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We'll Do Our Best


Our resident woodcock has returned. Before coltsfoot, before peepers, before green grass, there is the unmistakable and hilarious ground level peeent, peeent, peeent, followed by a melodic twirling in the sky as he ascends and descends in an impressive attempt to woo the ladies. Spring is here. 

We have had an unusually warm March. Myself and others find ourselves outside most days, wandering around a little aimlessly, unsure of where to begin this early. Be careful. It looks promising, but more snow will come. It will freeze again. And don’t forget about the mud. And so, we dabble. There are always more projects than time, so we pick and choose tasks that can endure a little snow, freezing, and mud. It’s too soon to step into the garden, so we work in the greenhouse, build a new summer coop for the chickens, upgrade chicken tractors for meatbirds, gather fencing supplies for other projects. There is always plenty to do during any season, even false spring. 

We are in the heart of maple sugaring season! What a strange, slow year it has been. I don’t have any final numbers to report yet, but I can say that we are grateful for the surplus of syrup held over from 2020. We made the decision to tap fewer trees this year than we are equipped to; just something in the air felt little off. Maybe because 2020 was such a mast year for us, all beings are looking to relax a little in 2021. It’s nice to have some years feel extra in many ways; it allows for other years to be more restful. 

I’m already looking forward to preserving less this harvest season. In some instances it’ll be because we simply put up enough to last two years, in other instances, some things although delicious, didn’t really feel worth the summertime labor to produce. We’ll still be sure to put by all that we need plus some, but I won’t be focusing much on novelty this year. 


Adam has been felling diseased beech trees this winter. From the Great Lakes to New England there is something happening with beech trees. I am not an expert on this, but my understanding is that a particular insect first breaches the bark, then a pathogen comes in and attacks, resulting in dark-spotted, scaly bark, and inevitably, a dying tree. This combination is spreading rampantly and there does not seem to be a fix other than culling the infected trees to help prevent spread, and being grateful beech makes excellent firewood. We have many beech trees in this predicament, as do most in this region. It is devastating, they are beautiful trees that contribute greatly to our forest food supply.

Sometimes I am asked if it has been hard for my husband to return to the place he grew up, all those teenage shenanigan memories and such. Truth is most of his friends have moved on; there’s not much that keeps people of recent generations here. I’d say the hard part for him has been returning to a forest unrecognizable to his boyhood self. Aside from the ruthless logging that has become the norm, it is the notable absence of old growth forest he mourns ("old growth" being relative, because by the late 1800s, 80% of Vermont's forests had been shorn; nearly everything below 2,000ft). He tells stories of beech trees so wide you could hardly wrap your arms around them; the trunks covered in scars from bear claws hurling their way up to the canopy to gather tasty beechnuts. Hemlock stands so dense the forest floor remained in darkness throughout the day. He notes the absence of a hunting culture so prominent it felt like a state holiday. Many things are different now, even if to me (a lifelong southern New Englander) it still feels downright remote and wild here, he sees and feels the changes. Change is inevitable, of course, sometimes for the better and sometimes it feels like a loss. I suppose solace comes in knowing that we have committed our time here as one of healing and growth. A rehabilitation for critters of the two-legged, four-legged and winged variety, and all manner of flora and fungi. Our efforts won't heal the world, but we'll do our best to heal a small corner of it. Who knows, maybe a few of those beech trees will survive and when I am an old women, wandering the woods collecting sap, I will notice bear claw scars on the trunk of a tree so wide I can hardly wrap my arms around it. 

I'm Sorry, I'm Not Taking Questions Right Now


Sitting at my desk in the afternoon, next to a western facing window that I’ve opened to enjoy the 45º degree day, I notice a dark brown shrew, two stories below, scurrying across the snowy field. Back and forth, to and fro, round in circles, this way and that. Little guy reminds me of myself and so many other humans I’ve observed recently, emerging from hibernation with a kind of disoriented enthusiasm; too excited to put our finger on exactly what we’d like to do with the first warm and sunny days, so we run about chaotically, hoping to not miss a moment of it.

After that wonderful taste of what is to come, temperatures dipped back down to single digits, whiteout snow moved in, as did 25mph sustained winds. Oh, March! I don’t mind it so much. Permission to continue hibernating  is about the only direction I am good at following. With the sap buckets frozen and winds too strong to ski or do much of anything outside, our winter weary bodies needed to move in some kind of productive way, so we spent most of the weekend spring cleaning. We could not go so far as to wash window exteriors, but we did tend to as much as we could on the inside. Carpets shampooed, lampshades wiped down, chandeliers washed, wall art cleaned, baseboards and radiators washed, bookshelves vacuumed and deeply dusted, interior windows and sills cleaned. All kinds of things that aren’t necessarily addressed weekly, but do need to happen once in awhile. 

I’ve been using the same dusting spray recipe for years, but have recently changed it up a bit. I’ll include it here in case you’d like to make some as well. As usual with this sort of thing, test it on a small inconspicuous spot before dousing your precious Eastlake with it. 


Dusting Spray

2 cups water 

1/2 cup vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

10 drops cedarwood essential oil

10 drops patchouli essential oil

15 drops orange essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle, shake well. Be sure to give it a shake once in a while when using, as it does not contain chemical emulsifiers to keep it blended. 


A few months ago, nearly a year into the pandemic, I was having one of those days where it felt like a hundred years since any of us really had any time to ourselves. Normally this isn’t a big deal, but it is something you become aware of when togetherness is forced. Our house is small by American standards for three adults living and working from home, with the supplies of a dozen indoor winter hobbies, to boot. Quarters can feel a little tight sometimes. One Sunday morning while making breakfast for my family, frustrated by my dysfunctional kitchen, I blurted out in response to being asked what felt the tenth question of the morning (it was probably the second... it’s been a long year): I’m sorry, I’m not taking questions right now.

Silence fell on the room. I wasn’t being rude, I also wasn’t being very helpful. My family initially did not know what to make of it. I didn’t know what to make of it! The nerve! I’m sorry, I’m not taking questions right now. Who says that? Well, on that particular Sunday morning, I did. After a moment of stunned silence, my family erupted with praise for such a statement, such a boundary. Who could really argue with it? In fact, they were inspired. What!? We can say that? That’s an option!? 

Of course! We’re all designing this pandemic life however as we see fit, and in that moment, I was not fit to answer questions. 

I’m sorry, I’m not taking questions right now, has become our line in the sand. The single phrase has now been adopted by all family members. We don’t abuse it (that would be rude), but it’s our individual ace of spades when a little space is needed during a long winter, and an even longer pandemic.