Sunday, June 28, 2009


We've been working on many things: house, garden, bees, bike rides, work, and whatever else in these long days of midsummer. Its an abundant and special time of year when the world just seems full and at ease.

The garden is at its best, full with garlic scapes, strawberries, greens, chamomile and so much more either here or steadily growing. This has been the year of "zero tolerance" in the weed department. Jeremy came up and tilled a perimeter band around the whole garden, which we'll do again in a few weeks, and we've been steadily pulling and mulching the zones within the garden to keep out the stuff we don't want. Its always an effort, but we've made good progress in defining things and taking advantage of our available real estate with in the garden edges.

We received our septic permit from the state which is a major step towards breaking ground. The next item to fall in line is the building permit and we are hopeful that it'll be a quick turnaround. As soon as that is in place we schedule the digging to being and get moving with the whole process. Its been a long push and in some ways it hasn't even begun. We continue to chip away at the questions and get a sharper and sharper focus on exactly what it going to happen when and with what, etc.. its been a little like peeling an onion in that there are always more layers of information to define and make decisions about. Today we went to visit an acquaintance's house that I've found particularly inspiring for many of its qualities. It's modest size, its thoughtful details and the creative ways in which the owners have gone through the process of building.

We are up to nine hives altogether at this point with varying degrees of strength among them. Just this afternoon we checked the hives and were a little distressed to see evidence of chalkbrood. From what we can tell this is not devastating, and often clears up on its own, but it is still a concern. There is a good chance the state bee inspector will be coming for a visit this week and we look forward to seeing what he has to say.

Last week Nancy went up to Craftsbury to visit a friend and I decided to ride up and meet her there. It was just about 60 miles and it felt good to get there. After some visiting, we drove to Hardwick and had an excellent dinner at Claire's. It felt good to ride some distance, see the countryside, and as always, have a little mini adventure just by getting somewhere. Last night was similar; Nance called a contra dance over in Bristol and I biked up and over the gap to meet here there. I love biking up the mountain. Its not so much hard as it is a slow steady constant decision to keep at it. Very rewarding.

Next up is moving the yurt. We've been moving out steadily in the last week or so. If we can we'd like to have the yurt in it's new location by this time next week.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Overnight Moonlight

Scene I: Two happy, somewhat chilly, cyclists lay on the ground somewhere in the wilds of Elmore, Vermont at about 1:00 AM gazing up a nearly full moon through wispy clouds, amid noteable silence. Soon they remount their bikes and continue on their night journey.

Yesterday morning, Jeremy and I decided to make good on the idea of doing a full moon overnight ride. The plan was for Jeremy to meet me at the contra dance in Montpelier around 10:00 PM and head out northwards on a semi-defined 90 mile route that would have us rolling back into the Mad River Valley sometime in the morning. Maybe we'd get breakfast at the Green Cup as the rest of the world was just waking up. We knew at the least we wanted to ride until we witnessed the dawn.

That was the idea, and pretty much what we did. Temperatures were forecast down to around the mid-thirties and we were prepared with mittens, layers, wind shells and hats. It was chilly at times, but what was most impressive was how warm the hill tops were and how cold it was in the valleys. Being that it was almost a full moon, we rode many miles with our headlights turned off, mostly just turning them on when the infrequent cars passed.

Scene II: Cyclists notice the curious installation of small solar powered LED lights adorning a few headstones in the occasional cemetery. Ensuing discussion of death, compost, and what the recipients of those lights might think.

After miles of wilderness through Elmore, we rounded over to Morrisville and appreciated the 24-hour Cumberland Farms where we bought some food, filled up our water bottles and used the bathroom. Feeling refreshed, we decided to pedal down to Stowe and then angle northwest up and over Smuggler's Notch. As we approached Stowe clouds were evident and it was clear we were going to lose the moonlight. Given the impending loss of light, we decided to adjust our plan to just stay on Rt. 100 and head back to the Valley.

Scene III: Roughly 3:30 AM, on deserted streets. Two cyclists come to a complete stop at the stop sign in Stowe village, under the watchful eye of the local law enforcement.

It wasn't long before I was grateful for having decided to amend our route as a bit of fatigue started to set in. The clouds had fully obscured the moon as we cruised in to Waterbury, where we had another food break and rest and noticed the first signs of sunrise over the eastern horizon. Chill and weariness were taking their toll, but we soon warmed up again as we headed up the Duxbury hills.

Scene IV: 4:30 AM in dim morning twilight: One weary cyclist looks over at nearby pond and asks the other cyclist if what he's looking at is one of those cutout silhouettes of a moose. The other cyclist looks over and says "Yeah, it is." A moment later the cutout starts moving up the incline of the bank.

We got home shortly after 5:00 and were pretty much silent towards the end, as talking required too much focus and attention to manage. Despite our tiredness, we both agreed that we felt good. Tired, but not wasted.

Scene V: One cyclist does a sudden quick dip to the left and is back right in a second. Its acknowledged that he nodded off for a moment.

It was a real joy to spend this time with Jeremy as we talked and rode and enjoyed the darkened countryside. There is something magic about getting in sync and pedaling for miles in both a private and shared experience of light and dark, warmth and cold, energy and fatigue, effort and rest... when I quietly stepped into the yurt this morning I felt immense gratitude for Nancy, Motion, and home. I also swore I wouldn't need to do that again soon.

Even now, from this short vantage point, it doesn't seem so bad.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wood & Steel

In junior high I took guitar lessons for a while and gained a basic ability to play chords and a few songs. It was fun, but it never really went too far.

Fast forward to the late mid-nineties and somehow the desire to play the guitar again was clear enough that I went out and bought one.

Largely influenced during this time by the guitar playing of Luka Bloom, and soon after, my discovery of contra dancing and the traditional music that is basis of the dance, I started moving in the direction of learning and playing traditional/Irish/celtic music. I discovered the deep and shimmery sound of the DADGAD tuning and made it mine. Over the years there have been periods of domancy, but the guitar has basically been a constant friend since I started playing again. The guitar hangs on the wall of the yurt next to the bed and is close at hand.

I'm not a natural when it comes to musical ability, but I'm not a disaster either. I've found through the years that I've developed an ear, some technical facility, and a rudimentary understanding of musical structure. The progress is slow, but it is there. One of the most satisfying steps in this process was starting to accompany tunes by ear rather then by relying on books or written-out chords. When playing by feel/ear I find that my approach is more confident, sounds better, and is actually sort of easier since its coming from within me rather then from an outside source. I also remember the structure of what I'm playing more readily then I would if I'd played it from a book. It is my suspicion that playing this way engages a different part of the brain.

Some of this progress is due to the generosity and patience of my friend Joanne, who, among her many talents, is a stellar fiddle player. When we first started playing together I was just feeling my way and she was willing to stick with it, despite my baby steps. Over the years Joanne has been something of an informal music teacher in that she's helped me hear things out, explained musical questions, and made informed suggestions that are usually quite helpful. Beyond that, its always just felt fun and comfortable playing together and that may be the most important thing of all. I think feeling safe when doing something creative is crucial, and Joanne has always been a sport, even when my portion of the musical offering has been a little weak.

When a tune comes together with other musicians and I feel sure of where I'm headed, its one of the most exciting experiences I can imagine. It just makes me really happy in a kid-like excited way.

The picture shows Joanne and I playing during a very snowy weekend trip Nance and I made to visit her and her fiancee Michael up in Montreal a couple of years ago.