to depart early tomorrow for Hermit Island just north of Portland for a weekend of camping with the aunts and uncles, then on Sunday ALEXE ARRIVES!

Picking her up in Portland, sleeping at a.Kitty and u.Randall's house, and then back here for a week of family time.

*sigh*  Good times.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Back in the woods.

The kids seem to be very happy to be back at the cabin.  We woke up to a rainy Monday morning, or rather I woke up on the screen porch and listened to the rain for a while, then grabbed a pillow and some books and went into the loft to curl up with the kids.  This was them, AFTER 8 AM!


After a leisurely morning of cuddling and reading in bed, (I've rediscovered the Magic Schoolbus books, courtesy of a.Caitlin; they're interesting and very well put together, at least those that were written before Fox made the tv show, and started publishing cheap knock-offs,) followed by a pancake breakfast and some big bang theory.  (We're just re-watching the second season, I really need to find a dvd store.)

We then suited up and headed out into the drizzle.  Today's project was our fountain, something that the  gravity water system can run out into constantly, without depleting the hot water from the solar system. At first I was envisioning a horse-trough ala old west, but it changed a bit in the making.

Anyway, step one was rock-picking.  The kids headed out before I was ready, and came back to fetch me at top speed.

After rock picking for a while, which included going through the nearest sections of rock wall and tossing the big flat ones over to the road, we headed out to collect them with the truck.  (Our property, which used to be a section of the poor farm, is crisscrossed with massive stone walls, some 8 ft wide and 6 ft tall, where generations of people cleared the fields and pastures by hand and piled the stones at the edges.  It's neat to see the skeleton of the pastures and fields, hidden now in the new growth of forest.)

Caspian found an inch worm.

Everyone was in fine spirits.  It warmed up, and the rain came and went, but was never especially heavy.

Annaliese was feeling particularly spunky.  

One that fell out of the truck on our way back.  I wasn't going to lift it into the back of the truck twice, so we used the sled.  They gave it a good effort.

We picked our spot, set a drain line in the ground, and got to it.

Nothing makes these kids happier than helping, with real tasks.  Make-work does not cut it.  It can slow a project down, but they're so enthusiastic and chipper it's easier in the long run, and far more pleasant.

After lunch the kids took their nap, and I headed out for another load of rocks.  If you look in the background at the wood pile you can also see I grabbed a medium sized oak tree with a bad lean at the same time, and split/stacked it, all before the kids woke up.  Not so much to my credit as the kids slept for over 2 hours.  Nothing like a rainy day, and I think the cabin has established itself as another home in their minds.

The second truck load of rocks was a bit more aggressive on size, as I didn't have the kids to juggle; there was some dismantling and rebuilding after the larger foundational stones were available.

Finished, interior joints packed with cement.  We'll see how it looks when that dries. The stone is stable dry-laid, but needed the cement for water-sealing.  I had one bag of cement, (6 years old in the jobox, left over from the original foundation work for the cabin,) and that did everything I planned, except the skim coat for the floor.  We'll figure that out tomorrow.  As it is, water will fall from above, (how will be determined tomorrow as well,  I like the constant sound of running water, but I also have in my mind a noise-making option, similar to the knocking of the bamboo water feature in the japanese garden in one of the Kill Bill movies,) and will flow out the back, through the stones of the shower, and off into the woods. 

This picture is from Friday night, Natalie's house, me and my kids watching the fire.  Thank you for sending this Natalie.

Underhill Visit, Part III

a.Caitlin painted everyone's toes to match, in a lovely rainbow.  She started with Annaliese, followed with the impatient Caspian...

Then a.Natalie, and then me!

(We took this when we got back to the cabin.)  Now the whole family will match when we're at the beach in Maine this weekend!

Dan came to visit with his two kids, Julia, here, who is 11 going on 25, and and Owen, who I think is 4.  It was great to see Dan, who has one of the best hearts, and it always feels like another member of the family has arrived when he's around.

The 11 year old started playing with a.Caitlin's newest game system, the one that watches your body as you move.  She was dancing, (Annaliese was amazed, and watched open eyed the whole time,) while a.Natalie got up to compete with the younger lady.  I had fun sitting next to Dan and chuckling in semi-terror about having beautiful, self confident daughters.

Caspian had enough.

Headed back to the cabin, we ran across an ice cream stand just as the kids woke up.  I never would have seen the small sign, but Annaliese spotted it the moment she opened her eyes, and the truck brakes just let us make the turn. 

Back at the cabin after picking up ice and groceries in Rutland, we folded and put away our clean laundry (thank you a.C for the laundry facilities,) made and at dinner, had a warm bath, and all crawled into bed.  The kids slept until after 8 this morning, and we've had a lovely, lazy, pancake filled rainy monday morning.

We're getting suited up now to go find rocks and start working on the horse trough/fountain.  Annaliese has been sitting on my shoulder chanting "let's go" in my ear for the last 5 minutes.

Cheers everyone.

Underhill visit Part II

Morning at a.Caitlin and u.Jim's house.  We went out to the gardens, and played with star wars and star trek action figures.  Caspian found a coffee pot and had coffee, "like mama!"

I walked inside later to find u.Jim playing the car-passing game. This little red convertible beetle, with rear-wheel pull-and-release drive was the favorite, and therefore most contentious, toy in the collection.

The kids, after a late night of partying at a.Natalie's, a bit of Caspian throwing up after gorging on grapes and hot dogs, a Caspian fever, and a very early rise-time, took a decent nap.

Caitlin let me use up half her pile of cedar rough cut 2x10x10s, left over from their raised beds, to build a bridge.  It was a wonderful quick project, tickling my long held desire to build bridges.  (I love bridges, the idea, the need they fulfill, the limitless options of how to solve the problem of getting from here to there.  And the geometry.  Go take a look at the steel bridge in England that is completely dovetailed together, no welds or rivets. Amazing.)

Anyhoo, I got a fair distance into the project while the kids were sleeping, and by the time they woke up a.Natalie had arrived, and the kids had TWO aunts to distract them.

We took a break in the mid afternoon to pop over to Uncle William's farm to learn about the milking process, see the cows, and visit William's favorite part of the farm, a beautiful spot in the pasture with a panoramic view, and Mt. Mansfield right in your face.

This little mostly-white calf is going to Natalie and William's house to grow up until it's old enough to enter the milking rotation.

No idea of this little fellow's back story, but he was hungry, and sucked fingers aggressively.

We took a ride in the farm truck up to the pastures to get the cows down to the barn for milking.

There's Vermont.

A little note, I have no time to edit any of the pictures on this blog.  Some of them, like the sky here, just turn out amazing all on their own.

You also can't beat seeing those two munchkins in William's arms.

I like cows.  

The kids, Auntie Natalie, and the dogs all helped unroll the round bale of hay down the length of the barn for the cows as they were milked.

Always interesting to learn about how these things work.  The cows are all trained to go to their spot in the barn, where there is a drop-down metal rail, custom set to their height, that encourages them to back up when they start arching their backs to go to the bathroom.  Gets the waste into the channels cut into the floor down the length of the barn, and a series of metal plates on a chain rotate around that channel and sweep all the waster out to the lagoon.

There are stainless steel pipes running the length of the barn, and I believe a separate pipe with suction in it.  Or maybe they're both pressurized.  William here is carrying one milking rig, which ties into the two lines, and is attached to the teats of the cows.  The milk is sucked out, piped back to the milk room, and then william moves the rig to the next cow.  It looked like he had four of these rigs in action at any one time, which gave him enough time to move them along in pace with the emptying of the lead cow.

The kids got to help.

The two halves of the bridge, a simple truss design, with the walkway hanging from the large triangle.  A bit of design whim and neccesity, the boards we had to work with were 10 ft long, the span had to be at least 16 feet across.  

Before moving the pieces of the bridge into place and assembling, the kids had disappeared with a.Natalie to the tent in the back gardens, and they all came back screaming for brains.  A long zombie-struggle ensued.  u.William was the first victim.

A girl and her farmer.  :)
And her mohawked pooch.

Annaliese found snails in the garden.  ("Is that my hand?" she just said over my shoulder, chewing carrot in my ear.)  

After putting the bridge in place and assembling, we went to the brook to get some flat stones for the four feet of the bridge.

A picture with me in it!

We put the bridge through its paces.

My sisters, the aunties.

a.Caitlin and u.Jim on their new bridge to nowhere.  I believe the plans are to clean out the area on across the bridge and plant it with deer-resilient things.

The day concluded with a pizza party courtesy of a.C and u.J, and a big pile of folks watching Despicable Me on the giant movie screen in Caitlin's living room.  If you haven't seen that flick, it's one of the funniest, kid and adult entertaining things I've seen in a long time.