Archive for August, 2014

Onions as Art

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

onionsWe harvested all our sweet (Ailsa Craig) onions today, and about 1/3 of our storage onions. We like to get them pulled early on a sunny day, and then let them bake in the sun on both sides for several hours. Then I tie them up with binder twine and hang them up to dry in our sauna dressing room (it smells REALLY good out there right now.)

After I finished that chore I looked at my handiwork, and felt that this was more than a good chunk of our winter’s food, but beautiful enough to be considered art. In fact, I felt I even knew the artist that has possibly pulled a few onions in his time… Dale Chihuly.

13.601.ch1 chandelier eveningMr Chihuly works with glass. I’ve seen several of his pieces that have long colored tendrils that catch your attention from across the room. How he manages to so artfully blend the colors, textures, and light, and firmly attach these pieces of glass so they will fight gravity for years, is something I’ll probably never understand. I do suspect I understand where he came up with the inspiration for the piece, though.

Thor, Trimmer of Lawns

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

trimmerWe have never been too concerned about trimming the grass right up to the edges on our property. We made a foray into this arena some years ago when we bought one of those electric fish-line yard trimmers. We bought an extension cord with it, but after a few tries with the thing, we felt that the trouble of setting it up was not worth the outcome. So it sat in our storage building for some years.

During her weekly ladies Tai Chi gathering, Alice overheard her friends talking about modern weed whips, and how nice the new ones were. When she described the conversation to me later that day, the light in her eyes told me this was somewhat more than a simple recount of an earlier conversation… she WANTED one.

Ah modern technology. I think it saves us males if we use it appropriately. While the idea was still fresh in my mind, I snuck over to Amazon, found an appropriate lithium ion cordless trimmer, ordered it, and forgot about it. When the big box arrived a week later, I was almost as puzzled as she was. But we opened it, put it together, and sent her outside with her new tool. When she came in an hour lager, her eyes were shining again, and I could tell that she had run out of things to trim before she was ready to stop.

I hear that Hollywood is casting the role of Thor as a woman next time. I nominate Alice with her weed trimmer as a suitable model for this job. Weeds that formerly would stick out their tongues as we walked past now cower before the might of Alice and her trimmer.

Now the shelf in my workshop that holds the chargers for my various cordless tools has one additional charger on it, one that I don’t have to do anything with, because Thor, the trimmer now maintains the batteries too.

Is It a Sin…

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

We have a pretty large lawn, and we are motivated to keep it cut. Not in order to keep up with the neighbors, because we really don’t have any. We learned early in our habitation of this place that the mosquitoes do much better when they have tall wet grass to stalk their friendly human hosts from. So we started mowing…

cubLast summer I used some savings to upgrade our mowing equipment. Our previous garden tractor was a 10 horse John Deere that had spent a couple of decades up the hill mowing the cemetery. I bought it when the cemetery board deemed it not worth repairing, had it repaired, and mowed with it for a couple of more decades. Last summer we splurged and bought a Cub Cadet ZRT rider.

There is a learning curve to driving one of these new mowers. The first few times around the yard, I probably did as much damage as I did good. But as my hands on the levers learned what to do without involving the thought process, man and machine became one.

I came in from mowing the other day and asked Alice, “Is it a sin to enjoy mowing your lawn?” All my youth, cutting the grass was a chore. Now I kind of look forward to it.

My least favorite part of the whole thing prior to this new mower was the trim. The old John Deer just wasn’t too handy mowing around things, so I’d leave that step to a push mower. Pushing that old mower around was not my idea of a great time, but I did it and the lawn definitely improved as a result. Last summer I gave the old mower away to a young person that needed it, and replaced it with a Honda self-propelled… luxury. I never thought much about self propelled mowers, but this one is great, especially when mowing the steep hillside next to the road.

The trimming has improved with a better hand mower, but mostly because the new riding mower trims so nicely. It is probably bigger than the old John Deere, but man can that thing spin around the obstructions. I mow around a lot of trees I planted as a dust barrier near the road, and I feel like a stock car racer going around a figure 8 track when I’m doing it. Rooommm Bapa Bapa!

So some brain rewiring seems to be in order here. When the concept, “time to mow the lawn” seeps in, I need to replace, “aw crap” with “yipee.”

Once In a While, Mix Things Up

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

First a confession; I have never cared for opera. My first “sort of” professional job was as a student control board operator at Michigan Tech’s NPR radio station, WGGL. I spent some time in training, and when the time came to schedule solo shifts for my first semester of work, I drew the Saturday afternoon opera shift, mainly because no one else wanted it. In those days, the opera came on 3 large reel-to-reel tapes, labelled (somewhat inconspicuously) 1, 2, and 3. I queued up tape 1, started the tape exactly on time, queued up the second tape, hit start at exactly the right time, sat back and tried to listen to the incomprehensible German singing above the nagging music of Wagner’s Sigfried. When I looked up at the tape machine, I noticed that the second tape I’d just started, was, in fact, tape 3. Oh no!

I called my boss, an understanding fellow with a good ear for radio, and with a fair mental assessment of how large the audience was for the Saturday afternoon opera. He suggested I queue up tape 2 on the second tape machine, listen for some applause during the live tape 3 that was playing, and then fade down tape 3 and bring up tape 2, which I did. I then stopped tape 3, waited until tape 2 finished, and then restarted tape 3 so the opera could end. I think it was a good plan. Yes the opera was not played in the proper order, but it could be argued that every note was played. At the conclusion of the opera, I was prepared to field all the phone calls from irate opera lovers whose experience had been ruined because I’d grabbed the wrong tape. NO ONE CALLED.

Fast forward to the present. I spent most of today in my pajamas in bed with a cold/flu. To pass the time, I finished watching a very fine travel program called, “Stephen Fry in America.” When it was over, I was still not ready to get up, so I took Netflix’ advice and began watching “Wagner and Me” also by Stephen Fry. This documentary was about Mr. Fry’s love of Wagnerian Opera, and also told the complicated story of Wagner’s other famous fan, Adolph Hitler.

In one of the scene’s of the documentary, an audience was filmed during a performance of one of Wagner’s lengthy pieces. Most of the people I could see appeared to be not all that interested in what was happening on stage. But occasionally I saw some who were rapt with angelic smiles on their faces; clearly being transported into rapture by the music. Stephen Fry was among the later group. So well did he tell his story, and so intimately did he share the depth of his emotions, that I found myself thinking either he is a great actor, or this man really does love this genre. Now I’m a smart guy, so what is wrong with me? Why don’t I feel this same bliss when I hear Wagnerian opera? Is it worth it for me to study music to the point that I could understand and appreciate this form of art, or am I just defective, banned for all time from appreciating opera?

These are good thoughts. These are the kind of thoughts you have when you make a decision to move your life in another direction. And I firmly believe that we need to mix things up a bit now and then. If we don’t, we’re doomed to travel a vector through life, looking straight ahead, and missing all manner of potential jewels on the sidelines. What it took for me to experience this soul shaking experience today was getting sick, laying in bed, getting my little Chromebook on my stomach, and clicking on something in Netflix.

I think we all need to find what we like to do in life, and do that thing as much as possible. I’ve been lucky enough to find some land I like, marry an understanding woman who is content to share this rural life with me, and retire early enough that I can putter on the farm while I still have the physical capability to accomplish a few things. I tend to work my way through my days of gardening, woodworking, keeping my equipment operating, etc, with a joy that comes from doing what I truly like doing. What I forget to do sometimes is stretch myself in a different direction, a lesson I relearned today by catching a cold.