Saturday, December 26, 2009

White Christmas Day

(as usual, I have no clue how to get Blogger to put these photos where I want them.)
Oh, my! Talk about snow!

I think this is the biggest snow I've seen in Kansas, at least for a very long time. It's certainly the first time I've REALLY gotten the car the driveway, no less. AFTER DK and I did a lot of shovelling.

But so beautiful. I told DK that he couldn't go out until I got out first and took pictures of the pure, unblemished snow in all its sculptured drifts. He was pretty obliging. And I did take a few pictures, including a lot of the "glacier" that has been slowly sliding off the roof for more than 24 hours. It's so solid that when I whacked it with the storm door this morning, a chunk fell out but the main mass didn't budge. It just gradually drooped more and more vertical through the day. The photo above definitely gives me that "we're not in Kansas any more" feeling. Winnipeg, perhaps?

The drifts between the barn and high tunnel are especially least 2' deep. I learned something about farm door design: have one door that opens into the building, so you can get in without having to shovel out the snow around it. This is NOT how I designed the doors for the barn or HT.

Shoveling out the HT was really going to be a chore, since the drift was so deep and broad that there was a LOT of snow to move. Just getting to it was a challenge. There had to be a better way.

One of my listserv groups is gathering in the flesh in February in New York, so there's been lots of talk about winter sports like snowshoeing and cross country skiing...both just made for days like today. Don't I wish I had snowshoes to get the barn and around to do chores? The deep snow is so hard to walk in, and over my boots means wet socks.

Maybe I could make something that would work like snowshoes? Something big and flat and lightweight, and some way of strapping it to my a couple of tote lids, and an old pair of slip-on ice grippers. Short bolts and washers would work to attach them...but a considerable amount of searching yielded many long bolts and no short ones. It did, however, turn up a package of zip ties...and I knew I was onto something good. A few minutes later, I had removed the studs from the ice grippers, yielding two boot straps. Drilled a few holes in the ball-of-the-foot area and zip tied them to the lids. Voila! Snowshoes! And believe it or not, they worked. Here's a photo of them inside the HT.

I've never snowshowed before, but it was pretty easy to figure out what worked and what didn't. The rubber boot straps turned out to be a good safety feature...while the lids flop around a bit, they did flex enough to avoid spraining an ankle when I stepped on my toe and fell over.

Working from the snowshoes on top of the snow, I was able to shovel out enough to get into both the barn and HT. The sky was clear by then, and inside the HT it was in the 40s. Nice! I picked a delicious fresh salad for Christmas dinner at a friend's house. The photo shows the silhouette of the snowbank on the east (lee) side of the HT, where it slid off the roof. The insulation of the snow will help keep the HT warmer this time it's 26 degrees, while last night it got down to 22.

The snowshoes also made taking hay to the sheep much easier. We use a child's plastic sled to haul hay on, year round, because it's so much lighter than a cart, and easy to maneuver. So the sled and me on snowshoes made the chores into child's play.

After several forays around the farmyard, the plastic began to split and break, brittle from cold and from long exposure to UV. A better pair will be fabricated tomorrow. It was enough fun and function that I'll sacrifice two of my red "bulb crates" to salvage more substantial plastic, esp. since the forecast implies that this snow will be around awhile. Now to invent skis....

Dinner at a friend's house was scheduled for 12:30. Of course, I was just picking the salad about 11:45, after snowshoe fabrication, chores, snow shovelling, etc. So it was nearly 12:30 by the time I was all ready to go and headed out to the car. DK had been shovelling the driveway, as well as tromping it down by driving his car around...OK, by getting his car stuck and unstuck in a lot of places.

After getting the car all warmed up and brushed off, I started to back out the driveway. I got to the street, but that was it. I couldn't turn. The street hadn't been plowed, and the deep granular snow wouldn't pack or give any traction. It was like sand, nearly up to the floor of the car. I got stuck, DK and a passing neighbor got me back into the driveway and I returned the car to its parking space. Meanwhile another neighbor in a bigger car got stuck in the same place on the road. OK, it isn't my car and it isn't my driving.

I called my friends (again) to let them know I was delayed (even more).

Then, with the salad installed in my beloved frame pack from my Canada adventure a few years ago, and my feet snug in my "Winnipeg boots", I set out walking. It was a beautiful winter day, the sky was blue, nothing better to do than walk 2 miles to a friend's house for good company and good food. Besides, I needed to feed the cat I'm house sitting in town. So what's a good hour's walk but a pleasure on such a day?

It turned out I didn't walk more than half a mile. I decided to walk down 2nd St., even though the sidewalks were untouched, deep in snow. It was a good choice...the 4th or 5th truck stopped and offered me a ride. I didn't hesitate to accept. Evil people were surely not out looking for victims on such a day; I figured everyone on the road was either bound and determined to make it to a cherished relative's house for Christmas, or was out looking for good deeds to do. Or both, as it turned out.
It also turned out that my ride was an old friend of my ex-husband, though he didn't recognize me until I introduced myself. He had been at our wedding nearly 15 years ago. Small world, with God working in mysterious ways!
Good food, pleasant company...a good way to spend Christmas afternoon. As the day wore on, my host offered me a ride home along with her other guests. But the cat...? As luck would have it, the other guests lived near my cat-friend. I did chores while she took them the rest of the way to their home, and then she gave me a ride home.
The street had been plowed by the time I got home. So, what's to stop me from jumping in the car and going to my daughter's for her Christmas dinner? Well, nothing but the last (biggest, still unfrozen) puddle at the end of the driveway! Where the car remains stuck....

...Which I don't mind at all, since I enrolled in AAA last week, and my boss called me this afternoon to let me know that the bus system has been cancelled tomorrow so I don't have to go to work.

Friday, December 25, 2009

White Christmas Eve

I poked my head out the front door to see how much snow was accumulating around the woodpile...and was surprised to see snow hanging over my head! The wind is really blowing, and though there's not much snow falling any more, it is certainly going places it has never gone before. I'll be interested to see what it looks like from out in the front yard.

This photo shows the ledge of snow drifting off the edge of the roof overhang. The grey band is the old-fashioned round gutter, about 5" in diameter to give a sense of scale. The snow is cantilevered about 2 feet out from the edge of the gutter! It reminds me of a giant shelf fungus.

Earlier this evening I stepped out into the garage for a tool...and noticed drifts of snow streaming across the floor from the edge of Luna's indoor kennel. The wind is just the right velocity and angle to funnel the snow under her lean-to "porch roof" and right through the door, filling up her indoor den. She's grinning from ear to ear in the entryway now...partly because she gets to be in the house, and partly because she generously the cat litter box for me (I know, you REALLY didn't need to know that little detail...but it's a good reality check for "oh what a SWEET dog").

In the morning I'll be out with the camera for more snow pics...and pop into the HT for some green relief. It's currently about 24 degrees in there...and that's right up against the plastic of the south wall. Outdoor temp. is mid-teens. We are still working out the best locations for the remote sensors for the thermometers. Lots of trial and error. The gray Springfield unit was sending all the way from the HT most of the time; when I moved it to the washhouse which is about half the distance, it only sends sporadically. The white Acu-Rite unit (thanks, RG!) seems to send reliably from the HT.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cold Attitudes

Mornings like this morning (Wed.) highlight the wide range of personalities and preferences in the people around us.

I like the cold...when I have proper clothing and access to a warm, dry, windless spot...and it doesn't have to be fancy. I LIKED winters in the school bus, with no running water or electricity or access to town for weeks at a time. So crunching around the farm in the crackly snow to visit the toilet at Dawdie, finish shoveling the walks, sweep off the car, etc., was pleasant and invigorating. The wind wasn't too bad, and the sun was bright in a cloudless sky. Pretty, pretty, pretty! A postcard or calendar photo view everywhere I turned.

Housemate DK practically laughs at the cold, as well...even more than me. When I'm wearing a wool blend union suit and heavy sweat pants with Goretex rain pants over the top, and a cotton turtle neck and wool sweater under my leather jacket, he's bound to be wearing shorts and a T shirt. He welcomes the cold as an opportunity to play with fire (in the wood stove), but you wouldn't really know it because his policy seems to be snide indifference for most external conditions. He was out the door to commute to his job in Topeka a bit earlier than usual, accounting for weather-related unpredictability...well before this night owl got up.

Because DK worked today, and I knew we'd be going in and out a lot before he got home and got the walks shovelled (one of his assigned chores, generally undertaken on his own initiative), I suggest to my temporary visitor that she do the walks. She was not enthusiastic, but dutifully (resentfully?) went out, bundled in suitable layers. She was back in about 10 minutes, huddled by the fire speechless for awhile, and then mumbled about how awful the cold was. About that time, an overdue volunteer returned my call, entirely perplexed that I would expect him to show up on a morning like this (he is volunteering here to establish me as an employment reference while he looks for work???).

I called the septic tank people to find out their ETA for our morning appointment, and they were aghast that I would even think they would work today. They promised to come tomorrow...which is slated to be significantly colder. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict the outcome tomorrow.... Someone was supposed to come pick up my visitor, but their locks were frozen (I bought a $1.29 package of lock de-icer at the grocery store on the way home last night, so I wouldn't have to worry about that).

But the gas company showed up in good time, business-like in their Carhartts and work boots. The gas was soon on at Dawdie House, the heater lit. While sweeping the front walk at Dawdie (important to get those walks clear of snow ASAP, before people step on it and turn it to ice. Then it brushes off easily, and the sun and the process of sublimation will have the walks clear and dry by early afternoon), snow plows, the cable truck, and other workers drove by, as well as other neighbors. It was a bustling morning on North Street. Around town, the trash trucks were working their routes, media trucks headed to the Field House to set up for tonight's game, the parking lot was full at the hospital, the park-and-ride lot for the K-10 Connector intercity bus was full.

Most bus drivers showed up, a few didn't. Those who didn't, if habitually absent or tardy, will lose their jobs. The morning drivers start about 5:30 a.m., and I appreciate them very much. I COULD do it, and I WOULD do it, but I'm glad so many drivers want their afternoons and evenings free, so that I get an afternoon shift.

Law enforcement was out, coping with the inevitable fender benders...with their side-kicks, the tow trucks. Semis and beer trucks made their usual rounds downtown and at the industrial park on my route. My regulars rode to work or rode home, according to their shifts. The fire engines and ambulances screamed around town as needed. My firefighter friend hates the cold, but evidently showed up for work anyhow, long enough to retire.

This evening, traffic for the basketball game was as heavy as ever, despite the cold. Bumper to bumper cars for miles, streaming in from Johnson County on K-10 to gridlock 23rd St. and 19th St., just to watch a game that they could view from the warmth of their own livingroom. Not too cold for them to participate in what seems to me to be a frivolous obsession.

My visitor asked to bring the outside dog into the house, because she was barking and howling a lot. I declined...she is an outside dog for good reason (potty training failure), and even a short stay inside upsets the equilibrium with the dog-phobic cat and the elderly dog. Not to mention, being inside un-acclimates her to the cold. "YOU ARE SO CRUEL!" my visitor said. "LISTEN TO HER BARKING AND HOWLING!"

When I realized the outside dog's food dish was in the entryway, I suddenly got the big picture. Visitor had let the dog in yesterday while I was gone (and probably many previous days while I was gone, even though I had told her not to do this), and my chore person had fed the dog where he found her. Then this morning DK probably didn't see the dish, so didn't feed her, thinking I had an important reason for this. Thus my "kind" visitor had arranged for the dog to go hungry, by disobeying the household's established policies for the dogs!

When I fed the dog, she was quiet the rest of the morning. She has a dog house, a plastic lounge so she can sit or lie without being on the ground, and a dog-house-size kennel inside the garage, so she's well-protected. It's true she hasn't much bedding...if given a blanket, she promptly drags it outside and leaves it in the mud. She does have a rug.

But the visitor continued to berate me, threatening to turn me in for cruelty to animals because the outdoor dog was contentedly napping in the garage kennel, snug in her fur coat, living the life she's lived most of her 5 years, the life her ancestors lived for centuries.

I suppose this visitor thinks I should bring the sheep in the house, too? The squirrels, the rabbits, the feral cats, the birds?

These animals were all created by evolution and/or The Creator to live outside in the harshest of weather. The ones that are in my charge, are provided with food, water, veterinary care when needed, and shelter. The ones that are not in my charge are welcome to take shelter in sheds and woodpiles and natural areas, so long as they don't have a significant adverse effect on the overall Community of Life around here. Ditto my visitor.

I do confess to giving myself a slightly elevated rank in that Community, including over any other humans who are here, because I and my paycheck and my stauch stand against development are what keeps this habitat available to ALL of us. My sandbox, I make the rules, but everyone else is welcome as long as they play nice and try to honor the rules and respect the rest of the community, including me. My visitor had repeatedly established that she disputed my authority over my sandbox...not a wise attitude for a guest on thin ice.

When I was ready to go to work and it came time for her to leave, she escalated the rant. She would turn me for abuse for not letting her stay. She adamantly balked at leaving, though we'd been discussing her imminent departure for several days. How could I throw her out on such a cold day (she could have left yesterday...or made other arrangements a week ago when she made it clear she wasn't going to follow the rules)? No one should have to be outside on a day like this!


The sheep are content in their pen; the dog naps in her kennel.

The feral cats are sunning on the woodpile.

A less-common bird warbles in the woodlot, while sparrows chirp in the forsythia bush.

I'm smiling contentedly as I neatly shovel the rest of the walk clean, basking in the bright sun in the shelter of the south side of the house. I'd rather stay home and work outside than drive the nice warm bus.

The dizzying array of our human community continues to play its daily rhythms through the town, minus a few workers who didn't show up...who probably have blots on their records for their lapse in dependability.

The conspicuous absence today, all around town on the bus, was the homeless, the chronic complainers, people going to SRS, the panhandlers, the "bridge people". And the unemployed farm volunteers who said "It's too cold to do anything," leaving me to do everything it was "too cold to do".

I may have said "It's too cold" more than once in my life, but not while standing idle for more than a few minutes. And usually I'm laughing when I say it, proud of surviving no matter what, welcoming the challenge of rising above adversity. I don't use it as an excuse for bailing out on stuff. Even cold-related auto problems, by and large, are preventable with forethought an therefore not valid reasons for not showing up.

Busy in the cold warms me, in body, in heart, in soul. Busy in the cold builds my self-esteem and my sense of well-being and my generousity towards others. I think that's why a cold spell like this in early December puts us in the "Christmas spirit."

Taken all together, this day has really brought home to me that cold attitudes make a big difference in the overall course of people's lives. It may even be diagnostic, like the marshmallow test.* Those who show up anyhow, live life anyhow, no matter how cold (hot, wet, boring, dangerous, etc.) it is...get the nice things to make it easier, like cars and houses. It's not an accident that the unemployed and homeless didn't show up today, in whatever way they could have. It's a choice each of us makes one way or another: what kind of attitude we will have towards cold, and what the natural consequences of that choice could be.

To my departed visitor, I would love to say, "If you want what I have (bright house, warm woodstove, food, pets), do what I did (show up and work hard and don't complain about the weather or other conditions we can't control). If you would even make a reasonable effort to do what I did, I would gladly share what I have until you have your own, which won't seem like long if you're diligent. But if I give you what I have without you putting in a fair share of sweat equity, we both stand to lose everything. Why should both of us lose everything when at least one of us can keep it?" But she wouldn't be able to hear that wisdom. I can only hope that someday she'll "get it" and decide to show up for daily life no matter what the weather.

Is that a cold attitude?

* Somewhere I once heard that a remarkably reliable test for whether a child would succeed in life was to put a marshmallow on the table in front of a kindergardener...tell them that they can eat it now and there's no penalty, but they can also choose to wait 5 minutes and they will get 2 marshmallows. The tester then leaves the room for 5 minutes. Those who wait for the 2 marshmallows are by far more likely to achieve worldly success. I think I would have asked, "If I wait 10 minutes, will you give me four?" My worldly success, as yet, may be hard for most folks to see through the dirt and scrap piles and weeds. They haven't known me for 35 years. But I can see the pieces of the puzzle coming together faster each year, fleshing out a dream for my life that I had in high school.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Great Camping Weather!

A friend's boy scout troop is going on their cold weather survival campout this weekend. So are we, only for real...and without packing...and we get to sleep in our own comfy beds

As I write, a light skiff of snow dusts the ground. Tonight I did before-snow chores: find the ice melt and snow shovel; put gas-line antifreeze in the truck, filled up the tank, bought water softener salt to use as ballast in the back of the pickup; check once more for things that might collect water, or might be lost in the snow. And peek under the tarps coveing the partially-uprooted septic system.

The saga continues to unfold...

At Dawdie House, I turned on the portable electric heater, made sure a slow drip was running in the bathroom faucets, flushed a bucket of hot water down the toilet, and checked the kitchen sink drain after putting a powerful draincleaner down it last night. Hallelujah! It drains better than it has in years! The down side is, there is seepage from the cobbled mess of plastic drian pipe underneath. That should be "easy" to fix. I haven't looked in the cellar yet to see any effect there....

The work on Dawdie House may be hurried along a bit faster than anticipated, because that may be our best place to wash dishes, take sponge baths, and use the toilet.

It seems that water is not moving from the septic tank to the lateral field, so we will need to minimize water use at Industry until that's $$$olved.

Frustrating, because we need to do a bunch of water-intensive work before the Farmer's Market Holiday Sale this Saturday.

But we are lucky. We have many resources that most folks don't have, even not counting Dawdie House. In addition to the regulation septic tank, we have a "French drain" that drains the basement sink. We can also run the washing machine into it. From past experience, its capacity is small...but still useful, with care.

We also have a sump in the basement with a portable sump fact, the same pump that a local water garden store uses to empty ponds. So the washing machine can run into a barrel, and the water be pumped out through a hose...somewhere far from the septic tank. I was thinking that would require opening a window, until I remembered the opening for the now-unused dryer. It's just plugged with a plastic bag full of wool, which has nicely insulated and water-proofed it for years. A hose can squeeze in with the wool and not have any air gap. The unused sheep paddock east of the house will be sufficiently far from the septic and other concerns.

The outhouse, once again, is a real blessing. There is no real security like KNOWING you have a decent place to poop, no matter what. The TP is in a coffee can to keep it from getting damp. Of course, there is that long, cold walk to the outhouse, out behind the barn...that's where chamber pots come into play. I raided the stash of plastic buckets, found some lids, labeled each one boldly "NO FOOD USE" and now we each have our own. Pee TP (for us ladies) goes in a plastic bag and into the trash, though I suppose we could burn it in the burn barrel with other paper waste.

We also have a wide range of water sources. In addition to city water at Dawdie House, the one pump in the basement supplies both unsoftened (farm hydrants, cold in the shower, drinking water in the kitchen) and softened (everything else) water. We can wash veggies in the high tunnel, and the waste water will be appreciated by the plants.

It IS a shame that this is unfolding just as the coldest weather sets in...low teens forecast on Wed.

It will be an interesting adventure (if we let it) to see how much we can change our water use habits for a limited time, and then to see what "sticks" after the system is back to normal.

We have never been highly motivated to conserve water here before. After all, we just borrow it for a little while and then put it back...and there's no monthly water bill. The cost of our water is hidden in the electric bill (to run the pump) and the grocery bill (to purchase salt for the softener). So it really wouldn't hurt to be more judicious in our use. It will be interesting if we can tell the difference.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Special Occasion

I was led to reflect on "special occasions" the other day, when a friend mentioned that she and her S.O. would be out observing one at a time I'd hoped to drop by.

It got me thinking. I don't seem to have special occasions much any more, or at least not the conventional ones. I don't celebrate birthdays much, and haven't really given Christmas gifts for years. This year I passed on the family Thanksgiving gathering, in favor of spending the gorgeous day working on the high tunnel with some of my favorite volunteers. Thankfully my family understands and approves of my farming passion.

I'm not sure how much this lack of special occasions goes hand in hand with not having a ready victim at hand to share them with. When I had S.O.s in my life, I would celebrate things at the drop of a hat. I put lots of time and energy into special birthday celebrations for both adults and children; memorable Christmas and Thanksgiving feasts; marked all kinds of milestones with favorite meals or cards. How I loved designing and sending out invitations or announcements for special occasions (that was all before E-Vite, of course)!

So maybe the fact that there is no accessible S.O. in my life, and my family is either busy, far away, or both, has diminished my desire for elaborate celebrations.

I think it's also partly a natural consequence of my journey towards living "plain", even if it is a rather quirky, post-consumerism, radical stealth kind of "plain". I don't dress up much any more, so that makes a lot of "special" occasions barely distinguishable from ordinary ones. "Dressing up" has become simply a question of wearing a black turtleneck that DOESN'T have paint spots, and a pair of black slacks with no holes in the pockets and not very much cat hair (what little vanity I had left has been fairly well obliterated by Mike's lovely soft white fur...a small price to pay for such lavish unfailing affection. But cats do not seem to have a concept of "special occasions", only "occasions for petting" which are too frequent to be "special"). And real shoes instead of rubber farm boots or sandals.

I guess I would feel sadder about not celebrating much any more, about not having special occasions or anyone to share them with, if I didn't see in hindsight how long it's been since I had that, and I haven't missed it at all up to now, so why be sad all of a sudden?

Just daily life at the farm is enough of a special occasion...or really, a whole array of them all strung together, often happening all at once...and like the commonplace nature of Mike's "occasions for petting", there are too many for any to be really "special": An iris booming in late November, a wren warbling in the barn, an impeccable blue sky, a perfect dandelion seed puff, a gorgeous bed of lettuce nestled under row cover, a dog making a perfect catch of a tennis many special moments in my days.

And more mundane things, like the car starting after not starting the previous day. Life is good.

The necessity of dealing with a malfunctioning septic tank pushed me to take the day off work today, one of the last beautiful warm afternoons we'll have for awhile...a special occasion in and of itself, if you ignore the raw sewage oozing out of the tank. This afternoon and evening I pushed to get things finished up before today's early dark, before day-after-tomorrow's bitter cold.

Getting the inflation fan set up for the high tunnel was top priority, once things were at a standstill with the septic. This little fan blows air between the two layers of roof plastic, creating an insulating air space and steadying the plastic against the wind. The high tunnel instructions said "follow instructions in the blower kit if you are installing a blower." But to my dismay, the so-called "kit" included nary a word of instruction on the motor...only a few diagrams about connecting the support bracket. And there weren't even any wires visible on the motor! I finally found a cover plate that opened to reveal two wire ends.

As I walk slowly back to the house, absently taking in all the wonders of the spring-like afternoon, I feel a twinge of regret and loneliness. This is one of the times I feel wearyest in my solo life...when I have to walk all the way back to the house to call long distance to brainstorm ith someone far away on how to proceed on a project, instead of having a partner at hand to talk it over with right there on the spot. It takes so long this way. Not just the walk, but the describing with words instead of pointing. I actually thought about taking photos and emailing them, rather than try to find words to describe the bracket, mount, wires, etc...but my dial-up service is so slow to load photos, it would have been just as much of a challenge. This is when the farm seems like a burden too heavy for just my own boney shoulders. Yet the only way it can really be shared is if someone were here in my daily life, in my evenings as well as my days, and happened to be home at the time. Not a moment for which you can send out an invitation.

Those who know me well, know that dealing with electrical wiring (not counting the electric fences) is sort of the second-to-last frontier to me. (The last frontier will be when I ever come to terms with being up close and personal with sparking metal, such as in welding or grinding. I don't "do" sparklers for the 4th of July, either.) This, despite having taken a wiring class many years ago and having been instrumental in the rewiring of two entire houses.

So the fact of me going to the hardware store, getting the parts (fortunately we aren't so far into the Christmas shopping season that all the seasoned, knowledgable hardware store sales people have been replaced by temporary youngsters), and putting a cord onto the blower is pretty major. Esp. with the uncertainty presented in trying pair up the motor (two perfectly identical black wires) with the cord (one white, one black). Thanks, Dad, for talking me though it...including the priceless (if less than reassuring) protocol for checking if it's done right:

1. Mount motor on bracket. Be far away not touching it. Plug it in. See if the circuit blows or there are sparks.

2. If anything goes wrong, don't touch the motor. Or, if you do, just touch it with one hand. Actually, touch it with one hand behind your back. That way you won't have that hand grasping a water pipe or something like that. Then it won't be ALL of you that gets shocked.

3. It's only the equivalent of a 50 watt light bulb, so you aren't dealing with that much electricity.

This is hard to reconcile with the line drawing, indelibly etched in my mind at the impressionable
age of maybe 4 or 5, of a classic 1950's housewife in shirtwaist and apron rolling an unconscious child away from the broken lamp with a broom handle (that was before metal broom handles had been invented, of course), that was in the Red Cross First Aid Manual which was one of my favorite picture books, right up there with Animals Without Backbones and the Yearbook of Agriculture volume on Animal Diseases and the Field Guide to the Birds. (And how did my parents EXPECT me to turn out, given reading material like that at a tender, impressionable age?)

At any rate...I got it assembled, mounted, worked...little by little I watched the sheets of plastic lifting apart as the little blower whirred quietly, illuminated by the full moon beaming through the layers of plastic.

A special occasion, indeed. The clear winter night sky; the beaming moon; the twinkling stars; the fresh air; the world's bustle and buzz all at arm's-length for the moment; the moist, earthy breath of the high tunnel as I open the door to step back in after surveying the rising plastic....

As I walk slowly back to the house, taking in all the wonders of the winter night, I feel a twinge of regret and loneliness. THIS is a special occasion--a significant stage of "completion" for the high tunnel, as well as celebrating a further step towards wiring serenity for me. Yet the only way it could be shared would be if someone were here in my daily life, in my night as well as my day, and happened to be home at the time.

Not a moment for which you can send out an invitation.