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 »

Finally, Spring

Playing peek-a-boo at Kershaw Park in Canandaigua.

Playing peek-a-boo at Kershaw Park in Canandaigua.

We’ve learned here in New York that anticipating seasons do you no good. The calendar may read March 20, but that in no way means Spring is here. Instead, we just anticipate warmth — whenever it decides to arrive — and finally, it is here. One of the big reasons we’ve been anticipating warmth so eagerly is because Graciela’s been a bit of a caged animal since learning to walk over the winter months. She made tracks around the house but as you might imagine, her little legs and feet are no match for ice and snow. We’d hold her to the kitchen window and explain to her that once the warmth arrived, the grass would be green, the sun would shine, the birds would be singing and we’d set her loose to run and run and run all over the yard. So over the last couple of weeks, we’ve rejoiced at the onset of warmth and filled her days with hikes, playgrounds and backyards. It makes for one happy — and tired — baby at the end of the day. Continue Reading »

Graciela eats

Not only does Graciela eat Chorizo, she loves it!

Not only does Graciela eat Chorizo, she loves it!

We’ve all got to eat, right? Until Graciela came along, it was something pretty much taken for granted in our household because Amy, Alex and myself were pretty good at it. But working with a new human brought some new perspective, especially for routine tasks like holding a fork, waiting until the food cools and making sure the food was diced small enough for her. So now that we’re approaching her 17th month (wow!), it was interesting to thumb through the photos of her taken while eating and see the progression. She’s gone from having to be fed to feeding herself. And while she’s still hit and miss with utensils, you sense she at least understands the concept but often opts to stick with the hands. She’s got her favorites and can even ask for some by name. So if you’re ever over for dinner and you have some cheese that you don’t want to share, don’t let Graciela see it. Continue Reading »

Graciela’s glasses

Graciela and her glasses.

Graciela and her glasses.

We first noticed late in the autumn of 2013 that Graciela had an eye that tended to drift in, toward her nose. So we made an appointment and following a series of short tests, a doctor informed us that she is far-sighted. It’s not uncommon for children this age to be far-sighted and there are several ways to treat this, the first being eyeglasses. Of course, we want the best for Graciela but that doesn’t always jive with her wishes. So she was fitted for glasses and when they arrived, the result was about as expected: She wanted nothing to do with them. In trying to figure out just how we were going to get her to wear the glasses, our babysitter offered a genius yet simple solution: Give Graciela a toy for each hand, then slip the glasses on while her hands are occupied and she can’t push them away. It worked, and for the last 3 months or so, she’s been wearing them regularly and even has the word “grasses” in her 15-month-old vocabulary. Graciela’s followup appointment in early February went well and the doctor noted progress in the correction of her alignment. The hope is that wearing the glasses will continue to the progress to the point where she won’t need them anymore. So in the meantime, we’ll just continue to love up our “adorable little dork,” as one family member so endearingly dubbed her. Continue Reading »

Winter’s wisdom

Cross-country skis await their navigator.

Cross-country skis await their navigator.

There is an old saying that youth is wasted on the young. And now that I’m in my 40s, I have a better understanding of this, probably because I’m not young anymore. And as Amy and Alex got the cross-country skis out following a recent snow, this old maxim came to mind because it reminded me of how I wasted my youth grumbling about winter. I’d stay inside where I was warm, yes. But bored, too. It was a predicament I put myself into but I was too thick to see this. I was too focused on being bitter. Thus, the old maxim about youth being wasted on the young. In my late 20s, there came a day when I’d had enough and I got up. I went to a nearby nature center and took to the woods on rented skis. I’ve never looked back. Being in the winter woods is sort of like getting 2 for the price of 1 because when you ski — or snowshoe — the same woods you hike in the summer, it’s a completely different woods and a completely different adventure. If you think you’ve heard silence before, try being in the woods during winter. It can be the loudest silence you’ll ever hear, but the most beautiful as well. We are blessed to have the room in our yard and nearby fields to ski without having to driving anywhere. And hopefully, Alex and Graciela will grow up learning to treasure being outside in the winter while they’re young and more able, and not waste their youth complaining about winter like I did. Continue Reading »

Season of surprise

Witnessing sunsets like this (snowfall added for effect) can make fruitless days seem not so bad.

Witnessing sunsets like this (snowfall added for effect) can make fruitless days seem not so bad.

It wasn’t a clear vision, it wasn’t an ideal situation and it wasn’t even close to being textbook. It was Dec. 1, and frustration was setting in, at least for me. Brother-in-law Dave had taken 1 deer already, felling a spikehorn on opening day of shotgun season. I had yet to take anything, although I had passed on a few during bow season and figured that karma had to be worth something. Yet here we were on Dec. 1, a cloudy Sunday afternoon, and doubts were weighing on me heavily. Dave and I were still-hunting this day and since I had to work that evening, we planned to stay out no later than mid-afternoon. We stalked the land as quietly as we could in 4 or 5 inches of snow, eyes peeled for movement and tracks. It was shortly after 1 p.m. that we reached a point where we figured it was another fruitless day afield and decided to head back to the Jeep. And then our day, and entire deer season, changed in a matter of seconds. Continue Reading »

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