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the garden in early June

I took some time off from working in the garden to make a video about it. I wanted to actually get out there with the kids and walk around doing the narration in real time, but we were just too busy. Never mind, Harvey did an awesome job with some voiceover work!

going out

We've actually been leaving our house a fair amount over the last few days. Harvey and I, and sometimes Zion, have been enjoying early-morning bike rides a few times a week, and mid day rides a few times a week when we're not out early. Off-road, because we don't need to be masked deep in the woods. The other day we even put the bikes in the car to try out some new trails that wouldn't otherwise have been reachable in the hour and a half we had available.

But car trips still aren't easy. I had to go to the store the other day, and it was a major production. First I had to try and jump the minivan because the battery was dead, and then when that didn't work I had to go buy a new battery and put it in. But before I could do that I needed to find my wallet, which I hadn't used in at least a week, and my mask. Locating those two things only took ten minutes, but it was a desperate and frustrating ten minutes that almost removed from me all will to live. Certainly all will to drive away from home.

But it was worth it, because with a working car I could visit some real bike trails with Harvey. And then since that went so well, today all four of us boys took our first automotive outing in a long time. I'll write more about that tomorrow; for now, suffice it to say that finding four masks—plus water bottles, shoes, and whatever else we needed—was more than four times harder than finding my one had been. We've never been really good at getting out the door in any smoothly organized fashion, and I think any skills we did manage to develop evaporated completely in the 2+ months since we've driven anywhere together.

Two months?! Yes, March 30th to June 4. I had to count three times before I believed that number, but there it is. Ok, I guess it's fair that we'd be a little rusty. The boys had fun; we're looking to do it again soon. Maybe next time the engine will only be running for ten minutes while everyone is running around trying to find their stuff. I don't dare turn the car off after I start it because I no longer trust batteries. But don't worry, we could idle for a very long time indeed and still not offset all the driving we didn't do in April and May!


moments from the week

Harvey cycling along a dirt path between sunbeams

morning trail

Moments from the past week.

Leah painting the new picnic table

finishing the table

Harvey on his bike in sweatshirt and mask

chilly morning ride

Harvey looking at a tupperware container of pond water and tadpoles


the boys playing a card game on the new picnic table

picnic table card game


salad days

You may have noticed in our garden video that we're growing a whole lot of lettuce. That's because of a misunderstanding: Leah was going to a garden store and asked if I wanted anything, and I asked for a thing of lettuce. I meant "thing" to refer to a six-pack; she brought home an entire flat of romaine starts. It was fine. We found room for lots of them, gave some more away, and let one six-pack die as a symbolic sacrifice to the spirits of garden store gardening. 19 of the 20 we put in thrived and grew large and beautiful.

Only the trouble with planting 20 lettuces at the same time is they all are ready to eat at the same time. Over the past couple weeks we've been picking young leaves for sandwiches and the occasional salad, but now we're fully into lettuce season and I'm cutting one whole romaine head a day. Luckily we've got some other salad greens going too—baby kale and arugula, plus some self-seeded leafy things—to add some variety. We get some different dressings going too. Zion likes vinegar, Harvey prefers a ranch type of thing. Sadly, Elijah won't eat salad. And worse, Leah, though she makes beautiful salads for herself every day, doesn't care for romaine. So the other three of us are working hard.

outing again

Last week, as I mentioned the other day, the boys and I took a little outing. It wasn't really much: we needed to drop off some plants at our friends' house, and on the way we stopped at Great Brook Farm for a picnic.

Lijah eating a sandwich by the pond at Great Brook

out and about!

Besides eating lunch in a shady spot by the pond, the boys splashed in the water and caught some tadpoles. Then after 30 or 40 minutes we got back in the car. That was it. In former days, that would have been supremely disappointing as an adventure; or at least not worth mentioning. But over the past few months our standards have slipped! So we were all utterly charmed by the outing.

Harvey and Zion wading in the pond looking for tadpoles

here fishy

It helps that we left baking hot weather at home and found it cool and comfortable at the farm. There were almost no other people around, so we were able to take our masks off (the boys had been wondering how we would manage a picnic while masked!). And the water was full of fish, tadpoles, and frogs. We wondered if they were all feeling pretty relaxed, having seen so few people all spring; certainly they were quite comfortable hanging around by the shore (and the fish at least were hungry for bread crusts).

a big frog on a lily pad (one among many)

doing what frogs do

Nobody caught any fish though—they were much too fast and too jumpy. No frogs either, ditto. But the tadpoles were easy enough, even with only sandwich tupperwares as nets. We could even have brought some home if we wanted to, but we didn't. Because, you know, social distancing.


varying protocols

I had to go to the grocery store yesterday. Since the last time I was there they've taken down the markers for lining up outside; there was someone at the door ostensibly counting to control the numbers in the store, but it was pretty crowded regardless. I don't know if he was actually paying attention. Stocking levels were pretty much back to normal too. But at least everyone in the store was wearing masks. Still, it was clear that people aren't all taking the disease threat with the same degree of seriousness. As I was putting the bags in the car I noticed one shopper disinfecting her door handles before taking off her gloves, in what was clearly a practiced and well-thought-out maneuver. Then I saw someone else coming out of the store and immediately taking off his mask; when he needed to reach into his pocket for his keys he just held his mask in his mouth to give himself a free hand. So there was that too.

My own practice was in between those two extremes. Stay safe, everybody!

hose tragedy is comedy

I don't like hoses. They always get tangled. They're expensive, and they don't last as long as I think they should, and when they break down they're hard to repurpose or throw away. So I was dismayed the other day when I knocked over a short length of two-by-ten with a couple of nails in it, and one of the nails punched right through the long hose that I use to water all over the yard and garden. Or probably did, I wasn't sure. Maybe it missed, right? I was watering at the time and didn't notice any loss of pressure. So I put down the sprayer end of the hose, and pulled up the board. As soon as the nail—which of course had gone through the hose—came out a powerful jet of water came streaming out directly into my face. Just like in a cartoon! I had to laugh, and then I had to go inside and change my clothes. At least it was a hot day.

Because it's been so hot and dry, though, I knew I couldn't be hose-less for long. At the hardware store I looked at new hoses (nope) and "hose repair kits" (couldn't see how they were supposed to go), before settling on a couple of hose clamps for $1.20 each. Along with some duct tape—green, to match the hose!—they did the trick perfectly, and we're back to watering again. My only fear now is that a sharp edge of a one of the clamps will make another hole, somewhere else in the hose. Well, if it does I know how to fix it—and to not look too closely!


moments from the week

Harvey walking his bike up a steep hill on a path beneath high-tension lines

power line access road

Moments and images from the past week.

Harvey sitting on the trunk of an old broken car in the woods

cars in the woods

a few strawberries in a bowl

strawberry harvest begins

the boys playing on the street in the pouring rain

playing in the rain

Zion wearing his face mask and swimming mask

who is that masked swimmer?

Lijah sitting on a bench in a tree wrapped up in a towel

hot before you go in the water, cold after

Blue splashing through the water

Blue's first swim


to market, to market

We went to the Farmers Market today. It started up last week, but we forgot, so today was our exciting first trip. Of course, things are different than they were last time we were there: there's a fence around the whole thing, separate opening to enter and exit, and a one way path among the widely-spaced stalls. And you can't touch any of the produce before you buy it. Still, we were delighted to be there and to have the chance to buy real food. Most important for me was getting some ground beef: the meat from River Rock Farm is so much better than what we can get at Whole Foods or from the meat delivery box place. The vegetables were less exciting, because almost everything there we already have in great quantities from our own garden. But I still wanted to get some, to support the farmers and the market, so I spent $5 on a pint box of snap peas. I also picked up some plants, which I guess I'll find room for somewhere...

Of course, I've been shopping three or four times over the past couple months; the boys have been away from the temptations of commerce since the beginning of the lockdown and they had money for treats burning a hole in their pockets! (metaphorically speaking: they all asked me to carry their money). Their favorite bakery wasn't there, but they found someone selling homemade cookies and spent $12 between them. Totally worth it. They were good cookies, and part of a good scene. Hooray for farmers markets.

don't you have your own food?!

The most frustrating thing about gardening is having animals eat the plants. A woodchuck has found a way inside the fence; those kale plants he ate half of? They'd been growing for close to two months, and he ruined them in one snack (he didn't eat half of the plants; he ate half of each plant). The lettuces have also suffered. Maybe most disappointing is the disappearance of so many of the strawberries. We have netting, but constant assalts by squirrels, chipmunks, and gray catbirds have revealed some weaknesses. Zion and I did what we could to secure it this morning, but I don't know how much difference it'll make. In that case, if they eat the strawberries all we can do is wait til next year! It's hard.

I don't begrudge the animals what they need to stay alive. And I recognize that my house and yard are taking up space that their ancestors may have occupied for tens of thousands of years before me. But I can't help but think they're getting a little spoiled, taking only the ripest strawberries or the most tender greens. Aren't there acorns or something for them to eat?!

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.

our midsummer boy

a present on the picnic table next to french toast

birthday breakfast

Birthday celebrations are tricky in pandemic days, but Harvey had a pretty good one regardless. His birthday this year falls on a Saturday and the Summer Solstice, which seems pretty auspicious for fun, and we made the best of it. The celebrations actually started yesterday after lunch, when my parents came over with ice cream (and cones!) and a present for Harvey. We had a pleasant relaxing time hanging out with them outside in the shade.

Harvey opening a present outside by the hammock

what is it?

Then this morning the birthday proper kicked off with a birthday breakfast of french toast with candles stuck in. After breakfast I frosted the cake (chocolate chocolate) while the boys relaxed—Harvey free for the day from his job of clearing the table. His party was at 11:00 (appropriate for his new age!) and consisted of three hours of screensharing Minecraft with his friends over Zoom. I wouldn't have thought that was fun, but he reports that everyone had a great time.

Harvey playing minecraft over zoom

what the kids do these days

They probably would have gone even longer, but at 2:00 Harvey and his brothers needed to head out to an ice-cream-and-shoe-shopping date with the other set of grandparents before coming back home for the birthday cookout. They didn't really need more ice cream—it was the fourth serving in three days!—but they definitely needed new sandals. It's hot here! Just right to celebrate our midsummer boy.


moments from the week

Zion standing next to Harvey in a pond, somehow standing higher in the water

pond wading

Moments from the past week.

the boys splashing in an inflatable pool

our new pool!

Lijah in his mask and red shirt, bike helmet, and sunglasses

pandemic cool

Zion and Lijah in costumes made out of paper grocery bags

we have a lot of grocery bags and also creativity!

Blue sitting by the shore of a pond

posing for a portrait

Lijah eating ice cream far away from friends on a lawn

ice cream social distance

Lijah outside in his monkey costume

monkey business

an Eevee picture made in Minecraft

this means something to Harvey...


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


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



the beginning of the end?

This pandemic has got me down. Sure, we can find positives about all the time we've been able to spend together, free of so many of our usual commitments—this morning Lijah asked as all, "what's your best and worst thing about coronavirus?"—but I seem to be running out of energy for appreciating them. Instead, I've been missing our friends and regretting all the missed adventures and beach days. And when I'm feeling so sad it's hard to write in the blog.

That said, things may be looking up a little bit. As of yesterday, Bedford only had one new case of the virus over the past week, the first time we can say that since mid-March. And I don't know if there were more cases today, because, as of Friday, the Bedford Citizen stopped daily reporting of the numbers. They've now planning to let us know the data twice a month in order to, they say, make room for news about camps and re-openings and other activities that are starting up around town. I hear that; we've got two in-person social engagements scheduled for the coming week, which is as much as we had in each of the last two months. Maybe life will be a little more lively in July? As long as we all steer clear of people from Texas or Florida, at least.

moments from the week

Zion holding one of the young hens as Lijah pets her

appreciating the almost grown-up chicks

Moments from the past week.

Harvey opening his mouth to catch raindrops

rain is rare and precious lately

Scout looking ridiculous sleeping on his back in the living room

these dogs work hard

Zion walking on a path in a field with the dogs ahead of him

walking with the dogs

Zion in a mask, Lijah in a monkey suit, giving battle poses


Leah playing tennis with Harvey and Zion

our new pastime

Zion walking across a fallen tree far off the ground

always adventuring


the work for today

I almost never write about my woodworking projects here. That's because I want to wait until they're done, and I actually never finish anything. I just get close enough that it's usable, and all the problems left are hard ones that I don't want to deal with. But today I did some work on Harvey's bed, and after four years—five years?—I think we might be getting close!

Actually, today's work was more in the nature of repairs, but they were repairs that I should have done right the first time. The great part about being a self-taught maker is that when you go back to past work you see how terrible it is and really get a sense of the progress that you've made! In this case there were some problems with the design that I was puzzled at how to solve, and my original stab at a solution finally broke down (well, broke down a few weeks ago; Harvey and Leah are very patient with me). This afternoon I saw a better way to do it right away, and it was a matter of just a couple hours work to not only fix the bed, but make it stronger and very slightly better-looking than before.

You know what would be awesome at this point in the post? Pictures! But I didn't take any. So I'll have to write a couple thousand words. The bed in question is a loft, and as originally designed one end was held up by the boys' dresser. The area under the bed I turned into kind of a cozy nook by putting some sides on it. But I ran into two problems. First, I wanted the planking to be unmarred by nail heads or screws, and my efforts to attach it from the back wasn't robust enough. And second, when the boys slammed their drawers enough times the dresser moved and the bed frame fell off it a little bit. It was the first problem that led to today's work—three missing planks on the wall were too many for Leah—but as I looked at it I realized the second was more serious. Happily, there was a pretty easy solution that took care of both, and it was done in time for Harvey to sleep in the bed! (He did let me know at supper time that he'd be happy to sleep on the floor downstairs; he knows my work patterns!)


why can't I write to people?

You know I have my struggles to write in this blog as much as I'd like to. In the morning my brain is working well but there are many distractions; in the late evening it's quiet but it takes me fifteen minutes to write a sentence. As hard as that is, it's been even harder for me to keep in touch with my friends. Why on earth is that?! Shouldn't I be able to dash off a quick message—"hey, thinking of you... how are things going?" But then I sit down to write and I get stuck. What if they wonder why I haven't talked to them in so long? What if they've got something serious going on, and my tone is too lighthearted? Why haven't they written to me: did I do something wrong? It's maddening. And as bad as that is, for work I'm meant to be writing to the families I work with and my volunteers, and that's ten thousand times harder! I want to write, I really do. I care about all of those people and would love to be in contact with them. So what's my problem?!

All that is to say, if we're friends and I haven't written to you, I really want to and wish I had. I'll try again tomorrow!

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