Autumn’s arrival

The maple in our backyard embraces the arrival of autumn.

The maple in our backyard embraces the arrival of autumn.

The onset of autumn is subtle and gentle, drawing its arrival on a combination of the leftover warmth of summer and the inevitable chill of winter. The creation of our favorite of the seasons is unique in that way, as if it knows it’s better to soothe its way into our lives rather than scream into our ear like its cruel cousin winter. Autumn is lush and brisk, soft and fiery, sometimes all at once. Lush in its warm afternoons and brisk with crisp evenings. Soft with the dying breaths of summer pushing leaves to the ground, fiery in the brilliant colors of foliage that ironically signal the end of a cycle. Is death supposed to be beautiful? Of course not. But somehow, autumn pulls it off. Yes, spring can make us feel young again, but autumn should be acknowledged as the landing pad for the wisdom and knowledge nurtured during the growing season. And just as the leaves fall to fertilize the earth, so too does wisdom around us. Now is the time to slow down, take stock and allow the knowledge gained become the mulch that feeds our growth. There are trees hundreds of years old that continue to grow each year because of this cycle. We should not expect anything less of ourselves.

Firewood frenzy

Henry David Thoreau said “every man looks at his woodpile with a kind of affection.” He’s correct.

It’s interesting how firewood has become such a big part of life here on Big Tree Road. It’s even more interesting the draw it has and the literal enjoyment it provides since so many of memories from my youth were cursing the very existence of this wretched resource. Yet here we are in 2014, and I really do enjoy it. Cutting, loading, unloading, splitting, stacking, moving. Whoever said firewood heats you twice apparently wasn’t very good at arithmetic. We’ve written about the joys of firewood before, whether it was stacking the wood we bought, or relishing the tree felled by a farmer who was gracious enough to give that tree away. Those events pale, however, to the developments that started to unfold in mid-August when that very same farmer informed me that he was clearing land for more crops and that I was welcome to any and all trees he had left in a pile. Continue Reading »

Sandbox dreams

Graciela's dream of a sandbox is finally a reality. Just like this smile of hers.

Graciela’s dream of a sandbox is finally a reality. Just like this smile of hers.

It’s quite satisfying to stand back and look at something you made, nodding silent approval for something created with your hands. It’s quite satisfying on a whole new level when your 2-year-old daughter smiles that adorable smile of hers and runs to play in the sandbox you’ve just unveiled to her. Even if that smile came at 8:30 on a crisp autumn morning. The breeze was brisk and chilly. Jackets aren’t normally sandbox weather, and her tiny shoes were coated with sand, drawn there like glue by the morning dew. These are the things I noticed, but she didn’t. All she knew was she finally had her sandbox, and the buckets, shovels and rakes she had could finally be put to use. The next day, a bit warmer, she spent close to 3 hours in the sandbox and cried when it was time to come inside. We never like to see our kids cry, but this display was bigger than any “thank you” she could say. She truly loves her sandbox, and all I can think in return is that it was my pleasure. Truly. Continue Reading »

Lake Placid 2014

Uncle Lowell gets a campfire started under the watch of Whiteface Mountain. (click to enlarge)

Uncle Lowell gets a campfire started under the watch of Whiteface Mountain. (click to enlarge)

If absence does make the heart grow fonder, then we are quite fond of the mountains. The Adirondacks, to be specific. In early August, we were back in the High Peaks region 2 years after our last visit; our 2013 trip was not made. And so our return was a welcome reminder of what we missed and if this corner of creation spoke to our souls before, this year’s trip was a full and orchestrated chorus. The strength in the majesty of these mountains is humbling, and the serenity can be downright spiritual. There is plenty to admire and respect in what we see and hear, and I am grateful that ours is a family that can see this, but grateful too that this awe is not debilitating. Continue Reading »

Rack ‘em up

Kayaks and canoes, ready for action.

Kayaks and canoes, ready for action.

It’s a good problem to have: 4 kayaks, 2 canoes, 3 bodies of water within 5 minutes of the house to explore. Life jackets and paddles are plentiful; we only wish time were the same. But as busy as life gets for us, we decided some time ago that we have no excuses. With this much water nearby, we need to be on the water. So from time to time, we excuse ourselves from work around the house, load the trailer and head to the water. This is a routine we’ve found a rhythm for and when we all work together, we make the most of our time and enjoy the break on the water. But when we’re not on the water, we have 6 crafts and all the accessories to store and leaving them on the ground just isn’t our style. So with much thanks to those who provided birthday gift cards to a local lumber provider, we got to work in July on a kayak/canoe rack to store these vessels and the result is what we see here. Continue Reading »

Tree time

It's said firewood heats you twice. It's one of life's truths you can count on.

It’s said firewood heats you twice. It’s one of life’s truths you can count on.

The only thing more fun than using a chainsaw is having a tree to cut to pieces. Especially if that tree is a walnut tree, which when seasoned, burns noticeably warmer in the woodstove during those chilly winter days. The king of all firewood situations, though, is getting to use that chainsaw, on a walnut tree … that you get for free. This was the setting not long ago, when the neighboring farmer took down a walnut tree on his land and laid it on the ground just behind our property. Mr. Farmer has made it no secret that trees often interfere with his work, especially black walnut trees and their acidic root system that can affect crops — his livelihood. Black walnut trees are plentiful in the area and the straight ones are harvested for lumber. But they’re not all qualified to be lumber trees, so when you can get one for firewood, it’s wise to not let that opportunity pass. Continue Reading »

Soggy Spring

In the cellar, looking out to our backyard. There is 1 more step at the bottom, under the water.

In the cellar, looking out to our backyard. There is 1 more step at the bottom, under the water.

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a month since we opened our cellar doors one Friday morning to discover water. Lots of water. Some water, we’d learned to expect. The root cellars of old houses tend to invite moisture, but what we found on May 9 was beyond expectations. Uncharted waters, you might say. We joke now, but there were few smiles that morning. It was the same day Penn Yan was dealing with devastating floods there and while we didn’t endure anything close to what those poor souls were dealing with, our own corner of the world was a bit exasperated. My knees are roughly 17 inches from the ground and the water in our cellar covered that. My first thought as Amy and Graciela prepared to leave for the day was to let our sump pump do the work. It might take a while, but that’s all we had at the time. Then it dawned on me that sump pump failure was the reason all this water was in our cellar. Continue Reading »

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