Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Ghosts, Spiders, and Croquet

We are settling in nicely.  I've spent a lot of time unpacking and arranging things, and while there is much more to do, it is more focused (i.e. "Where the %@^$ are my headbands?" versus "OMG, another box marked Kitchen?").  But, while unpacking is never an easy process, I have made lots of progress.

I've been able to linger over my coffee and my lunch, and the morning room/breakfast nook/ room off the kitchen is a marvelous place to linger.  Two walls are huge, old fashioned type windows, the ones with lots of little panes, rather than one big pane with a grid laid across it.  Miss L told me that if one of the panes got broken, we can actually go down an actual hardware store in the historic downtown area, and replace the pane.  How cool is that?

Anyhow, I read too much, and lingering over my coffee is one of the best times to read.  I sit here, in the morning room, with a view of the lawn to my left, and the patio and pond immediately before me, full of fluttering butterflies of black, yellow, gold, blue, and white... although at the moment, there is a little boy creating worlds with his Legos blocking some of that view.  Anyhow, the book I've been lingering with is by Shirley Jackson:  The Haunting of Hill House.  This is a selection from the opening paragraph:
"Hill House stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within...walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."
 Oops.  For those of you who haven't read it, this is a terrifying book, even if there is no blood, guts, or gore.  (Actually, there is a bit of blood, come to think of it.  If you HAVE to watch one of the films, watch this version.  You should read it, if you can.)  I've read this book dozens of times, and gotten the chills, and my mouth drops open as I discover new gems hidden within the text.  Here's the one that gave me chills just yesterday, in which Dr. Montague is explaining the architecture of Hill House...
"Every angle...is slightly wrong.  Hugh Crain must have detested other people and their sensible squared away houses, because he made his house to suit his own mind.  Angles which you assume are the right angles you are accustomed to... are actually a fraction of a degree off in one direction or another.  I am sure, for instance, that you believe the stairs you are sitting on are level, because you are not prepared for stairs which are not level... [they] are on a very slight slant toward the central shaft, the doorways are all a very little bit off center..."
I could go on, but I am certain you know where this is heading.  THERE ARE ALMOST NO LEVEL FLOORS IN THIS HOUSE!!  The rooms are odd shapes (not square!) The doors are unusual sizes, and some refuse to close while others refuse to open.  There are little stairs here and there.  All this can be attributed to four different constructions over the 300 year history of this farmhouse.  Before yesterday, I found all this charming and quirky, and I regarded it all affectionately.  But that scene, which has NEVER gotten me before, got me yesterday.  And as I walked through the house last night, closing windows, turning off lights and checking doors... I thought, "Whatever walks these wooden floors, walks alone."

Speaking of walking (yeah, I am totally changing the subject--there is no one to hear me scream in the night, except the boy, who does NOT need to wake up like that!)... this weekend the paths in the upper and lower fields were mown (and widened, thank you so much, City Tomcat Husband.)  Yesterday morning, the boy and I took the dog and our trusty web-wands out for a walk.  We saw many interesting things, but what captured our interest the most was all the fascinating spider webs along the path.  (The ones in our path were destroyed by my waving tree branch and the boy's swinging ball on a rope.)  We saw funnel and sheet webs, but the one we watched being constructed was an orb.  Here is a crappy picture of it:

Now what was extraordinary about it was the actual spider.  We were close and I found a picture of what it looks like.   (I am attaching a link, because I do have a few friends who might murder me if I put a big picture of a spider here.  Take a look at the blog, and scroll down to the 12th picture.)

Spiders are everywhere inside.  I am trying to remember that they are here to eat the other bugs, and that they are my friends... but it is hard to remember that when I am about to plug in an electric cord and see a little spider sitting on her web, grinning up at me with sharp pointy teeth.

The day ended nicely, despite the ghost stories and spiders.  The boy and I played a few rounds of croquet on the newly mown lawn.  It was fun.  And I tell you, there is nothing quite like being able to shout with laughter and not wonder if the neighbor is gonna start peaking out the window to see if someone is being slaughtered.  Because...
"No one can hear you if you scream in the night."  -Eleanor Vance in The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I Live On A Farm... And I Have A Truck!


We've been here since Friday.  All I've done is unpack, pretty much.  I've managed to sneak in a few walks.

The best walk was dragging three garbage cans out the "curb"... down the gravel driveway, up the rise, after dark.  The first two trips, I entertained myself by shining the heavy duty flashlight into the trees and undergrowth.  The third, I finally remembered that we are close to a full-moon, so I turned off the light and walked by moonlight.  That was worth it.  The world looks different when not blazing with light.  I must do that more often.

The worst walk involved me forgetting that I need a "web-wand" when strolling down a mown path through the trees.  I usually grab a fallen branch and wave it around madly as I walk, as if I was Gilderoy Lockhart.  The purpose of the web-wand is to break up the SPIDER WEBS that form exactly where I want to walk.  So... there I was, strolling down the mown path through the trees, and I walked right into a big web, which I am certain MUST have had a carnivorous spider waiting for prey like me.  I shrieked... No.  Let's be honest.  I screamed like a horror-movie blonde.  I was madly attempting to brush the spider off (not that I knew she was there, but why take chances?) as I wiped the web out of my hair.  BECAUSE I HAD FORGOTTEN MY BIG-BRIMMED HAT.  To my credit, I did laugh after I stopped running.

What else?  We've seen a stray cat, a lot of deer, a chipmunk or two, several bunnies, a mangy looking cardinal as well as many chickadees, which is my son's favorite bird to identify currently.  Lots of frogs in the pond in the patio.  I saw five today.  I excitedly told my son, who hardly raised his eyes from his Legos to say, "I saw six yesterday."  

So what, kiddo?  I am sitting in the breakfast nook, listening to those frogs and the cicadas and the crickets.  He's asleep, the dog is stretched out somewhere, and the cat is catting around outside.

The dog has been here since the beginning of the month.  Amy and Katt began as housemates cautiously, but have progressed to touching noses and smelling each other occasionally.  But yesterday, they behaved like, well, cats and dogs.  Big fight over the cat food.  I made the mistake of feeding Amy at dinner time when Katt was outside.  Later, when Katt came inside, I thought I would feed her.  I must be stupid.  There was food EVERYWHERE.  Even under the dish.  Katt's water was splashed over cat, dog, floor, food, wall, steps... and into the three next rooms as Katt took off running.  Amy is now banished when Katt is eating.

Speaking of eating.  I have now cooked twice on the gas stove/ oven, which matches the rest of the kitchen theme.  1800s? (I must ask Miss L, the Country Kitty, before she leaves.)  Anyway, it is all rounded and has little doors.  It is a modern appliance, however...I've never cooked on gas before.  So, there I was last night.  I had decided to cook spaghetti, since I had two spaghetti squashes that we needed to eat.  I was prepared to do that...until I remembered that I have no effing clue where my baking dishes are.  Somewhere in the dining room in a box marked "Kitchen- Stuff", maybe?  Anyhow, I had to make do with real spaghetti (well, the gluten-free variety, which is pretty rocking).  I needed to brown the sweet Italian sausage from the half pig we bought last summer.  I needed to boil water.  And I needed to heat up the marinara.  No problem, right?  A dinner I could cook while half asleep.
The Stove/Oven.  (ignore the boxes)

First, I couldn't find the buttons, or dials, or whatever they are called.  They were hidden behind the cute little door on the left.  Then I didn't know which dial was for what burner.  And then I remembered that I had no freaking clue if I was supposed to push something to catch the flame, or how high to turn the dial.  I decided to just experiment.  I promptly managed to kill the pilot light.  Fortunately, I DID know what to do with that, since my son had blown it out the previous day when Miss L was just telling me about keeping eye on the pilot light.  So, I re-lit it.  After awhile, I managed to get one lit.  It wasn't the one I wanted, but I used it.  I had to get the meat cooking!  I then took about ten more minutes to get another going.  I am so grateful I have good pots (All-Clad Copper-Core), even if they are almost 12 years old.

My truck and the farm-house!  And a big tree!
Long story short (too late!), I did a great job, and the food was excellent.  And breakfast was even easier!  Yay me!  Although, Miss L dropped by this afternoon, and noticed that one of the pilot lights was out.  So glad this farmhouse was built during the French and Indian War... i.e. drafty.  Good grief.

Now, Miss L came to drop off the essential farm accessory.  A TRUCK!!!  Okay, I could care less that it is a truck, except that it is a stick shift!  My car, a 1997 Honda Civic, was totaled last November, and I miss driving stick so much.  So, I cannot tell you a thing about the truck other than it has almost 200k miles on it, and it is a stick shift!  Oh, and it doesn't have power windows or locks... JUST LIKE MY POOR HONDA!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Move is a Four Letter Word.

You've missed me?  That is sweet... unless you are annoyed that I haven't posted anything in a bit.  Trust me when I tell you that I don't intentionally annoy... well, I do, but in this case, I didn't.

I moved.  It was a special kind of hell.

See, I was supposed to move at the end of June.  And I planned my summer teaching schedule around that.  So, the summer camp was scheduled for the last two full weeks of July.  It was perfect.  Until it wasn't.  We extended our lease by a month so that we could get closer to a working move-in date at the farm.  So, I packed all through the month of June, into the first two weeks of July...although I also had to write an original script from scratch.  Which I did.  Which meant I hadn't quite gotten all the packing I had hoped to have done by the time my class began.  And so I taught, and packed only on the weekend....

Okay, boring story.  The point is, we had to be out of the townhouse at the end of July 31.  We made it... if you count before sunrise on August 1 as part of July 31.  No joke.  I was cleaning and packing vehicles until 4:30 a.m.  August 1, I wore my "Crit Happens" t-shirt.

So, about half of our belongings are in two climate controlled storage units.  Two-thirds of the remaining are at the farm, crowded into one room,more or less.  The remaining is with us as we crash at my Wine Friend's apartment while he is halfway across the world on vacation.  We move into the farm next week.

I am so excited!  In the meantime, we've been canning and freezing produce.  I now have something like 12 quarts of ratatouille frozen, and just canned 7 pints of hot peppers!  And the husband canned 6 jars of an amazing bread and butter/relish hybrid.  

My poor puppy has been living at the farm since July 31, and while she is enjoying the farm, she's missing us.  I miss her, too.  She is working out a relationship with Cat, the farm cat.

In the meantime, I am cooling my heels at a cool urban village with shopping and restaurants that I can see from my window!  We went to a movie on Friday and bowling on Saturday, for heaven's sake!  What a difference it will be going from this environment (which I confess, I am kinda digging) to 10 acres out in the country along a gravel road.

This will have been the weirdest month in my entire life.