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I Do Love Noticing


Heavy rains overnight thwarted my plans to work on the garden area today; the soil wet and compact. Instead, I spent some time knitting on a project that is a gift I’d intended to finish weeks ago, but my inability to remember just how much stitching is involved in making a large shawl (equivalent to a sweater, really), combined with a couple of aching hands that insisted I slow the pace, have meant this thank you gift is behind schedule. It felt good to spend an hour with it this morning. I’m finally done with the main body and next will join the attached lace border. The wool I’m using is Vermont made, purchased direct from the spinnery, which if you’ve never been to one, carries a fragrance more akin to a barn than a retail shop. The finished yarn is free of barnyard, well, aside from that fresh wooly smell, but the spinnery receives wool from farms to be cleaned and spun into yarn, no way around the scent of barn hitching a ride. It’s comforting, really, as is the occasional speck of scratchy hay that I’ve come across while knitting; both are welcome reminders of sheep in this shawl’s not so distant past. 

Scrambled a couple of eggs, sautéed some kale, reheated bacon from the big batch we cooked over the weekend, and served it up with steamy coffee and a heap of kraut. I’m not a big food in the morning person but I’m trying to be better about it. I feel like I’m always trying to be better at it. 

The rain stopped and things were beginning to dry out so I decided to heat some water for a shower. It’s amazing how warm you can get the tank just by adding one small pot of boiling water to the already waiting cool water. With water on my mind, I went ahead and filled the three main holding areas: coffee/tea pot, large pan (mainly used to heat water for dishes), and holding tank by the sink. Good for a couple of days. 

Cleaned up and somewhat presentable (someday I’ll put a mirror in this place... maybe), I headed out to pick apples. As is the case every September, I was reminded of the glory that is apple picking compared to the other tiny food picking we do throughout the year. It goes something like this: Blueberry picking for one hour yields two to three gallons; apple picking for ten minutes yields one bushel. 

I needed to mail something so I stopped at a post office and discovered that in addition to collecting and distributing the town’s mail, they also sell pie, jam, and all sorts of other tasty things. The postmaster shared that in the winter he also works as a trail groomer for VAST, and I thought of about 25 guys that I know (some gals, too) who would love that job. He loops to Saint Johnsbury,  over to Cabot, and back down to his post office. Nice route. I’ve only been seriously snowmobiling once (there have been a few not-so-serious rides around cornfields and such), and as incredible as it was to have such quick and easy access to the deepest woods in northern Maine, I couldn’t get past the deafening sound of the machines and noxious exhaust. I really wanted to love it as it is something that my family does a lot of. I hear the newer machines are quieter and cleaner running; maybe I’ll give it another go someday. On this one trip we took, Emily was five at the time and rode on my dad’s sled, nestled in front of him. At one point she fell asleep (the woods are big in northern Maine, the trails endless, the riding days long... kid needed a nap), and was leaning forward to lie down and kept hitting the start switch, shutting dad’s sled off mid-trail. He thought that was the funniest thing. 

After talking with the postmaster for a bit, I headed back to the car and waited to pull out as a schoolbus dropped off children of this village. I noticed one girl, who looked about eleven, carried a younger child of maybe six; the day’s gear hanging off them in that random end of the day fashion. Loose papers in hand, backpacks bulging, heads used as hooks for coats - too warm in the afternoon to wear them, too cool in the morning to leave them at home. At one point the older girl dropped something and without putting the younger child down, and without looking irritated or flustered, she paused, hoisted the little girl high on her hip, reached down with her free arm to pick up what had been dropped, then kept walking toward the wooden bridge where they joined up with the other kids, crossing the river together, and dispersing to their homes on the other side. I felt happy for both girls. The older, for being strong and selfless; her pleasant expression indicating she did not mind being of service. And the younger girl, for trusting that she could safely ask for help when needed, that someone would be there for her. 

I stopped at the feed store to pick up canning jars and while at the register, the young man of maybe twenty told me about the things he’d been canning this summer, his preferred methods, and the fairs he had entered his goods in. I was glad to know he is in the world. 

Making my way toward the ridge, I passed a motor lodge that sees quite a few guests of the hunter persuasion, and sure enough, there was a plume of smoke out back with a bunch of guys in blaze orange grilling meaty things. If the day had gone in their favor, it was probably bear. Seasonal shift. 

One more stop for a block of ice at the only place I know of that consitently carries block ice; a general store with wooden floors and friendly workers that always know the weather forecast and are happy to talk about it. A bunch of trucks were lined up out front and as I stepped inside I found the owners of those trucks all gathered around the counter, behind which their friend was working. My guess is they were late teens. They excitedly talked all at once, probably telling exaggerated tales and generally ripping on each other, then they noticed me standing there and every single one of them politely stepped aside, got real quiet, and I kid you not, one of them even took their hat off. It's funny because just last weekend I was telling Adam how friendly and courteous everyone is at that store. Apparently their visiting friends are, too. 

I pulled away from the store and turned onto the road that leads to our place. About a mile up there is a farm that I slow down for, in part because it's a 90 degree turn in the road, in part because I like to stop and notice the cows and horses, and in part because sometimes those cows fancy themselves some time spent on the wrong side of the fence. You never know when one or more will be in the road. It was dusk now, the air felt cool through my open windows, the sky painted deep blue before slipping into black. Just as I turned the corner, two young girls were coming toward me on their pony-driven carts. Carts that were made of a bucket car seat bolted to a plywood platform on skids. Real basic. Those ponies though, they were decked out in braids and harnessed with leather and silver decoration. It's a good sign when the pony ensemble possesses more glam than the humans'. The two young girls were so happy as they rode along, ponies and carts kicking up dirt behind them. I was happy too, for seeing them outside at this hour meant they were not inside doing homework. 

Finally, home. I heated leftover beef stew for dinner (had a couple of those apples for lunch), and talked with Adam. I asked if he could burp the kraut that I started while in CT last week, and he reminded me that I wanted to pick rose hips. Right. I forgot. I'll do that tomorrow, along with cooking those apples down into sauce.



Valerie asked if I'd write a day in the life type post, and while each day looks different around here, and most days I don't venture off like I did on this particular day, this is what Monday looked like.


Apples and hips

Today is Wednesday and with the sun out, applesauce canned, and rose hips drying, I'll be in the garden. The densely wooded area is finally opened up enough to resemble something that might grow food. Now we focus on the soil. 

Anyway. Monday wasn't so much a day of doing as it was a day of noticing, so I'm not sure this is the "day in the life" Valerie was hoping for, but I do love noticing. Can't help myself. It's even better when each person encountered reminds me of the good in this world. Seriously. Every single person.

Yeah, Monday was a banner day. 

Camp Shower


Today, because I've been asked quite a bit to do so, let's talk about our camp shower. Well, maybe I'll show you a bunch of pictures and talk just a little. I don't know why my eyes start to glaze over when writing technical how-to type stuff, but they do. However,  I want to share it with you because the system we came up with is ridiculously simple and quite honestly, everyone should have one. If you've ever lived through an extended power outage (without a generator), you'll probably agree. You could use this system outside or right inside your existing shower, allowing the water to drain away.

Let's jump to the photos and I'll narrate along the way...


That's about it right there. Fancy, eh? We purchased one of those pressurized lawn applicator pesticide devices (buy it new for obvious reasons) and Adam rigged up a longer hose, as well as a sprayer just like you'd have at the kitchen sink. The sprayer this tank came with produced a very fine mist, rendering soap rinsing an impossible task. This one does a much better job. In fact, it's better than some indoor showers I've had in my life.

The tank holds three gallons, but we never use that much water. Basically, I'll put a gallon or so of room temperature water from the rain barrel in there, then heat a pan of water to boiling over the fire or camp stove. Once boiled, add it to the tank and you've got a perfect hot shower. There is always a water left in the tank at the end, which we just leave for the next shower, topping it off with boiling water to repeat the process. Easy as can be.

Maybe we should pan out and see where we house this thing.


The floor is made up of free pallets, Adam has an eye for the type that aren't pressure treated. I asked him how he can tell and he said is has to do with coloring, but also sometimes there are specific stamps/markings to look for. The pallets he used are not square, but rectangular. I think there are three lined up in there. They are about four feet wide a piece, which makes for a plenty wide shower. And in case it's not obvious, the grey water drains away through the slots in the floor. The plan was to create a a wet area for bathing, and a dry area for dressing. You think about these things when you have an eighteen year old daughter who is mostly tolerant of her parents' backwoods shenanigans but also appreciates a little privacy. We pulled off the divided space with regular shower tension rods and curtains (which I need to hem). It works great. By the way, our shower here at home is one of those dreadful 30 inch numbers, so this thing feels downright palatial.

The two sides are a couple of 8 ft long privacy panels, 6 ft high. Adam attached them to the back wall (which is a structure in the making to tell about another day), the pallet floor, and the two posts in the front. I have no idea how he notched out the holes that you see the fence slipped into; with no power up here, tool use is limited. Somehow he did, though.


I do know he used the chainsaw to notch out those logs for the pallets to rest into. Nice and stable. And steps were added after he built the whole thing and I reminded him that not everyone is over six feet tall. Turns out the shower is about two feet off the ground, which felt like a single step up to him. To me, not so much.



We added a bunch of hooks that were brought from our old house, they were handmade in the 1920s and we have dozens of them. We did leave the hand-carved chestnut front door and glass cut door knobs throughout, so I don't feel too badly about removing some hooks from the closets. And I kind of like knowing we have this piece of our first home with us still, and forever.


No roof yet, maybe we should have one. It would definitely protect the wood longer. But this structure is actually temporary so we'll hold off on that for now. (I know, check back in five years and we'll probably still be using this, as is.)

That's about it. I hope this provides a good visual to those of you who were interested. And of course if you have any questions, feel free to ask.

That's the Plan


August was a whirlwind and September, thankfully, is slated for the opposite. I’ve been in Connecticut for the last several weeks, but am now settled in Vermont and hope to (mostly) be here until the water freezes. My body may attempt to freeze sooner than that, but she’ll hang on. We’ve tented in autumn snow before, having a camper in similar weather will be downright luxurious. Speaking of, the sink now drains and I can’t even tell you how much this has transformed things. Adam was also going to install the hand pump for the sink this weekend, but as soon as he put it on the counter, it seemed huge and cumbersome and both of us felt like it was too much in this small space so we held off on bolting in down and running the pipes. Bringing water into the camper (without hauling) is still high priority, but maybe not as high priority as we once thought. But draining water! Now that’s revolutionary. To wash dishes, faces, hands, teeth, etc without having to go outside, especially as the weather is cooling down, is so fantastic. Running water is a modern miracle, yet draining water remains under-appreciated. At least by me, until now. 

I wanted to say thank you for your support on my last post. And on a whole bunch of other recent posts, too. It probably goes without saying, but just in case, please know that anything I write here is simply a purging of my own thoughts, feelings, and observations. Nothing I share should be considered as me making a point of any kind (seriously, I have no point to make), nor should my words be construed as advice or instruction on how others should feel, think, or act. Definitely not. Actually, let that be the only instruction or advice I give. I think you all get this, but for some reason I just needed to type it out.  


So now it’s just me and Ozzy up here on the ridge, figuring out our days and the remaining work to be done before the snow flies. A pessimist would be rightfully discouraged by the slow progress we’ve made since taking ownership of this land (thanks to a day job two states away, rendering time desperately precious), but I suppose this is where the sliver of youthful optimism that I possess comes in handy. At least we are here. All is well. 


One last thing before I go, words via Glennon Doyle Melton that hit home for me, maybe they will for you, too:


Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know. 

Be still. 



That’s the plan. 

That, and continued appreciation for a sink that drains. Holy, what a fine thing.