beans, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, a couple cherry tomatoes, and an eggplant

Sunday's bounty

It's summer vegetable season. I picked so much yesterday that we started up a CSA and sent half of it away in a box. We're all excited, especially Harvey. He's looking forward to unlimited cherry tomatoes, but until then he's pretty excited about corn. It's growing here now, and we picked some up at the farmers market. Harvey carried one ear proudly out to the stroller and was much remarked-upon by the folks there for his cuteness. I agree that he's pretty adorable: when we got home and I showed him how to husk them he exclaimed, "It's corn!!" each time we got one opened.

He wasn't as much a fan of last night's eggplant, but Leah and I enjoyed it. It was the first one we ever grew, so naturally we breaded it and fried it and ate it in sandwiches with pesto and cherry tomatoes (no big ones are ripe yet). Thanks for the plant, Ma! Here's to many more to come.

a sandwich with a bite out of it

now that's good eating.


you CAN pick your friends' blueberries

As I mentioned on my Google+ thingy, we went blueberry picking today and this time there was no unseemly delay between picking and putting up. It helped that we had Bridget and her children over to learn how to make jam; we could hardly make them wait! It was also a great day for it, with a nice breeze to blow away the steam and cool down the youngsters playing outside. Yes, all but one of the kids failed to express any interest in the preserving; if I was more like the little red hen I wouldn't let them eat any either!

Naturally, making jam was much more fun in company. True, I did distract myself with my instructions and make two mistakes in my own batch of jam, but that's why I left the students with a pot to look after themselves! Do as I say, I suppose. I think it came out fine regardless. Our kitchen is a little small for much communal food preparation, making me wish for a set-up something like the one we visited in Sandwich, but friends don't mind close quarters.

Bridget, being a good natural sweeteners sort of hippy, was a little taken aback to hear that our recipe (from Food in Jars) uses as much white sugar as it does blueberries. Hey, at least it wasn't the well-over-half-sugar strawberry jam! In my role as wise teacher I explained that the sugar both helps the jam to set without excessive cooking and also acts as a preservative. I hope that's all true!

Since we had the canning kettle going, I also did a batch of relish. Since, in order to cook it today, I had to grate and mix all the vegetables yesterday, I feel like I should be congratulated for my forethought and drive. Sure, I was working late into the night and so was not at all happy when the rest of the family decided they wanted to be up and about at 6:30, but in retrospect that's just what we needed to get out into the blueberry fields at anything approaching a respectable hour. See, everything works out.

We brought Harvey's birthday wagon with us picking, having seen and been jealous of someone else with a wagon last time we were out. It was just the thing for carrying water bottles, blueberries, and Harvey and his friend Ollie. We didn't have cameras along due to the Serious Business picking we meant to do, so the practicality and cuteness is not documented in these pages—but Bridget snapped a picture with her phone and maybe she'll share that with us. Because heaven knows we don't have enough cute pictures of Harvey around here.


first impressions

Leah had us talking about secrets in Bible study this evening, and it made me think about how well our perceptions of ourselves accord with what other people think about us. What ideas do folks get about me when they meet me for the first time? When they walk into our house (or see it from the outside, in all its paint-peeling glory)? I argued that, as an adult, I'm not inclined to "keep secrets"; that is, there isn't much about my life that I'm not willing to share with interested parties. But on the other hand, I'm not broadcasting a whole lot about myself in casual conversation. So what do people make of me?

To clarify: not being in middle school, I'm not particularly concerned that I make a good impression in general (except maybe for job interviews). It's more of a general curiosity: how do the outward ways we present ourselves influence people's impressions of us? Do you think that people get the right idea about you when they meet you for the first time?


the return of the blueberries

So the downside to our most recent bountiful harvest was that when all three of our dependents were throwing up between yesterday afternoon and this morning the blueberries were heavily involved in two out of the three cases. While blueberries are apparently safe for dogs (I never would have thought otherwise until I learned recently that raisins can be bad) Rascal's vomit fairly prominently featured two blueberries. And with Harvey there wasn't any question about what he had been eating; that's going to leave a stain! Don't our children chew?! At least Zion's vomit was as milky as usual.

Everyone seems to be fine now, thank goodness. Rascal's was an isolated incident; Harvey was deathly ill for ten hours (2:30am to 12:30pm) but recovered and was so ravenous as to actually eat the crusts of his toast while waiting for a second piece; and Zion just throws up when he gets excited. Or maybe it's bored. Who knows?! In any case, Leah did a little bit of laundry today.


camping 2011: part one

the five of us atop Penobscot

we made it

Alright, so I did tell Leah that the trip was no fun. Looking over the pictures, I can see that's not true; while it was stressful for a variety of reasons, for most of it we were having a pretty good time. Like when we made it to the top of Penobscot—a rather better accomplishment than we managed the last time we were hiking with a little one.

Harvey enjoying some chips atop a mountain

tastes better up here

Rascal had fun swimming in a variety of locations: the public beach in Linconville, illicitly in Jordan Pond and somewhat less so in Lower Hadlock Pond, with the ducks in Camden, and in front of the Margaret Todd in downtown Bar Harbor.

Rascal in the water with the Margaret Todd in the background

he vacations in Bar Harbor

We enjoyed breakfasting at the Cafe and walking the Shore Path, as is our tradition; creatures of habit we are to be sure.

Harvey looking at a menu

perhaps a bagel this morning?

Mama, Harvey, and Zion on a morning stroll in the park

almost posing together

Rascal, Zion, and I had a good time relaxing at the campsite while Mama and Harvey swam in the pool (so much did Harvey like the arrangement that he made sure to ask for it each time: "Harvey and Mama go swimming, Dada stay at the tent!"). Rascal is a good camp-and-baby guard dog.

rascal guarding the sleeping zion

he performed the same service for our firstborn

And of course there was the hiking, which was even more fun with awesome friends along for the adventure. And since coming along was their idea this year, we didn't have to worry constantly about whether they were having fun!

the 2011 camping crew resting atop Penobscot

a good group with good snacks


almost chickens

harvey in front of the chicken box


Our baby chicks hatch today. Down in Norwalk Connecticut four little fuzzballs have already pecked their way out of their shells. Well, along with like a hundred million other ones, but FOUR of them (once they're determined to be females and shot with a little vaccine) are ours. They'll go in the mail asap, and since Boston is a shipping hub and Connecticut is close I expect we'll get a call from our local post office sometime tomorrow.

You see that we're well prepared for the little gals. We've got the brooder set up in the corner of our kitchen, next to a huge bag of pine shavings that I barely dented and a 25 pound bag of feed that should last until they move up to layer rations. Harvey, Zion and I visited the feed store this morning, followed with a lovely visit to a playground just down the road. There's a river that runs next to the playground with a rock beach to boot, so Harvey spent a good time throwing rocks into the water and looking for ducks. I think we'll make it a regular post-feed-store stop. Dan found it for us by searching Acton Playgrounds on Wikepedia. Then he showed me the arial shots of how to get there on google maps. I'm all gung-ho for farming and all, but future is pretty awesome.

Even though chickens are ostensibly "my" project, Dan seems to have been roped into a lot of work here, not limited to internet searches. The top of the chicken box along with the lamp stand were both construction projects that Dan executed this week, along with the fence of course which is now done except for the gates and wire lining. A better husband could not be wished for, especially since he didn't say anything about the incredible amount of infrastructure that just moved into our eating space. I guess he remembers when it was his turn.

Harvey helped me set up the chicken brooder and accoutrements. When he took the chick waterer out of the feed store bag he literally gasped. "Wow," he said cradling it in his hands, "Wow-y-wow!"

And that's kind of how I feel too. Even though four chickens is no big deal in the grand homesteading scheme of things, I can't believe they're really coming tomorrow! Our own peeping little package. Wow-y-wow.


they're here!

Around noon today an unmarked car pulled up in front of our house. At first I thought it was someone stopping by our neighbors, but when a woman emerged carefully carrying a cardboard box it was clear she came to make a delivery. Door to door chicken service! Now that's fancy, Bedford post office.

chicken mailing box

they're here!

The box was peeping and shaking as I held it. Very exciting. I took it to the table and under Harvey and Dan's watchful eyes I opened the lid.

chickens inside their box

why, hello!

Four healthy and happy little birds! We moved them quickly to their new home where they found the water and food right away. No need to dunk their beaks in water to get them started. They're no dummies, these Barred Rocks.

4 chickens inside their house

hungry little guys... i mean gals.

Appologies for the fuzzy photographs. They're under a red heat lamp now, and I plan to give them a little "down" time from their trip in the mail before scooping them up into Harvey's hands for portraits. Soon, though. Soon.

close up of 2 chickens

too cute!

My goodness they're cute!


things I've learned about chicks in the past 24 hours

- Birds are cute! These babies go instantly from running around to keeling right over into a deep nap. Then a moment later, back up again. Personality!

- They are probably not going to go through that 25lb bag of feed that I got them. There's a reason people say some women "eat like a bird." On the plus side, less than ten bucks for that bag! Chicks are catastrophically less expensive than dogs.

- There is a reason the term "flighty" means something for both birds and women, too. These critters do NOT want me to cuddle them in my hands. I'm giving them another 24 hours before I submit them to a Harvey-inclusive photo shoot.

- These Barred Rocks don't like it at no 95 degrees like all the books say. No hotter than 85, please. Comforts me greatly in regards to the winter hardiness of this breed.

- Not so hard keeping chickens... yet. Ask Dan again when he starts nailing that coop together.

chick picks

With the morning sunlight streaming into the kitchen, the baby asleep upstairs and the chickens growing in size rapidly, I thought now would be a good time to stage a few pictures. So I made Harvey sit down in a chair by the window and instructed him to hold his hands together in a cup.

Then, looking at that three-inch space made by my toddler's tiny shaking hands, I said "Yeah, this isn't happening." There was nothing in me that screamed: This is a space where you should place a living creature! Instead, I made a nest out of tupperware and gave that to Harvey to hold.

harvey holding a chicken in a tuperware

a little wary of each other up close

Up close Harvey was not so enamored with the chick as he is when they're in their box. "Don't peck me! Don't peck me!" he cried. At the same time I was trying to snap a picture and keep our (suddenly interested) dog at bay, so the photo session lasted only about 3 seconds. Still, I got a chance to snap a quick close-up before returning the chick to the brooder.

chicken looking out the window towards the yard

one day soon little peep

I like that she's looking outside towards the backyard. Soon and very soon little one, all this will be yours.


camping 2011: part two

the view from the top of Penobscot

looking down

More specifics. The first hike we did was Penobscot, which I thought was going to kill me. "We do this for fun," I repeated to myself as I lugged 40+ pounds of Harvey and snacks up the mountain, pausing every five steps to wipe the sweat from my eyes. It was hot and steep. Fun too, really, and not just for the reward of making it to the top; maybe I convinced myself with all the repetition. More pictures in the other post.

rocks and trees above Lower Hadlock Pond

at the foot of Norumbega

The second day we did Normumbega, which I had no particular recollection of ever having climbed before. We were a little disappointed to be denied a treeless summit, but the hike itself was beautiful and varied, if a little too bumpy for Harvey. "My butt hurts!" he exclaimed periodically for the entire second half of the hike—every five seconds or so except when I was singing him marching songs. I understand that Leah was dealing with similar complaints from Zion further back in the line. That all slowed us down considerably, but we enjoyed the frequent breaks and the opportunity they afforded us to eat cookies and consort with the local wildlife.

Harvey pointing to Washington (the puppet) Racoon's nose

"it has a nose"

The backpack is now stored away in the basement with the camping gear. Harvey may be done with it forever.

Rascal standing in shallow water

he was chasing rocks

Beyond taking them on wonderfully challenging (to us) hikes, we also introduced our friends to the eponymous bar. After breakfast we got there midway trough the ebb tide and followed the receding waters across to Bar Island. Well, some of us did: Harvey had a sleepy breakdown and couldn't go on. Before that point, though, he had a great time finding shells and rocks with Andrew and throwing them for Rascal.

Harvey and Andrew looking for shells

I think there's something alive in this one

The cooking was pretty awesome too: we divided up the dinner duty and had three very successful meals. Sadly the pictures of Harvey with a full cup of spaghetti hanging from his mouth didn't come out, nor did the ones of him lying on the ground helping Rascal lick the dishes clean. Out-of-focus attempts exist on my computer, if you want to see documentary evidence. One picture that I was delighted to find came out beautifully was the one I took of my s'more, the first ever perfect s'more that I ever created—perhaps the first in all human history. It was a moment of pure triumph.

a smore

perfection, marshmallow-style

The weather started out really hot: we were fleeing 100+ degree temps at home but didn't find things too much better as we headed north. On the drive up we went through maybe three gallons of water, and Harvey didn't spill more than a quart of that. But by the last day there when we went out to dinner with my parents (totally awesome they were there, by the way; next year we're going to try and time the whole trip to match up with their stay on the island so we can get some childcare!) everybody was bundled up against sub-60° weather. Luckily that makes some of us extra cute and cuddly.

Leah kissing a sweatshirted Zion

cozy kissy

Oh yeah, and Harvey played his first game of golf. He hasn't stopped talking about it since.

Harvey at Pirates Cove golf

not quite sure which end of the stick to hold


never thought I'd buy food with compost in mind...

... but the chickens are overwhelming our little compost pile with bucket loads of wet bedding. Less so since Dan had a brilliant idea of how to secure their waterer against burrowing and tipping (place it on a wooden block the height of their bedding so they can't dig under the thing and tip it over. What a smart guy Dan is.) but still, lots of dirty pine shavings have been heading to the compost pile as of late. So this morning I bought melon with the thought of composting the skin, plus beets with the knowledge that the stems of the greens and the skin would head in there. Plus a big tupperware of lentil salad that I left in the car by mistake after lunch at the pond, and we should now be back in balance with our compost pile out back. My, such things we need to think about these days.

veggie dinner 1: cauliflower curry

a bowl of cauliflower curry

Even though I've never been a vegetarian myself, I didn't grow up eating a lot of meat; thanks to my mother's healthy multi-ethnic cooking I never felt like every meal had to be anchored by a big piece of animal. Good thing, since Leah was a vegan when we first started living together. Now that everyone is trying to eat locally and ethically and sustainably and realizing how expensive meat is supposed to be, we're all looking for vegetarian main dishes that will satisfy our families; this week I hope to post a few of mine. Leading off, cauliflower curry.

Cauliflower Curry

This is the all-season version of this recipe, one you can make any time with ingredients from the grocery store. But once you have the curry base made—up to adding tomatoes and coconut milk—you can throw whatever veggies you want in there. Recently we made a curry with zucchini and green beans from the garden, and it was as tasty as ever you could wish.

In a large saute pan, heat

some oil


1 large yellow onion, chopped

Cook for a while, then add

1 small jalapeno pepper, chopped (seeded if you want)
about an inch of ginger, chopped
two cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp curry powder

Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then add (deglazing the pan)

1 14oz can diced tomato (undrained)
1 5oz can coconut milk

Bring to a simmer and add

1 head cauliflower cut up into little florets
1 14oz can chick peas
1/2 c water if needed

Simmer, covered, until the cauliflower is as cooked as you want, then at some point add

frozen peas

Five minutes before serving, add

1 bunch chard or other greens

Serve over rice.


veggie dinner 2: chili

When we go camping with other folks—as we have the past four years—we take turns cooking dinner. That way each tent grouping can focus on a single meal and pack just what's needed to prepare it, which makes things go much more smoothly: important when it's getting dark and everyone's hungry after hiking! Of course, we all help out with chopping and fire building and things, as is only right for a communal expedition. This past trip the Archibalds prepared a vegetarian chili according to my mother's recipe, and it was all very well prepared indeed—except I forgot to bring the recipe itself. Thank goodness for modern technology, since I could call Mom right from the campfire and ask her to remind me. The chili came out well enough that I even ate some of the leftovers once we got home! And made over a proper stove it's even better. Here's the recipe so I'll have it handy next time.

Mom's vegetarian chili

Good thing we live in the Northeast so we don't have to worry about the authenticity of our chili. The bulgur serves to thicken the chili up a bit, and substitutes for meat in texture if not in taste.

In a stock pot, heat

1/4 cup oil

Add and saute for 10 minutes

2 or 3 onions, diced fine
3 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
a green pepper, diced

Add and cook for 2 minutes to toast

1 1/2 Tbsp chili power
1 Tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup coarse bulgur


3 cans kidney beans
1 28oz can tomatoes or puree
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 cups water
3/4 tsp salt

Cook at a lively simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve over rice and top with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, and scallions.


veggie dinner 3: peanut noodles

All my good recipes come from my mother. Where she gets em, I have no idea. Maybe she can tell us in the comments. This one might be stretching the idea of "main dish" a little bit, but when we have it with a salad and some italian bread it's all the meal you could ever want.

Peanut Noodles

You can vary the spiciness of these noodles by adding or subtracting chile oil, as long as you have 7 tablespoons of oil all together. The sauce can be good on bread or vanilla ice cream (maybe) as well.

For the sauce, combine in the food processor:

1-3 cloves garlic
6 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
6 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon chile oil or other hot oil

In salted water, cook:

12 ounces linguini (more or less; or other similar noodles)

Drain the noodles, then mix with the sauce and (all optional):

diced cucumber
chopped peanuts


looking more like each other every day

baby Zion:

3 month old zion, smiling

delighted you're here!

baby Harvey:

it's winter now; we have to wear hats even indoors

it's winter now; we have to wear hats even indoors

baby Zion:

zion at blueberry picking

blueberry eyes

baby Harvey:

baby Harvey in the bath

baby Harvey in the bath

Must be a family resemblance in there somewhere.

mama, baby, and harvey

while dada is busy picking


veggie dinner 4: spinach pie

Events conspired to mess up my five dinners in five days plan. Should have written them all ahead of time and scheduled them to post, eh?

This is an old family favorite of the Lexington Archibalds; at least, it was a favorite of mine growing up. I make it with some frequency, especially in the winter. Once again the recipe is from my mother.

Spinach Pie

This is called spinach pie because it's totally not a quiche—it's much cooler than that. I imagine it would be pretty easy to make it with fresh spinach rather than frozen, but when I have fresh spinach I much prefer to just eat it.

Make or procure a pie crust for a nine-inch pie dish and refrigerate it until you're ready. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine:

1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup cottage cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
pepper to taste
grated nutmeg to taste

Scrape the mixture into the pie crust and bake for 30-40 minutes (depending on how hungry you are and what time it is). Ideally, let the pie cool somewhat before serving, since it tends to fall apart if it's hot.


veggie dinner 5: black bean enchiladas

Alright, after this I'm done. For now.

I love these enchiladas because black beans and cream cheese, very prominent in the recipe, are two of my favorite foods. And they're especially good left over!

Black Bean Enchiladas

You can make the bean mixture and the sauce ahead of time and then assemble the enchiladas just before baking. At the appropriate time you'll need to preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large saute pan, heat

1 Tbsp oil

Saute until soft

1 chipotle pepper canned in adobo sauce, minced
1 medium onion, minced

Add and simmer for 10 minutes

3 cans black beans, rinsed
3/4 cup orange juice

Mash about half the beans, stir, and simmer for a few more minutes.

While the beans are cooking, make the sauce. Mix

1 cup mild or medium salsa
1 cup tomato sauce
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin

Divide the bean mixture evenly among

7 flour tortillas, soft taco size

Top each with an equal portion of

1 package (8oz) cream cheese

Lightly oil a 13x9 inch baking dish, then spoon some of the sauce onto the bottom. Roll the tortillas and put them into the dish. Top with the rest of the sauce and

2 cups grated monterey jack cheese

Cover the dish with foil and bake it for 25 minutes, then uncover it and bake a couple minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.


first day outside!

Every day for over a week now Dan has been hard at work in the hot sun doing a big favor for me. And for the four other ladies in his life. Today we got our first chance to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

chicks ready to explore

ready to explore

The chicken run isn't completely finished, but it's done enough that the chicks can go in supervised for a few hours a day and finally get to do what they were born to do! Take dirt baths, peck at real grass, and fly very short distances. And boy were they eager to get to it!

chicken flying in front of dan

ready to get in there!

Rascal watched VERY attentively.

chicks under rascal guard

under careful guard

A little too attentively if you ask me.

The afternoon sunlight also gave me the opportunity to take some better pictures of our girls. Well, as better pictures as you can get holding a chick in one hand and a camera in the other. With that I give you:









That's given in order of easy-to-distinguish-ness. Caretta and Gretta are rather difficult to tell apart. Greta started out with finer features and Caretta with more yellow on her head, but they're changing every day so it's rather hard to tell mid-movement who's who. Loretta started out as the most caprecious of the bunch, she was the first to come over and peck my hand for the first week and a half. Recently the others have out-paced her in growth, though, and it was Musetta this past week who tried to fly out of the box every time I lifted the lid. She may be the most outgoing now, or it may just be that she's had the hardest time with the others pecking on her. Either way, it'll be fun to see their personalities as they grow into hens. Provided I can keep them straight.

harvey and rascal watching chickens

it's going to be an exciting autumn


summer passing

Summer is definitely drawing to a close, at least according to the academic calendar. There were a lot of things that I wanted to do this summer that I didn't manage—go sailing, take Harvey to see the Make Way for Ducklings statue, get a better job—but that's kind of ok. Today we squeezed in a pond visit in the morning before the torrential downpours began, which was nice, and in the rain I made relish instead of working on the chicken coop, which was fine too.

There's more preserves to be made, and I'm sure we'll do more swimming before the season is closed, and there are certainly many more tomatoes to eat, but a new season is clearly coming. And, I'll say again, that's kind of ok.

societal breakdown

Twice in the couple days I've had occasion to drive on Rt 128 southbound down below Rt 9, where four lanes become three and "breakdown lane traffic" becomes legal from 6:00-10:00am and 4:00-7:00pm. It's terrifying.

Most obviously, folks driving in the breakdown lane means you have nowhere to go if your car actually breaks down. With my '97 Subaru with a non-functioning gas gauge, the possibility is always at the back of my mind so I like to keep my escape routes open! Beyond that, the road simply isn't designed for high-speed travel in that lane. It's about two feet narrower than the actual travel lanes, and it has no white line on the right-hand side—nothing between you and the barrier. This is especially bad when exits and on-ramps are involved. You have to be a special kind of person to just drive right over the lines designed to corral you onto the road, at high speed.

And high speed is really the big issue. In stop-and-go traffic I can maybe understand the value of another lane, especially for folks who are exiting soon. But that's not what I've seen the last couple days. Instead, traffic has been moving fine and a few drivers are treating the breakdown lane like another fast lane. Nothing like getting passed on the right just as you're about to exit! Even worse is trying to merge onto the road: with cars moving along the far right of the road, the designed merge area is a danger zone. Instead of having time to check the traffic situation while driving straight, you're forced to merge immediately—like those terrible Rt 128 on-ramps up north in Peabody and Danvers but with four lanes instead of two and faster traffic.

I didn't enjoy it. I suppose if you do it every day you get used to it?


this is the story of a hurricane

a couple chairs on top of some plywood on the porch

ready for some hurricane watching

We're told there's a hurricane coming. We don't listen to the news so we were spared the full extent of the fear-mongering, but enough actual information made it through our defenses that we're at least aware of the coming cataclysm. And we took steps to prepare, you'll be happy to hear. Leah even ventured out to Whole Foods for some emergency rations (ok, it was just to get a few things for dinner) and she described the scene as "pandemonium". The contagious excitement almost drove her to stock up on vegetables, until she remembered that that probably wouldn't be necessary.

a lot of tomatoes and peppers and a few beans

who needs the farmers market?!

Yes, as part of our preparations we picked every vulnerable veggie that was either ripe or close to it. Anyone want some jalapenos? We're most concerned about the tomatoes, which are almost overwhelming their cages in calm weather, never mind in the 80 mile-per-hour gusts included in the current forecast for tomorrow. We did our best to provide supplementary support with stakes made from two-by-threes and cut down hockey sticks, but I fear even that may be too little.

extra stakes trying to hold up the bushy tomatoes and their cages

as secure as we could make em

Aside from that, though, I think we're pretty ready. All the scattered lumber has been collected and piled on the porch, the bicycles and strollers and potted plants are inside, and the pumps stand ready in the basement. Of course I wish that the initial ramp-up of wind was happening in the day time so I'd be able to more easily react to any problems, but we do what we can. And if I do have to get up in the middle of the night to secure something, I won't complain too much: after all, it isn't every day we have a hurricane around here! Tropical storm? Whatever.


routine adjustment

I went back to work today, and Leah was glad to get me out of the house (Harvey and Rascal missed me, though; Zion didn't care). I had forgotten how much time working takes, and I don't even work quite full time. How on earth do people ever get anything done?! Seems like I only just got home when and it was time to eat dinner and put the kids to bed; I don't know how I'm ever going to get this chicken coop finished! Although I suppose it will help that tomorrow and Thursday are half days and I have both Friday and Monday off for Labor Day. They like to ease us into the school year.

As for blogging, who knows when I'll ever have time. I'll have to start doing some writing on my lunch breaks.


many men's trash

We got a notice last week that our town is changing the way trash pickup is run. Instead of being able to throw away as much as we want, however we want to put it out, we'll have to fit all our trash for the week in a town-issued bin. New trash trucks will have robot arms that'll pick up and dump the bins without the garbage man having to set foot outside of the cab. If you have more trash than can fit in the bin you'll have to pay per bag.

At first, I though this was totally cool. The automated bin pickup alone is pretty fun—I've admired the system at work in other towns (like Santa Monica; remember when we lived there?). And of course we like the idea of limiting how much households can throw away for free. Sure, you'll be able to dump an awful lot before you have to start using the overflow bags, but at least it gets people thinking about the value of trash pickup.

After a bit more reflection, though, some downsides occurred to me. Worst for us personally (and for other right-thinking trash picking folks, like the woman we spoke to on our walk this afternoon) is that it will be a whole lot harder to find another man's treasures out on the curb. Not only will everything be in the bins rather than piled enticingly for our perusal, the rules say that the bins have to be closed. While I don't mind poking through a promising pile, I think I draw the line at opening every trash can I pass in search of something interesting. I imagine that people who are disposing of items that they think might be of value to someone else will still leave them on the curb for a little while before trash day, but a lot of what I've found—five gallon buckets, broken tool handles for plant stakes, small pieces of good lumber—would probably be tossed directly.

The effect that the new system has on garbage men is another issue. It used to take two guys to run each truck; I'm pretty sure now it'll only be one. So half as many people will be working, and I hope the one left is an introvert because he's going to have a pretty boring day by himself otherwise. Maybe he can talk on the phone like our newspaper delivery girl does every morning. (I don't worry about mail carriers, who also have their trucks to themselves on their repetitive daily rounds—I know they're all introverts.) The trash company must be saving money to be able to afford to give us all free trash cans; I'm sure a good portion of that comes from reducing salary.

So news is mixed. If only there were an efficient system to allocate "trash" items, one that didn't use stupid yahoo groups. We have stuff that we don't want in our house anymore, but we know it would be useful to someone if only we could find them, and I'm sure that there's so much thrown away that we would love to have. Of course, this is all a pretty modern problem: I was just reading (in a blog post about 19th-century vocabulary) how, in 1815, they didn't even have trash cans:

Weird note. Trashcans, wastepaper baskets, garbage cans... none of these exist even as a concept. Everything got reused, fed to the pigs, or burned in the fire.

The reusing we can manage, but we're a little short on pigs. Will chickens do?


good hippies bicycle to whole foods

I didn't ride my bicycle a whole lot over the summer, both because Zion is still too small for the state of Massachusetts to permit him to be carried in any pedal-driven conveyance (just by car, since cars are totally 100% safe), and also because it's pretty broken. But now that the new school year is upon us, I'm back in the saddle! Issues that keep me from riding recreationally are as nothing when I have to get to work. Which is nice: you know motivation and everything.

However, I could easily have driven to Whole Foods with Harvey this afternoon. It was hot, I was tired from riding home, and he isn't getting any lighter back there in the trailer. But I didn't! We rode, we shopped, and we hauled our produce home with us entirely under my own power. So of course now I can feel totally justified for today, saving-the-world-wise.

It's interesting how hard it can be for me to decide to ride short distances in town (it's not quite a mile to Whole Foods). Intellectually, I know that I'm likely to actually make better time on the bicycle, at least when I'm not hauling the trailer, and parking is way easier. But it is more work. If it's a hard choice for me, who ostensibly enjoys cycling, I imagine it must be almost insurmountable for folks who don't ride regularly. No wonder there aren't more bikes on the rack at Whole Foods (or, um, any bike racks at all at other local shopping plazas).

Of course, it's only the initial decision that's hard. Once I'm on the road I thoroughly enjoy the ride and never regret not being in the car. So... if you ever hear me equivocating about transportation options, point me to this post.