Friday, January 15, 2010

Mowr Pheauxteaxs

"Lucy" was an African Grey parrot who was left with me by my late, former partner. She was an awesome bird but I am just not a bird person, never wanted one. So I held on to her until I found a really good home to send her to. I miss her quirky 'animalality' that was close to the personality of a loud, jolly, attention-seeking three-year old but I don't miss the constant noise and high-maintenance attention that intelligent critters like these require.

Cocoa was a "tweener" (sized half-way between mini & standard) dachshund. I miss him.

I touched up a photo for a friend a while back. If I recall correctly, it is the only surviving photo she owns of her parents together in the same picture. I don't own photoshop or any other high-end graphics-editing tools but am well pleased with the result after extensive cutting, pasting & blending. It isn't perfect but dang good considering what I had to work with:Before: full scan


This was taken at my workplace. I'm not sure how I feel about doing this to a dog, ok if it doesn't bother or harm the dog I suppose. The guy who owned it said that the animal slept through the entire process. I'll admit the guy has talent and a steady hand with clippers. If this were attempted on Pepper, he'd likely freak out.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Two New Inductions...

into the Sacred Sisterhood of Sacrosanct Cisterns. Don't ask me why I am apparently obsessed with them, I don't even know but have been neglecting to mention new memberships, found these two on another hike in the foothills a few months ago. I spoke to the farmer who maintains the land for the land-owner (also the person who built the enclosure for this one as I found out) and he is hoping to convince the land-owner to have enclosures built for all of the cisterns on the land. I'm not sure how I feel about enclosing all of them. I guess I understand if the intention is to use them all again some day or prevent falling/drowning hazards. Still, they are kind of pretty and almost naturalized to their surroundings when in a state of disrepair.

This one is about 3' X 6'. A few scant remains of it's former enclosure lie around it. It lays hidden in the woods about a hundred yards up the hill from a couple of the others mentioned previously.

This is the biggest one I've ever seen, roughly 5' X 9' and at least eight feet deep. I noticed that several unfortunate critters had fallen into it and drowned so, being careful not to touch them. I fished them out with a tree branch and buried them. Stuck a couple branches in at odd angles so that future clumsy critters would be able to climb back out. I also brought a few of my pond goldfish up on a subsequent hike and put them in there to help control mosquitos.

While I was busy mucking around with the big cistern, my dog disappeared for a few minutes and came back soaked from head to toe. I was curious where he found water deep enough to swim so I followed his tracks backwards to this beautiful woodland bog-pond just up the hill from the cistern. The place is very serene and unspoiled, I think it will be one of my favorite new places to take friends when we are out hiking or on a picnic.

"Maidenhair" Fern grows abundantly in biotopes like this: filtered sunlight, lots of sphagnum moss & still, acidic water with a very thick layer of settled organic matter just below the surface. This is one of those places where if you tread on the mossy areas, the entire ground ripples and one must be careful not to damage the plant life or fall through the moss layer.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Blog Update

Woke up at 4:05 am, brain started churning & chattering with ideas for the coming year, wouldn't let me settle down enough to get back to sleep. So here I am editing my blog format in the wee hours of the morning, organizing the links in the column to the right, with Pepper sighing and huffing occasionally behind me because he doesn't like it when I pay more attention to the computer than to him. In the interest of keeping this post from becoming another rambling, self-indulgent & introspective jumble, it is time to toss up more pictures.

This is what has taken up a large amount of my time between rain storms and other projects. Down-side: lots of hard work felling, chunking, splitting, hauling & stacking. Up-side: boy did it ever keep me in shape, it was free and saves me a load of money without needing to switch to Geico!

I finally got around to reconditioning, painting & putting new seals in the old Scandia 100 wood stove. I am very proud of how it turned out. Interesting story (at least to me): I found this stove for free on the side of the road almost a decade ago while riding with my parents in their van. It appeared to be a rusty, pitted old chunk of scrap-metal, with the reliefs barely visible under all the corrosion and my folks thought I was being ridiculous because I lived in an apartment with oil heat at the time and would never foreseeably need a wood stove. Regardless, they humored me and my Dad helped me to load it into the van. It moved everywhere with me and went into storage for a while. When I bought the cottage it seemed like it would be far more efficient than the cheaply-made "smoke-dragon" that came with the place. Upon further research, this model of stove is a bit hard to come by because it helped with the demise of a Taiwanese subsidiary of the Franklin Stove Company. Apparently this subsidiary was shut down due to a large lawsuit brought by Jøtul because of trademark/design infringements. This model is a direct knock-off of a tul "Black Bear" 118. Hey, if you are going to copy something, may as well copy the best, right? It is relatively efficient, burning up to six hours with a full load of hardwood and a healthy bed of coals still there after 10 hours if the damper is set correctly. By coincidence, it was also manufactured in the year of my birth.
Lovely reliefs of pastoral/woodland scenes & critters.

I am very proud of how it turned out, being my first stove-overhaul project ever.

Now it heats my whole house quite comfortably and I do 90% of my cooking on it during the colder months. It saves me several thousand dollars a year on propane.

But OH! and OW! Wood stoves are not all wine, roses and romantic firelight. They bite hard when you aren't careful with them! This is what happens when one is attempting to adjust some of the internal buffer plates before checking to see if it is cooled enough to work on with bare hands & arms.

Thanks to my friend Murph for snapping this pic. Because I burn a fair amount of pine, I have to do this 2-3 times a year. *This tempts me to put on a top hat and black coat tails & sing in a Cockney accent: "Prevent a house fire, schtep in toim, prevent a house fire, schtep in toim! Never need a reason, never need a roim, prevent a house fire schtep in toim!" I dare not dance on this particular roof though. (5 bonus points if you get the reference)

While we are on the subject of singing... on the TENTH day of Christmas (or Thanksgiving?) my true love gave to me, in addition to a bunch of livestock & indentured servants performing various acts like milking, leaping, swimming and perching in fruit trees, TEN TURKEYS PECKING, among the blueberry bushes out in my side yard. They have become so commonplace around here, sometimes as little as a couple or as many as five dozen. They are attracted to the bags of shavings I've been spreading around under the trees as mulch. The shavings come from the animal cages at work so they are loaded with various seeds and food pellets.

A fuzzy, uninvited guest who ended up in my bathroom. It was a little surprising to get out of the shower, glancing once and thinking it was just a large moth, then again and realizing what it really was. He made a hell of a high-pitched racket when I trapped him in a coffee can and turned him loose in a tree outside.

Another uninvited house-guest who somehow got inside over the summer. My cats had him (or her?) trapped behind the wood rack so I caught him and hustled him outdoors too. My sister, and now I, have started calling them "Dreaded Angii" ("Dreaded Angus" as the singular form). She says because they remind her of angry little Scottish men when they are scolding you from up in the trees.

And while we're on the subject, this was yet ANOTHER guest who almost became lunch for my cats. I'm not sure if it's a mole, vole or shrew.

My dog loves corn, but only if it's husked, he seems to enjoy stripping the husks, then eating them.  Reasonable substitute for hunting critters I guess.

Asian Praying Mantis hanging out on the windowsill on the front of the bird-room at work.

In my neighbor's tree: made me do a double-take, thinking it was real at first.

An incredibly effective home-brew directional wifi antenna which I made out of a coaxial connector, a length of coaxial cable, a tuna can, a small copper wire antenna, a discarded metal primestar dish I found behind the wood shed when I bought the place, and picture-hanging wire. I am very proud of this project too. Connected to the router, it gives a very strong signal no matter where I am in my yard, connected to my wireless card via a home-made pig-tail adapter, it can pick up networks from a quarter mile down the road.

This is the trailer which came with the property (I didn't live in this one, it was used primarily for storage).

The town had a bug up their arse about it and ordered me to have it removed, so some good friends of mine threw a "Trailer-Tear-Down Party". Here is one pic of the high-jinks which ensued. I'll post a video of the actual act of tipping it over at some point.

So classy! After a long day of demolition, a couple of beers around the camp-fire are in order. The toilet came from the trailer.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Unpacking & Examining MMIX

Hmm... it went by more quickly than I expected. It was a year of changes and a year of extremes. It found me in the deepest anger I've felt in a long time, yet also the most reassurance and support that I've had in a long time. My method of dealing with said anger wasn't as graceful as it could have been but far more graceful than the person who I was five years ago would've handled it. This was the year that my faith in humanity truly began to gain momentum. There were many acts of Grace and friendship that I had the privilege of witnessing, not least of which was found in a number of friends who came through for me and helped me when I needed it the most. Matt, Murph, Brian, Sean, Meghan... I feel indebted to you for helping me as much as you did. I hope I can return the favor some day.

This year also took a couple of friends away from me due to drugs. Sad? Yes, but I've learned that it is pointless to beat my head against the wall with people who, so absorbed in their own pain, can't see what it is doing to them or those who care about them and are unwilling to get the professional help they need. Part of me feels a pang of regret for having walked away when they were at their worst, but it is also the part of me which wants to fix everyone and ultimately cripples me. I can't be doing that, it will only burn me out and leave me with little resources for repairing my own mind, body and Spirit when necessary. I've watched many past friends descend into squalor and ruin due to drugs and I just don't have it in me anymore to sit around and watch people commit slow suicide. It hurts too much. "But for the Grace of God", that could have been me at one time. Optimistically, I can say that some of those friends who fell into this dangerous cycle found a measure of strength and Grace, having crawled back out of the pit. Guys/Girls, you know who you are and you have no idea how proud I am of you. It takes a lot of personal strength and painful reduction of ego to seek help and bring yourself back to those who care. If the aforementioned two wake up and get help, I'll be there for them as always.

Though two are gone, I've also made friends with someone whom I'd never have envisioned being friends with and as such, have been reminded to humble myself and stop judging a book by it's cover. This was a person whom I thought lived by a code of survival and preemptive or reactionary punitive action, yet possesses tremendous depth, wisdom and peace. I've learned a lot from him, bettered myself because of him and hope that we can remain friends.

I once read a quote in a book of Quaker Faith & Practice which appropriately describes human history like a mural, when standing up close examining one particular, small section, one may appreciate and learn from it, but it is very difficult to tell what it's purpose is and how it relates to the rest of the picture. We gain much more insight when we back up and examine the whole picture, the farther away it gets from us, the more we see how it all fits together; so it is in human history and so it is in one's own life experience.

How do these things relate to my own life? The various hardships and tragedies which took me out for a few years are now further away. I see how they fit together and what good things they lead to and I am at peace with the outcome. I feel whole, calm again. Confused? This previous post explains it. I've forgiven Tim (called Tom in the previous post for the sake of respect because he was still alive then), still love and fondly remember the good side of him. I am at the point where I don't think about him most of the day, every day; maybe just once a week or less, and it is usually the good memories. Maybe I've mentioned it before and it sounds crazy, but he pops up now and then. I actually see him with my own eyes, always when I least expect it and am not thinking about him. He never says anything but he's always looking at me and smiling, sometimes laughing joyfully. The last time I saw him grinning at me, then disappearing into the trees on an off-trail hike... another time in a fish tank (of all the odd places, he did have a good sense of humor). Will he ever pop up again? Will he say something to me? It is neither here nor there. If it happens it will be interesting, but I am now beyond any need for closure. Yeah, I know for a fact that he's dead and I don't know if these fleeting images are the product of some self-preservationist, subconscious process meant to soothe me or if it's an actual spiritual encounter, whatever it is I can say I am at peace with him. He has rejoined with The Source and has moved on to a better existence, whatever that may be.

While I've lost the need for New Year's Resolutions as a crutch or a way of putting off what I should be doing right now... I still state my intentions for the sake of tradition:

1. Keep trying to be nicer and more understanding with people, having come a long way in this respect since last year there is still a long way to go.

2. Become more involved: with family,
with Meeting,with my friends, with life in general. It feels like it is my time to do so after having a decade-long phase of being aloof and rambling around. I've been walking around inside my head far too much. While it leads to a lot of creative and ingenious ideas/projects, it also causes me to be asocial, neurotic and shifts my focus onto distractions instead of essentials for personal growth.

A man I know and respect once stated that "We begin life on a long arc... as a bundle of Spirit with potential and a path in front of us and our existence fades in the same way, with us as a vital bundle of Spirit, with more to give than when we arrived." It feels like my life is approaching the apex of this arc in the next few years. I no longer fear the rest of the journey or the act of dying, these things all happen as part of the big picture. There will be hardships & heartbreak, yet also joy, renewal and love. None of us knows for certain when our time will be up, so do what we can with what we have and live in a State of Grace, eh?