Monday, October 31, 2011


This week, we celebrate a full year as owners of this awesome piece of land. The electric excitement (and impatience) we were going through last year is so clear. I can put myself back there in an instant-- I go back and read this post, and remember that hike we took and how sharp and edgy everything felt. I planned a little three-day excursion to commemorate the milestone, next weekend. We'll be away from home, and we'll eat lavishly and raise our glasses and watch tons of House Hunters in our motel room bed. I expect it will be the perfect way to celebrate.

And then a day at home-- a day of dogged, empowered, winter-preparedness progress-- turned into this. A campfire in the snow. I emerged from the garage where both of us had worked all morning, stacking and hauling and organizing and deciding the fate of the things we no longer want in our lives, and I saw Patrick tending the scrap pile fire I'd suggested he might build.

I walked over there and joined him, my shoulders scrunched up to my earlobes, and together we stood and froze and warmed our hands, for hours, watching the fire.

What a year. From the little rise in our backyard-- the fire pit-- I surveyed the yard. I thought about everything that was still ahead, this time last year. I remembered the interior of our house, neglected and hideous, and how far we've come. And I thought about us-- my husband, our marriage-- and the great thickets of uncertainty we've been tearing through together. I won't tell you it wasn't tough: the floor refinishing and the furniture shuffling and the rabid pressure to make house into home. But worth it, too. So worth standing scrunch-shouldered in the snow, just taking a minute to celebrate it all with Patrick.

Being away from home will be nice, for sure. But the perfect way to celebrate the year we've had is right here: feet planted on the ground we've chosen as our own.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

A cupcakes sort of weekend


I spent Saturday learning how to turn a live, strutting-around turkey into a Thanksgiving, ready-for-the-oven turkey. It was messy and graphic-- what I expected-- but also overwhelmingly positive and supportive, as the small group of us learned the hows and whys of the process from the farmers who taught us. I'm telling you this not because I recommend spending your Saturday in a similar fashion, (though it's not that bad, really) but because it will help you to understand the violent margarita craving that surfaced, after showering and changing at a friend's house, later on that evening.

I love these weekends in Ithaca. I thrive on alone time, and getting things done on "the homestead" in Gilbertsville. But a consistent diet of alone time and homestead projects can add up to isolation pretty quickly. My life needs regular interjections of silly girl time, and live music, and margaritas. I need, sometimes, to wear my clicky-heeled boots and trot down the streets of that city where I loved and lost and played and biked and worked and studied and courted and eventually left. Gilbertsville holds the perfect, beautiful, self-sufficient promise of my future. But sweet Ithaca holds almost everything that's important about my past.

It's a lot of responsibility for one little city to handle. Fortunately, it's up to the challenge. Margaritas, cupcakes, hot cider, pumpkin beer, and lots of trotting around in clicky-heeled boots. Sleeping on a friend's couch. Eating where I used to work, and ordering my very favorite bagel sandwich combination that I miss with smoldering ferocity. Shopping at my favorite fabric store. It's like that. These little details add up to so much joy.

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Monday, October 17, 2011


I've been anxious about fall. Those elusive moments of clarity, which I was writing about last week, have been so hard to come by from within the blizzard of planning and doing. Lately I've been especially insufferable, as that change in the air brings a rising near-panic: winter is coming and we aren't ready! I've been goading Patrick to use his precious at-home hours (which are even more rare than my at-home hours) to do things. Mowing isn't enough. Washing dishes isn't enough. I've become a homestead fundamentalist, or at least, that's the closest I can come to explaining. Nothing is ever enough-- winter is coming! There's a crack under the front door and six missing storm windows and the revoluciĆ³n wasn't won by mowing lawns, hermano! 

Poor Patrick. He's been very sweet about it. And I'm proud to report that there is no longer a crack under our front door, and we've located three of our six missing storm windows. And this weekend, while Patrick was off on an Adirondack mini-tour with his band, I enslaved invited over my father, and we made admirably and unexpectedly quick work of setting the posts around my garden. He took this picture. I bought him lunch.

There are thirty-six fence posts, six of them set in concrete. This is not the sort of feat you expect to accomplish in half-a-day's work, but, miraculously, we did. The gods were smiling on us. Or something.

I wanted to get these posts in while the ground was still soft (and not frozen!), though I have no plans to add the rails until spring. See what I mean about homestead fundamentalism? On the first melty days of March, I imagine, I can get out here bright and early with a couple of sawhorses and a stack of lumber, and finish my fence. I thrive this sort of nutso planning.

So that's one development: 36 fence posts in the ground. Moving on, we come to the garage, which now has a chicken coop in one corner. Behold.

Ok, so it's not going to make Architectural Digest, or even Hobby Farm. But I got to use power tools (and lots of them) and I only had to spend about $50 in hardware and supplies. The plywood cover was the only wood I had to buy; everything else was salvaged from the ceiling we tore out of the stairwell last winter. Oh, right. Remember that?

Ancient history.

Genevieve seems to like it alright, though she doesn't really understand the concept of flying down from her perch to eat. Twice a day I scoop her up and set her down on the floor, where she warily gobbles feed and pecks at a squishy pear or apple for five minutes before flying back up to safety. Sigh. It's a preciously shallow learning curve with this girl.

I got the general idea for the coop from this post here, which is brilliant. On the front and nest box side, there are hinged doors that open out for access, and in the back wall there's a door to the outside. I haven't fenced in the yard yet, but it's on my list for this week. The length of dowel is attached to the handle on the door, so it can be opened and closed from outside the coop. To the left there are a couple of sticks for perches, and to the right there are six nest boxes. In the spring we'll probably get four or six chicks: company for poor lonely Genevieve, and eggs for hungry us.

The other main accomplishment of the past couple weeks, which I've been meaning to reveal for awhile, is this.

Le IKEA shelf. Cheap, sturdy, serviceable. I've had some fun arranging and rearranging its contents-- look at all that storage!-- and I anticipate much more fun to come. It's so much better than it was.

So much better. 

And that, friends, was my weekend. Thanks for letting me share it all.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The most glorious weekend ever

Sometimes, when you need it most, the powers that be present you with a perfect, glorious, 70-plus-degree October weekend. September was cold and soggy and mean spirited-- best forgotten, really. I spent a good part of the weekend basking, which is, I think, the only proper response to 70-plus-degree October weather. I basked on a bench by a pond at Southwind Farm (where Alexis and I went for an open house), I basked on a wagon full of hay being pulled up onto a hill overlooking town, I basked as I hung clothes on the line, I basked lying down in the grass for no good reason at all. 

Since moving into this wonderful old house, our life here has been so busy moments of clarity have been scarce. You know those brief moments when your head ceases its spinning on from one task to another? You take a break between thinking simultaneously of the then and the now and the next and just go quiet? Well, I was walking in from the garage (where I've been building a chicken coop) and it was about four-thirty in the afternoon, the sun was behind me, and a breeze caught our old hickory just right and sent a storm of golden leaves sailing down all around. It was one of those clear moments, totally mundane and commonplace except for the blessed quiet taking place inside my own head. And I thought, this, right now, I will remember this the rest of my life. For no reason greater than those golden hickory leaves.

If you needed it, then I hope this weekend brought you clarity, too. And basking.

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Monday, October 3, 2011


The change in the weather has got me a little tied up in knots. All of a sudden, it seems, it's autumn-- season of scurrying and preparing and feathering the nest and girding for winter. Our first winter living here full-time. Over the weekend, we accomplished much in preparation for winter. Patrick vented our clothes dryer and sealed the one-inch crack under our front door. I stuffed our freezer with yet more produce-- tomatoes, peppers, pears-- before it's all gone until next summer. Together we raked leaves. The compost bin is brimming.

In between the things we accomplished, and my constant propensity towards worrying too much, there was happy times.

Sunday morning waffles with friends and babies. (I love our friends with babies. FWB?) We enjoyed the park again, together, as we had back in June. (I love that park, too.)

Patrick indulged in a Sunday afternoon hike. We went to Gilbert Lake State Park, and dodged the trail puddles and admired the foliage.

Last night, I set up my new laptop, and I'm just a little bit in love. I have four weeks, it looks like, until I start working from home. Four weeks. Lord willin' and the creeks don't rise, I'm tempted to add, because, well, it's scary to walk away from semi-stability and into the Great Unknown of being a freelance writer. There is no autopilot, in this new world I'm walking towards. No playing hooky. No getting away with less than 100%.

No commute, co-workers, boss, or charges either, I should add. Am I ever eager for that aspect.

It's shaping up: desk, laptop, big IKEA shelf. I need to show you some photos. Maybe this week.

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