posts tagged with 'summer'

on the hammock

We try and keep our house beautiful and comfortable within, and it often is, which is lovely. But sometimes it's too comfortable, and we miss opportunities to go outside. That's where the hammock comes in! The last few days Elijah and I have been enjoying it as a spot to share books; it's just lovely to be able to relax outside and enjoy peak flower season (especially if I can ignore peak weeds). Of course, the hammock isn't perfect: the dogs can't get in it, for one. Though maybe that's not an absolute negative, since this afternoon I'm not sure there would have been room for the two of them plus Elijah, me, and Zion. Also, as Lijah pointed out, hammocks lack cup-holders, which is definitely a drawback when you're just back from a summer bike ride. We had to make do with putting our giant glasses of ice water on the ground (where the dogs, just back themselves from a walk, were able to drink from them). And the worst thing is since I want the hammock to last, I try and take it in when it's going to be wet. With a 75% chance of rain for this evening I'm going to go do that in a moment. The trick then is to remember to put it back up when it's nice in the morning! Because I tend to forget about it as an option when it's away in the shed, and I don't want to miss a moment of beautiful summer hammocking!

lament

I'm having a hard time getting everything done these days—even imagining how I'm going to get everything done. The last two days I took many hours making a new door for our bike shed (really just the space under the front porch) after the old one crumbled away to nothing. Today I also took the boys to swim in a pool with friends. They liked it a lot—on the drive home Lijah said, "this was the best day of my life"—and I enjoyed sitting in the shade and talking to an adult person who hasn't already heard everything I have to say. But there's so much other work! Oh well, I guess that's summer.

Elijah floating in a pool on a donut thing

very summer

our day at the ocean

Summer is over—we celebrated the equinox last Tuesday evening with a fire and lights. We did a lot less swimming than we usually do, and visited fewer beaches, but at least we got one solid day of real beach fun in, back at the beginning of the month when we were on the Cape. We love Leah's parents house in Truro and the easy walk to the beach on the bay side, but we do crave adventure now and again, so on the last day of the trip we packed up the bikes and a picnic lunch and headed for the ocean waves. As a kid I loved going to Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, not because the beach itself is anything special—the whole stretch from Eastham to Provincetown is pretty much the same—but because you can get there on a delightful bike path over the dunes. Well worth a bit of a drive from Truro. And this year all three boys could ride it!

Well, almost ride it. Lijah did need to walk up some of the steeper hills; but he pushed on like a trooper, and I guess he thought it was worth it when we reached the end of the path (how is it riding to the ocean ends with a steep uphill?!) and heard the sound of the waves. We've been to the real ocean before, but somehow every year the boys' expectations are reset by the mild waves of Rockport harbor and Cape Cod Bay so they're able to be delighted anew by the real swells of the Atlantic Ocean as they crash into the Outer Cape.

Delighted, and unnerved too—at least at first. The camera can't really capture how big the waves looked that day when you were actually down there in the water, but suffice it to say that you needed to keep an eye on them at all times if you were anywhere near the waterline. Zion was the first one to venture in wholeheartedly.

Zion bracing to take a big wave

he's well-braced and ready

It was fun challenging ourselves to stand up to the breakers, but before long I needed to get in a little deeper. As steep as the shore is there you can get past the break only ten or fifteen feet out, and then you can float easily if thrillingly over the waves just as they rise. Harvey and Zion were a little unsure at first, but they joined me before too long. All that swimming practice this winter really paid off! Seeing the fun we were having, Lijah wanted to join in, so I held him where I could jump to keep our heads about the water.

Harvey and Zion floating in a wave

it's hard to tell, but that's a big wave!

Of course, the day wasn't totally without mishaps. We weren't just floating; some of the waves we tried to body-surf, and while it mostly went fine there were times we messed up and got tumbled. And some waves got us even when we weren't trying to ride them! Both me and Zion were bloodied—his was worse—and all of us had water and sand driven into our nose and ears. One wave in particular caused chaos, and not just for us. It was so big that I couldn't jump above it, but with Lijah in my arms I couldn't swim either. So I threw him over the worst of it, and mostly caught him when he came down... but I was also being tumbled head over heels along with everyone else. Then I couldn't rescue him right away because the violence of the wave had pulled my shorts down; that took a moment to fix.

I don't think anyone noticed though, since the whole beach had been pretty smashed: the wave overran lots of chairs and blankets and knocked over kids and old people. One little girl lost her glasses. Lots of people tried to help her find them, but they were gone for good. Her family stayed at the beach for a while, but I don't think she had any more fun. We had an easier time recovering—all of us except for Zion, at least. He held a grudge against the waves for the rest of the afternoon, especially when the drawing he was trying to make in the smooth sand kept getting washed out. Still, he let the other three of us play for a while more.

The problem with the beach is that when you're done having a great time you find yourself filled with sand and encrusted with salt, and changing into clothes and getting onto the bike again doesn't seem like the most fun. Especially since fifty percent of our towels had been soaked by waves. But we made it happen, and some of us even enjoyed the bike ride back. We all enjoyed the post-beach ice cream. That was a summer day.

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summer supper

Determined not to see the end of summer quite yet, we enjoyed the most summery of meals yesterday evening. Hamburgers (hot dogs for the little one who doesn't eat real food), corn, watermelon, and lots of tomatoes. The corn was not perfect—the first disappointing corn we've had from the farmers market—but the burgers, also locally sourced, more than made up for it. And of course the tomatoes only had to travel ten feet or so to get to our table on the deck. They were perfect! The grocery store watermelon was a watermelon.

Harvey chomping a big burger

chomp

For dessert we had smores, as I like to do when we have a fire going. The meat cooks so quickly and the fire is so lovely, it seems a shame not to do something with it! Especially when I haven't made anything else. This batch of smores was notable for Elijah's first unqualified success at making his own—and his second, too, because once he figured it out he went right in to making another one! His problem in the past has been with holding the marshmallow steady over the fire, where it needs to be; between heat, smoke, and boredom or distractedness he usually gives up before his marshmallow is much more than gently warmed. He doesn't actually mind raw marshmallows (ew) but they do tend to break the graham cracker when you try and squash them. There's been some shouting over that in the past, but no more! He's figured it out. It must be because he's a first grader now.

Elijah biting into his first perfect smore

bad picture, PERFECT smore

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climate control?

It is possible for our house to stay cool on hot summer days. Or coolish, at least: cooler than outside, enough to make the children disinclined to get off the couch when it's steamy outside. Without air conditioning, that seems like a win. Of course, if takes a little action on our part. We need to have the right windows open at night, with the fans going—that's easy enough. First thing when we get up we need to open the doors to bring in that lovely early-morning air, the coolest of the day. Then—and this is the hard part—we have to close up the house at the right time. The windows and door facing east are easy: as soon as the sun is above the trees we can feel the heat pouring in that side of the house, so the curtains there make an immediate perceptible difference. But often, even as the air outside gets warmer and warmer, it's hard to close the other windows because we don't want to lose the breeze. If we don't, often by 3:00 it's clear we've made the wrong choice.

That's what happened yesterday. We were tricked by the misty overcast, and distracted by the forecast afternoon thunderstorms, and we left everything open all day. It wasn't super hot, but it was humid, and before long the mist burned off and the sun started burning in... and the house sure heated up. Worse, while we heard some distant thunder the five minutes of light rain that fell didn't do much to change the outside temperature.

We'll try again today, and since the forecast calls for sun and heat we'll be more focused on the job. It only got down to about 70° overnight, so that's our starting point. We'll close up the house after 8:00, and see how we do!

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celebrating midsummer

Since Harvey's birthday took up the solstice proper, we've had to celebrate midsummer across some other days too. Thursday was beautifully summery. We took a family woods outing.

Harvey and Zion eating lunch by a stream

real summer lunch

With a goal of finding a place with water, not too many people, and a relaxed policy on off-leash dogs, we header to the Hapgood Wright Town Forest in Concord (or Fairlyland Pond forest, as we call it!). It was a good choice—because it meets all those criteria and because it was beautifully cool and shady on a hot day.

Harvey walking up a woods path, Elijah and the dogs a bit ahead

deep cool woods

Well, most of it was cool and shady. We also explored a section that had been cleared or burned, and was a little meadow and a lot of quickly recovering forest. Concord folks had adorned the trails there with Thoreau quotes about new-grown woods on pieces of stone stuck into the ground, and a charming granite monument to Dr Seuss's The Lorax.

Lijah sitting on a Lorax monument, the dogs looking up at him

remembering the Lorax

Fairyland Pond itself is easily accessible from the main trailhead, but we took the long way around so we would get to it and lunch time, and properly hot and tired. Many of us were happy to take to the water.

Harvey and Zion out in the pond with Blue, Scout watching from the shore

pond days

Not Scout, though! You'll notice there that he isn't sure about water yet, which lets Blue tease him unmercifully by running back and forth along the shore just deep enough to be out of reach. For his part, Blue went all the way underwater for the first time—and then the second, third, and a great many more. He was the most enthusiastic about the pond and stream by a little bit; Zion probably came in second.

Zion splashing more than waist deep in the pond

splash!

It was wonderfully summery. And then in the evening we topped off the day with a socially distant ice cream social with friends. For them it was a celebration of the last day of school; that doesn't apply to us, but summer by itself is plenty to celebrate!

Elijah licking a chocolate ice cream cone

yum.

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night soak

It got hot today, so of course after a day filled with hiking and cycling and running I decided to make jam. Because it would have been too easy to do it five days ago when it was practically below freezing in the mornings. Leah managed to take a shower before supper, but I didn't. And I still didn't before I finished the jam at quarter past nine. What a pain to have to shower that late, with everyone else in the house asleep. Then I remembered that we have a pool now! It's six by ten feet, inflatable, and cost us $25. We got it on Sunday and I'd never been in it. The boys filled it icy cold yesterday, but after a day of sun it was cool and comfortable when I went out into the dark yard to test it. So instead of showering, I lay back in a foot of water and looked at the stars as I felt all the heat drift out of my body. I highly recommend it. I only wish we didn't live cheek-by-jowl with our neighbors here in the suburbs; I was a little embarrassed to think that someone might notice my nocturnal soak. Never mind. It was worth it.

summer show

Friday saw the first real summery weather of the year, and it ended with a summery thunderstorm. It was just getting started at bedtime with far-away rumblings; since I didn't want to miss the show I stayed up a little late. After everyone else was tucked in I went out to the garden to see the distant lightning away to the north, and it was as good as a fireworks display: some of the flashes were high and sharp, others low to the horizon, long-lasting, and flickering. It was all far enough away that the thunder was just a low background. But before too long I noticed clouds scudding overhead, and the wind started picking up. There were were just one or two closer thunderclaps before a light mist started falling and then, all of a sudden, the big drops. I was maybe thirty feet from the back door, but by the time I reached it I was as soaked as if I'd jumped in a pond. That was fine: I needed a shower anyway! I took off most of my clothes and went back out long enough to feel properly scrubbed—as long as I could, actually, before I died of hypothermia.

Back inside I dried off, closed the windows where the rain was pouring sideways into the house, and watched more of the show. The sheets of rain under the streetlight, swirling back and forth, were very satisfying. But there's a limit to how long I can stay up in the dark house, so I went to bed and fell asleep to the sound of the downpour and the last grumbles of the thunder.

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fall regrets

Our maple tree gets color late in the fall; late and underwhelming. (Why couldn't the previous owners have put in a sugar maple in the middle of the lawn instead of a Norway maple?) As I look out the window now, though, it's browning leaves are colored orange by the rising sun and it looks as good as it's ever going to. Properly fall-like.

The waning days of the fall make me think of the failures of this past summer, yard-wise. One, we didn't use the hammock nearly as much as we should have. I always want to make sure it's put away when it's going to be wet out, and too often I was late putting it up again so fine days went by without anyone being able to use it. Worse, towards the second half of the summer I "temporarily" took apart the hammock stand to mow the lawn... and it never got put back together. Tragedy!

And speaking of mowing. Remember how last year I talked big about using the push reel mower all summer? Well, in the fall I got a working power mower so I could chop up leaves, then in the spring I thought I'd use it for the first pass over the fast-growing grass. That was it, the push mower never made it out of the shed all summer. The good news is the lawn is still in good shape—delightfully green. I was telling a friend the other day, "it's mostly weeds, but they're all perennial weeds so they hold their color!" But I did feel pretty guilty every time I started up that gasoline engine. Using a power mower is habit-forming, I think; you get used to those straight, even rows of cut grass and it's hard to go back to the more naturalistic effect produced by the push reel mower.

Oh well. At least we had many lovely adventures, and got to travel more than ever before, and spent lots of time swimming. Now we're looking forward to winter fun. And next summer will be perfect!

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we beat the heat

It was super hot here Friday and over the weekend. Hot enough that it was all over the news, with heat warnings and cancellations and everything. The official word was that it was dangerous to be without air conditioning, so those of us who don't have were directed to visit the mall to seek relief—and, presumably, to pick an AC unit from Sears or whatever. I'm on the record pooh-poohing similar panic around extreme cold weather, and while I don't know that I've written about it I've certainly talked about how I don't care for the heat, as a general thing. And you can bet we don't have AC. But I want to say, it wasn't that bad. I don't even think it topped 100°F.

Sure, there was some humidity. Sure, it was probably close to 100°F inside our house by Sunday afternoon. It wasn't really enjoyable. But sitting in front of the fan, or outside in the shade, was totally fine. And by this morning it was already much cooler; in fact, I needed to get up in the middle of the night to get the comforter off the floor since I was getting chilly. Right now it's 66° in Bedford and raining, and tomorrow's high is forecast at 68°. I think we survived it. And now I'm looking forward to the kids complaining about being cold tomorrow morning!

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