Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Finnish Champion

I know a Finnish track and field champion and while I kicked about Finland one summer, I met him. He asked me if I would help him and his son retrieve some wood in their Toyota van. I welcomed the work after a few weeks of leisure.

He drove me to a house on the edge of town and when we got out of his car, he said, 'Here.' And I took a pair of gloves.

The champion's son was already there so we walked to meet him. He stood at the edge of the forest looking down an embankment.

He pointed to the house behind us. 'This man cut the tree. But it fell there.' And the son pointed down the hill. 'If we move the tree, I get it. Free.' The business arrangement sounded fine to me.

We set to work limbing the tree and cutting it into movable lengths. Fascinated, I watched them use rope to lift the tree and bull it up the hill. Eventually, the Toyota van sagged with the weight of the wood and he got his tree.


'Sauna?' The champion asked me.

'Kylla.' I replied.

I followed him to the other side of the house to the sauna which sat at the river's edge.

Inside, I passed kindling and tinder to the champion who built a roaring fire in no time. Soon we sat in the hot sauna easing the pain from our aching muscles.

'Teach me Finn.' I asked of the champion.

'Watch.' The champion threw water on the rocks. 'Vesi hyrry.'

I tried, 'Vessi hooroo.'

'No!' The champion got louder. 'Vesi hyrry.'

Again, 'Vessi hewroo.'

Frustrated, the champion bellowed, 'Vesi hyrry!'

Meekly, 'Vessi hoorew.'

Dismayed, the champion and I silently took more steam. I watched the water disappear into the air and whispered, 'Vesi hyrry.'

Victorious, the champion cried, 'Yes!'

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Personal To Do List

One bedroom in my 3-bedroom house is covered in wall-to-wall papers and other sundry junk. I made two feet of headway into cleaning the mess tonight.

Just as I stopped for the night, I found my personal to do list from three or four years ago.

Be ok with yourself.
Realize that you fit with everyone somewhere in the middle.
Respect yourself.
Respect others.
Respect what others have to say.
It's ok to be afraid.
Use the Internet less.
Be honest more.
Identify stress accurately.
Admit defeat, tomorrow will come.
Be good to yourself.
Seek truth.
Hope for clarity.
Be patient.
Play. Don't win or lose.
Love yourself.
Understand anxiety and its causes.
Ask for help.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The 2 AM Pasta Salad Mishap

I see a recipe arrive in my inbox for a pasta salad for the pot-luck end-of-season coaching development meeting tonight.

Cool! On the way to my girlfriend's house last night, I buy ingredients, and set them aside after I arrive.

After dinner, we sit on her sofa and talk. She gently nudges me and says, 'You need to start the pasta salad.'

I reply, 'I need a few minutes to relax, process, and maybe even cry given the political events this week.'

She smirks a little, but mirth turns into empathy as tears briefly stream down my cheeks.

She whispers, 'Ok. Time for the pasta salad.'

We move to the kitchen and I realize that my sister is chatting with me so I leave briefly and my girlfriend continues preparing the salad. I finish chatting and I see that she made two cups of a wonderful salad dressing. The ingredients are prepared and the salad dressing lathers the salad in a big stainless steel bowl.

'I'm staying at your parent's house tonight. Do they have enough room in their fridge?'

She hands me the phone to call and her dad answers, 'Sure. There's a small fridge downstairs that you can empty the beer out of. Replace the beer in the morning.'

She smiles, 'That's what I thought that he would say.'

We return to the sofa and time escapes us before it's clear that I have to leave. I arrive at her parent's house at 2:00 AM and I creep silently into their house so that I do not disturb them.

I see the college-dorm fridge on a table and open the door. The short shelf is way too short for the steel bowl. I think of my options while I move the beer out of the fridge.

I know what I'll do!

I'll tip the bowl on its side.

So I do.

The weight of the salad strains against the saran wrap cover and I see the dark, savory salad dressing dripping down the fridge.

Uh oh!

My weary brain searches for a solution. I can't bang around upstairs for paper-towel.

My socks!

I take one of my socks and sop up the salad dressing that dripped from the fridge onto the table.

I sigh. Disaster averted. Now what do I do with the salad?

Bags. I need food storage bags. So that means that I have to bang around in the kitchen after all.

So I creep upstairs through the silent house and furtively search through the cupboards and drawers to find, finally! Storage bags!


I need a spoon. So I take a teaspoon and tip-toe downstairs to the salad bowl, bags in hand.

Eventually, I transfer the salad to the bags, tie them and return the salad to the fridge.

I shrug.

Oh well.

I take my other sock and sop up the remaining dressing from the floor of the fridge and place the salad safely in the cold box.

And then after once again creeping up two stairways, dropping my cellphone, stumbling once or twice, I reach their spare bedroom and sleep.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

US Presidential Election

The excitement buzzing at the polling place yesterday was tangible. The heaviness in my heart was, too, while I carried my empty ballot, voted, and cast my choice into the pool.

So today my hopeful passion for a McCain-Palin victory is gone and in the aftermath, I will soon have a US President that I will never trust.

Perhaps liberals and Democrats have the same negative feeling about Bush and perhaps these feelings were the only political capital needed to sway the goofy popular vote.

The loudest message during the campaign was, 'See that guy? Yeah, Bush. I'm not anything like him. Vote for me!'

A close friend opined that people in Massachusetts would rather vote for a dead tree than anyone resembling a Bushie.

The victor is completely unlike Bush. It's true. And the pit of my stomach boils out of love and concern for America.

Until I know an answer, my concerned curiosity is unswayed regarding the simple citizenship of our new President. Was he born in Kenya and registered in Hawaii? Does his Presidency violate the simplest requirement set forth in our US Constitution?

I will never trust him because of this and all of the reasons listed previously in my posts.

So it is time to watch and to pay attention and perhaps use our American political system, while we still have it, to fight for the freedoms that are key to our fine nation.

I could start simply by asking:

Who paid for his ego bath last night as he celebrated his victory among throngs of enraptured followers?

As a taxpayer, I certainly hope that my federal taxes did not.

Is it too much to ask for a humble, frugal celebration in the time of economic decline or dare I say depression?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Question of Character

During the Keller at Large segment on WBZ radio today, Jon Keller said simply, 'The US Presidential election is coming down to a question of character.'

0 used his money to pay for a 30-minute infomercial last night. McCain is traveling by bus to campaign throughout northern Ohio.

0's character:
- family man
- foggy residency (I would really like to know, is he a US Citizen?)
- unexplained gaps in his personal history
- former cocaine user?
- associates with anti-Americans
- associates with anarchists
- unable to provide specifics on anything
- shows empathy, but little else

McCain's character:
- family man
- patriotic to a fault
- lives by blunt honesty
- 4th generation US military man
- scrappy fighter
- maverick
- loves America

So let's set the question of character against the failing world-wide economy. Things are bad, and they're going to get worse.

When the long, cold winter hits (either this year or next) and our fellow Americans are cold and hungry, would you rather have a US President standing by you who launched his campaign (but doesn't admit it anymore) from the living room of an anarchist (Bill Ayres)?

Or would you rather have McCain standing by you, who sacrificed his body as a POW because he refused to become political capital for the enemy and furthermore, encouraged his fellow Americans with smiles and hand gestures to keep up the good fight. Afterwards, the beatings doubled.

I have no clue who 0 will sell us out to when his money runs out and times get tough. But I know that McCain will give every ounce of his resources and energy to the America that I also know and love.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Playing the 'Follow the Money' Game

I played the 'follow the money game' last night as it relates to national politics.

In business, to winnow truth from an unclear political situation, the follow the money game reveals who has resources, influence, and power and who stands to profit the most from any action.

Time and time again, I hear the media explain that 0 wants to prop up the middle class by taking money from the rich. And then I consider how much money 0 raised to spend dominating the media outlets and cause a frenzy among his supporters.

My mom said eloquently, 'I don't believe that his money comes in $5 and $20 donations.'

Neither do I.

Gobs and gobs of money means that someone who is rich gave it up.

But does any reasonable person buy this sales pitch:

"'re rich! Since you are rich, give me your money to elect me! And then after I get elected, I'll take the rest of your money and give it away!"

I believe that many rich people live vacant, lonely lives; but I never thought of them as fools.

So who would gain by giving 0 money?

The only place that I know of that has gobs of money from decades of profit is China.


Dumbfounded, I blinked as I discussed these topics with my mother last night.

Towards the end of our conversation, I said quietly, 'It would be so much different if the situation wasn't real. But it is real.'

She simply nodded and we looked to the floor.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Conscience Versus Media Bias

I write for a living and there are flashes of time where I doubt the words that I pen.

With my technical writing, I have to carefully consider each word and step in procedures because revenue and livelihood hang in the balance.

So I relate intimately to an article by Michael S. Malone that is posted on The article explains the writer's journalistic experience and contrasts his humble integrity against the travesty of media bias in our current US Presidential election.

Media's Presidential Bias and Decline, by Michael S. Malone

If you are kind enough to read my words, you see clearly where my heart lies in the current US Presidential election. But I accept a future that goes contrary to my bias and one that is unknown, with silver-linings that are obscure in the moment, but do not appear for years. I want McCain to win: pure and simple. What is meant to happen will and I simply have my pen and a single vote.

However, the media bias as Malone describes corrupts the entire process. Our US Constitution guarantees us the right to vote and we should be able to trust the media to present balanced information so that we can judiciously exercise our right.

Time is winding down on the election and my last desperate thought is that my fellow Americans will put pen to ballot and be served by conscience to choose a candidate based on merits rather than a focused bias in the media.

Since the merits of the candidates are unclear and clouded, I have to trust conscience to sway the balance in our heart of hearts.

Because as ink touches paper, conscience ultimately decides.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Politics on the School Bus

The school bus was pulsing with energy from 39 people in our soccer program. The bus lumbered along towards Foxboro and a NE Revolution soccer game after we wrapped up our local soccer season earlier in the day.

Another coach and I sat together, weary. We wrapped up one of the most rewarding, yet trying seasons and talked intermittently as we rested during the bus ride.

As you know, US Presidential politics have been on my mind lately and I explored many points of view as demonstrated in my blog postings. As the bus moved, eventually our discussion turned to politics.

The other coach explained that he is a conservative Democrat and I am a moderate Republican.

His point: the government is too big for one person, the US President, to make a big difference.

My counter point (that I thought of later): then why are liberals so concerned about Bush?

He respected my point of view and I his. We explored corruption in upper management. We discussed social issues like abortion. He explained his odd track record of the anti-vote where he always votes for the loser in a US Presidential race.

The bus full of soccer enthusiasts saw the stadium lit up as we approached the parking lot.

He turns, 'Tim. Listen, you do know that 0 is going be elected, right?'


'And you do know that he will be assassinated, right?'

'Yes, I thought of that, too.'

And we both shrugged a little and looked into an uncertain future.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Family Growth

My sister Amy delivered twin boys today. Their names are Michael David Koukkari and Colin Douglas Koukkari. Michael was born 5 pounds 9 ounces, and Colin 5 pounds 1 ounce.

Michael had some issues with blood sugar so he's getting some special care, but otherwise mother and sons are doing well. I coached a soccer game tonight so I couldn't see them, but I plan to see them tomorrow night.

Monday, October 13, 2008


I rarely see the birds in the houses that my niece designed, but the year went well.

Birdhouse at Tims House

I hope to see my tenants again next spring.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Now I see the communist allegation in action


After thinking about this post more, my ideas reflect how I felt the night of the presidential debate, but I see many inaccuracies and leaps of logic that I would need to research to be confident in.

I'm worried about the state of the economy in the world. I don't see 0 as a person who can solve our problems as you undoubtedly see clearly in my opinions.

The root of the problem in my opinion, is not corruption in the upper echelon of capitalism's management; but in the very fabric of unchecked materialism in our society. We as a whole careened wildly from basic needs into satisfying unrealistic wants.

And what is happening, in my opinion, is a social correction as much as an economic correction. We are adjusting to a more common and realistic lifestyle.

As my friend Derek researched in the belly of the beast in lower-Manhattan. Things are bad now, and they're going to get a lot worse. Along that line, we need the best and the brightest fully engaged to ease the transition to a more fundamental economy.

Rather than beat down the guys at the top, let's leave them alone so that they can do their job.

**end of update**

During the debate tonight, I heard a comment in 0's opening remarks that sent a stream of dominoes falling in my thoughts and helped me understand the poisonous nature of the communist influence in 0's upbringing.

'We have to hold the big CEOs accountable and in my opinion fire them!'

I'll circle back to my reaction to this comment after I relate the statement to my experience in business.

My job is temporarily difficult. Three levels of management are giving mixed messages for the direction of our writing team. My mission is clear, but only internally because of my values, that I am going to produce world-class information for our customers.

Like any good capitalist, I evaluate my resources, identify the challenges, identify the needs of the consumer, roll up my sleeves and get to work.

Things line up easily in my thoughts until I get to the internal challenges. To get permission and support, how do I reconcile the the mixed messages from three levels of management?

Do I stay loyal to my direct manager? Do I cater to my second line? Or shoot for the moon and trust my third line and work to his constraints?

I don't know. Usually I just follow my inner guide and hope for the best, knowing full well that any task cannot satisfy all three people and I'll get pressure. Maybe even a good business-style whooping. And I think about all of this often. What do I do?


But notice. Where is the customer in this?

I'm too busy fighting internal battles to keep the customer in mind.

How efficient is this?

Luckily in my job, my fourth line manager, the CEO, is someone that I trust. He speaks plainly. He sets a clear vision that I relate to directly. I know exactly how to do my part to satisfy the vision.

In fact, last spring, he stood before the corporation and smiled saying, 'I have done this a couple of times before with similar businesses and we're going to grow the business to 2 billion dollars.'

Trust. How refreshing.

The CEO is very likely independently wealthy and in my opinion he earned every penny during his career. He has charisma, establishes trust, and has a proven track record. He's even transparent and it's easy to see how he is growing the business.

But wait, 0 said that we'll have to fire this guy and certainly people in his cohort. He's obviously doing something very, very bad to me, my family, and my community.

Let's go with the idea that my CEO is fired for a minute, Suppose that he's gone and my third-line manager gets promoted to CEO. When the old CEO is fired, I lose my comfort until my third-line finds his feet as a CEO. Or maybe he doesn't. Maybe he declines the promotion so that he can focus on what he does well.

So we'll go out into the market to find another charismatic CEO with a strong track record. There are plenty of them who are unemployed after 0 fired them all.


None of them want the job. Because if they succeed, they're going to get fired. If they take the job, the physical, emotional, and intellectual sacrifices that they make will not be rewarded financially because 0 took their financial incentive away, too.

I'll never be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I suspect that the CEO's are taking regular people jobs. They're packing boxes in some non-descript warehouse at the level that 0 wants for everyone.

Where does this leave me? Focusing on endless internal battles and skirmishes while the needs of the customer fade away.

From the Merriam Webster online dictionary:
Communism: a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed

With 0 at the helm, do you see, as I do, how everyone is equal when the CEOs are tucked safely away in the warehouse and we all just work in chaos without leadership?

The poisonous communist influence during 0's upbringing is crystal clear to me after I heard him debate McCain tonight.


I hope that the majority of Americans see what I see.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


After several weeks of not going, I walked down to the brook yesterday and was surprised to see a windfall.

Trees Down at the Brook

Lightning struck a different, equally sized white pine last summer and now this.

I'm trying to figure out how to harvest the windfall.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Continuing Direct Welfare

Perhaps I repeat, but I see a train wreck approaching. So I'll tell the tale again, winding through history and ending with presidential politics.

The first textile mills in the United States were in New Ipswich and downriver in Greenville.


In the late 1800s, Greenville boomed and had enough economic clout that a small portion of Mason was carved out and Greenville became its own town. Neighborhoods with urban density sprung up to house the mill workers.

The water power was perfect for the mills. Business and life was good.



The citizens decided that the railway should not pass through the town and was diverted to Fitchburg. Fitchburg boomed. Greenville declined.

Time marched onward. The dense population in Greenville found fewer jobs in the mills so the citizens traveled out of town for work. Less money flowed in Greenville.

The New Hampshire property tax system penalized Greenville because there simply was not enough land to tax. Tax rates increased.

Due to the urban population density, state and federal law dictated that Greenville provide city services such as sewage and water to all its residents. Costs soared. Taxes increased.

Time marched onwards and the mills went dormant so the economic basis withered away. A food processing mill started. Some other businesses appeared, but all the money was largely outside of the diminutive town borders.

Greenville joined Mason and New Ipswich to form a regional school system named Mascenic. Since property taxes fuel the state and local coffers, the tax rate in Greenville was higher than New Ipswich and Mason. There simply isn't enough land.

I own property in New Ipswich and the majority of my taxes pay for the Mascenic school system. My taxes subsidize Greenville since the town is a depressed town. What does this mean? Without the Greenville subsidy, my tax rate would be a few points, a few hundred dollars less annually.

I know the teachers, curriculum, administration, and the children at Mascenic. I interact with the parents of the elementary and middle-school aged children through the local soccer program. In 1989, I graduated as valedictorian from Mascenic.

The Greenville subsidy of a few hundred dollars each year only makes sense.

Annually, I inspect the Mascenic budget report so I know that my brother-in-law who teaches at Mascenic is accurate when he says, 'Mascenic may not offer a world class education, but everything is solid. And the community is surely getting a bargain.'

Mascenic routinely rates towards the bottom in New Hampshire in per student-capita spending.

My direct subsidy helps the community that I love. This is, in my opinion, the perfect welfare system.

This relates to my deep fear on a national level. I am deathly afraid that if McCain-Palin loses, the democratic regime will pervert this perfect system.

They will take more of my money in Federal taxes and attempt to subsidize communities in equal need throughout the country and world.

But the system is not perfect on a national bureaucratic scale, as it is on my local level. The possibility for corruption and waste is vast. Who has the energy and calling to inspect money flowing to far-away places?

The less money that I have, sent into a far away, un-inspectable destination, means the less property that I can own locally. And my local subsidy dries up.

The problem doesn't go away, but perhaps the citizens of Greenville will. Or if they stay, I and like-minded people will need to solve the subsidy problem despite the federal government.

I desperately hope that McCain-Palin wins the upcoming election.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

*giggle* Wave! *giggle*

The morning air is crisp now and I drive over one of a never ending string of hills on my way to work.

I grimace because over the hilltop, I see yellow.

It's a school bus and I'm first in line behind them.

The angle of the sun illuminates the parents and their small children who look both ways and the children furtively cross the street to the bus.

The older kids in the back of the bus are rowdy.

Soon I catch their attention and a pack of kids stare at me wide-eyed.

A girl kneels on the last seat and impulsively waves.

I grin and my fingers on the steering wheel fan into a wave.

Inside the bus, I see an eruption of waving as my movement breaks their boredom!

I smile at the enthusiastic kids waving and waving at me.

I open my fingers again to wave as I shift slowly through the gears as I travel at the pace of the bus.

I smile and they all smile back.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Time and Consumables

Briefly, I have to dump a recurring thought here.

I walk into the kitchenette, dispense a cup of water into a paper cup, drink, and toss the paper cup into the trash.

How very American!

However, oftentimes, I take a little mental time travel related to our consumable lifestyle.

Imagine for a moment, that the cup is made of paper, the paper was made of a tree, the tree was in a forest for decades before it was harvested.

So with a flick of the wrist, I fulfilled the purpose of all that time and energy. Water to lips. Drink. Discard. Move on.

Would we be better off if we ease ourselves away from such a consumable lifestyle?

I know that I should, but only intermittently do I carry a ceramic mug to drink water. And I should extend this to using a metal spoon that I wash after I eat oatmeal at work.

The silver lining to the upturn of fuel prices is that we all have to think more and more about this and not simply take a mental time travel from time to time as an intellectual exercise.

Imagine how much more efficient our world would be if we each make a small effort in this area.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Where did the water go, eh?

'So where do the drains on the pool deck go?' Tristan asks as we sit alongside the pool in a Days Inn in Sudbury, Canada.

'There's a surge tank below the deck with a pump in it. The water drains into the surge tank and the pump replenishes the water into the pool.'

Tristan nods.

'So if 30 fat guys jump into the pool, the water goes into the surge tank until they get out. This way the water level remains the same.'

Our conversation drifts off and four college-age couples giggle and mill around the changing rooms and sauna.

I turn to Tristan, 'You going to swim?'

'No, it's too cold.'

I suspect that he's concealing a smile.

'Cannonball.' I say smiling at him, looking from him to the water in the small kidney bean shaped pool.

He frowns his dissent.

A college-age girl peeks into the men's changing room to yell at a boy in the shower. She lets the door slam and heads to the sauna.

'Oh, c'mon. Cannonball!' I push Tristan harder. He's a big boy. A cannonball would be funny!

He frowns again.

The men's dressing door room opens and a shaggy, blond college age kid emerges and mills around the pool deck.

'C'mon. Cannonball. Or are you waiting for an audience?'


I smirk at him.

He jumps up and runs toward the pool, jumping, rotating, and plunging his large body into the water.


A column of water shoots up and sprays the ceiling. Waves roll over the pool edge onto the deck.

I start laughing and Tristan bobs up for air, laughing.

The shaggy, blond Canadian boy laughs too and ask simply, 'Where did the water go, eh?'

Tristan pulls himself out of the water onto the flooded deck, water swirling into the surge tank drains.

We're laughing.

The sauna door opens and a girl comes out to ask what happened. The shaggy blond boy talks quietly to her and I nudge Tristan.

'You got an audience, do it again!'

Four steps, he launches toward the pool, rotates perfectly again.


The water sprays the ceiling again in front of an even bigger audience.

Soon the entire sauna empties as Tristan emerges, dripping from the pool. A couple and their young son are trying to get into the pool house.

The girls interest peaks and they urge Tristan to do another cannonball. I up the ante and appeal to his sense of responsibility, 'Quick before you influence the kid trying to get in here. Someone hold the door!'

Laughing, giggling, Tristan once again darts towards the pool, jumps, and rotates perfectly.


Water again sprays the ceiling, waves churning violently in the pool, and I dart over to rescue his clothes on the increasingly wet pool deck.

I look at Tristan as he sits again. We're both laughing until we double over and tears well in our eyes.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My Heroes

We have a new wave of co-workers in manufacturing, the contractors, in the office.

Moments ago, I brewed a cup of tea in our small kitchen, and my heroes, the contractors, were sitting around the coffee table on their break.

The Asian woman asks emphatically of an Indian woman, 'Tell me, what do you want for your children? You realize that there is a huge difference between wants and needs, right? We all want a nice car, we all want a nice house, we all want; but what do we really need?'

The lively debate continued as my tea brewed, steaming in my cup.

Another woman offers, 'When my grandson came along, he became the most important thing in my life. The world can blow up, but as long as I have my grandson, I don't care.'

An Indian woman offered her point of view, and the man at the table chimed in, too.

The Asian said, 'But in my country there are so many people who do not get off their ass. They just sit there and don't realize that they need to work for a living.'

I smiled and my heart swelled, but returned to sadness because I am afraid of how few in my engineering and business cohort have such clarity on the wants versus needs debate. Again, refer to my other posts of how the media poisons us, but I digress.

My mind neatly fit this vignette in the kitchen into other stories that I glean from our manufacturing staff, my heroes. I talk to the Vietnamese man who just purchased solar panels and started taking scientific data from it so that he can build his business based on science. Perfect.

After work one day we stood in the entryway and he proudly showed me the design for his business. In halted, unsmooth English, he explained that his brother-in-law in Vietnam has a manufacturing house with 400 workers and all he has to do is open the pipeline for solar equipment. But he has to get the data first.

Furthermore, he explained how the solar panels harvest photons from the sun.

He'll be a millionaire someday, and soon.

I see so many people in my economic cohort that miss the vibrant life of my heroes. We count calories and debate the merits of our 401(k) investment strategy. We calculate our green potential and our carbon footprint because the media tells us so.

But my heroes are here among us. They debate. They explore. They live. They care because they have nothing else, but the true American dream. They are finding their way to explore, grow within, and celebrate the American freedoms.

I joke about this often by saying simply, 'I never want to go too far away from the bottom deck of the Titanic.'

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Sentimental Chicken

Earlier today, I walked with my semi-retired co-worker to a conference room and we chatted casually. When it was my turn to share, I reflected on the family picnic and processing chickens.

As usual with the elderly set, his eyes lit up and he listened intently to the details of my chicken story. Most elderly people that I talk to share their own sentimental stories of raising chickens. And so did my co-worker retell the tale of headless chickens running around during his childhood.

I mentioned this elsewhere in my blog, but it is worth repeating that the general American, shrink-wrapped lifestyle is moving us away from a more common history. It's great to share with the elderly, but at the same time, a bit sad that such an integral part of daily life is slipping away.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Family Picnic - 2008

When we were done and the well water smelled of New Hampshire granite, my brother-in-law walked up the slope saying, 'If this were my house, digging a hole that deep would have taken me hours.'

I smiled as I hosed down the area that we had processed chickens at sunrise. 'My property is good for digging holes.'

Prior to this, we processed four broilers and while I cleaned them inside, he dispatched my hen-beating rooster with a .22. The overall work was simple today and one of the broilers had, as I suspected, some type of birth defect as evidenced by a short neck and a curved torso.

I saved the chicken livers for my friend to make pate (I look forward to tasting it) and I also look forward to a chicken dinner at the picnic later today.

I expect over 80 people since my first cousin once removed is getting married next weekend. I think that many additional people will come to the picnic who will be enjoying the whole week for a late-summer vacation.

When I associate with people at work or in my volunteer efforts, my lifestyle both amuses and shocks people. Some people cannot see me as a farmer responsible for raising some of my own food. And others wonder if having 80 of my relatives here for a picnic is a good thing or a bad thing.

I smile.

Usually the Family Picnic is the best day of the year.


The day didn't disappoint.

Family Picnic 2008

Although, as most of us huddled under canopies during a ten-minute rain shower, I asked my second-eldest aunt, 'Do you remember a time when a Family Picnic was rained out?'

Without even blinking, she replied. 'No never.'

Friday, August 8, 2008

Political Thinking: tax cuts and consumerism

During my ride into work, I tried to think about work. I really did. But my thoughts wandered into some political thinking.

The following topics need research, but I do not want to lose the theories. I think more and more about politics lately for some reason.

Several weeks ago, someone sent me an e-mail with a comparison of income and savings before and after the Bush tax cuts. The numbers were staggering.

I pay $10 to $15K USD in taxes a year. If Obama wins and repeals the tax cuts, I will end up paying more than $20K USD in taxes. That's huge.

So my thoughts wandered and I started assembling concepts while I drove to work.

I started with a pervasive thought from my good friend Derek. He talked to folks in the belly of capitalism in lower Manhattan who correlated television watching to our rampant consumerism. People now feel entitled to goods and services beyond their means by both advertising and the content of television programming.

(As an aside, the advice was 'kill your TV' and following suit, I haven't turned on my TV all summer. It's going well. Life is more clear and present, but I digress.)

My thinking branched into two concepts. The first concept was a question, really, on whether or not editors in Hollywood consider the consumerism value in programming.

The shows that I like never last long. In recent history, I loved 'Life With Bonnie' and 'Less than Perfect'. There wasn't much consumerism there. Blap. Cut. Off the air. But I marvel at the wide appeal that horrible shows like 'Desperate Housewives' have on the world. There is a ton of consumerism in that show, where people can fantasize and aspire to rise their hovels into the affluence on Wisteria lane.

The second concept is that from a practical point of view, if people are going to achieve the promise of consumerism, they need money. So I realized the tie between conservative economics and the liberal nature of programming.

It was almost as though someone drew up a covert, natural contract to the effect, 'Fine if the American people want to elevate their lifestyles above their natural ways and means, we'll put more money in their pockets to spend as they wish.' TAX CUT!

So up and down the socio-economic scale, people can get frilly coffee instead of drinking water. They can embellish their consumerism to lean upwards toward Wisteria lane.

But what happens when the tax cuts are repealed. Now we're stuck. We want to sustain our habits and buy frilly junk. But we can't. Because more money (in my case upwards of $8K USD) will go to the Federal government and only a tiny bit returns to me.

The Obama regime might retort and say, 'Oh, but we'll help you tired and poor by giving you Federal money.' And I can reply from the experience in all of my volunteer positions, 'Mr. Obama. I can't find people to volunteer to fog a mirror. I'd turn cartwheels if I could find a volunteer who could fill out a grant for your, I am sorry, ~my~ federal money.'

So I see a big trap. Do you?

Repeal the tax cuts and everyone has less money. And with less money, we're unable to fulfill the consumerism dream. So everyone feels repressed. Eventually, we will be repressed and despite the whole rebel yell for loss of freedoms in the Bush administration, we'll later have loss of economic freedom which means loss of our choice to aspire to the lifestyle set before us.

I much prefer to keep my money at my disposal to do as I see fit. If I pay $8K more in federal taxes, I doubt that I will have extra to give to local organizations and directly impact my local community.

That's what I care about the most.

All of this needs deeper research, but I didn't want to lose the theory so here it is.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Farmer's Club

Over twenty years ago as a freshman in high school, I rode the soccer bus to a game with the varsity team. I fell into a thorough conversation about trees and forests with a player older than I. Our enthusiasm ratcheted upwards until he cries out loudly, describing a tree with arms circled wide to demonstrate, 'It was HUGE!!!'

The busload of our teammates stopped and started giving him the raspberries for such a display of well, I don't know.

What I didn't know then, but I am starting to see now is that he and I were new members in the local farmer's club. The sweeper on the same soccer team is a full-time farmer. His friend is a hobby farmer and now my assistant coach administrator for the local youth soccer team.

The guy who described a huge tree is a science teacher at our high school.

And as I sit and write, I am contemplating the next step for a broiler with a broken leg (or wing?) in the brooder down below (written as I hear my rooster crow).

The four of us and others are part of a small club in the local area who wake at sunrise and care about being a steward to the land.

There are other clubs in town and by club, I don't mean anything formal, just a clear collection of like-minded people who share a common interest.

There's a golfer's club intent of physical sports, gamesmanship, socializing, and pride (I guess). There are bands of mothers, and home schoolers, and clubs based on heritage and faith.

And then there are us farmers who undoubtedly think about things like I do. For example, I posed this scenario and question to my friend who is involved with soccer.

'My uncle and I let the field grow between our houses for the bob-a-link birds and we were thinking that my cousin could use the hay. Do you think that Matt would hay it when he does Dixie's fields?'

And the response was that he might if we could get his attention because Matt does charitable work like that often. But if I call John or bump into Mike, I might ask them, too.

'And of course,' I added, 'I'd be happy to trade a day's labor for the hay, because I have been bugging Mike about getting on the haying crew anyway.'

So while the other clubs in town brag and jeer over a well (or poorly) played ball split off into the woods, when we get together, we'll talk about how to preserve nutrients in first cut hay, how to diagnose health problems in chickens, what to do when raccoons visit the henhouse, and so on.

My fourth grade teacher said, 'Ok, kids. I want you to write a paragraph about something that is ineffable. Ineffable is something that cannot be described.'

That's how I feel about the fundamental and magnetic attraction I have to my place in the farmer's club. Words fail me. Farming is ineffable to be so close to the land, the outdoors, the potential that we feel charged with harnessing, preserving, expanding for ourselves and our communities.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Offer on the Homestead

"My great-grandfather died in this room. And many of my aunts and uncles were born in here." I say this casually to the realtor who has no deep sense of the homestead like I do.

Earlier, I walked easily up the stairs from the driveway as hundreds of thousands of my relatives footsteps traveled before me. The rain fell gently on the worn roof and cascaded down off the uneven eaves.

The Homestead In Late Winter

Last weekend, my uncle and I casually spoke about the house and property where he was born. I made a passing comment that tripped a domino in his mind. We talked and made a verbal, family-based agreement to make an offer on the homestead.

One of the local papers indicated an auction today and last night, my uncle's voice was on my answering machine. 'Give me a call, Tim. There has been a big change.'

The change is that there is no auction and the house is on the market for a fixed price that is in my price range.

So I didn't sleep and I felt like I barely worked this morning before I left to meet the realtor. I arrived at home and trudged wearing rain gear from my property to the homestead.

History and comfort and memory flooded back. Although the building is simply wood, nails, bricks, and windows; the structure has stories and secrets within its walls. And the well-worn steps made me recall hours and days spent with various family members.

My approach is that if I am to buy the homestead, it will be easy. So I guide the realtor around the house, talking incessantly. We are upstairs and I hear my uncle enter. The realtor doesn't.

Edwin joins us upstairs and I ask him if some hidden space used to be open. We walk into one of five bedrooms and I ask Edwin, 'Was this your room?'

'Oh yeah. This one and that one,' as he points to the rear of the building, 'But that one in the front was always my sisters. We never got to use that room.'

We walk through the building and my uncle tells more stories. We go downstairs to discuss the finer points of the heating system, water, electricity and so on.

Edwin leaves.

The realtor shares the simple, practical sense that I have for the value of the house. He gives me insight into the process and I absorb what he says. He suggests a price and I verbalize my intent back to him.

I make the offer and now I wait.

My mind is full of an extensive laundry list of dominoes that must fall in a syncopated sequence.

At the realtor's car before he leaves, I point up to my current house and say, 'I imagine this field open all the way to my house up there.' I see delight in the realtor's eyes as though he understands the connection.

He leaves.

My gaze remains on the building and the property as I am full of technical and business thoughts and comfortable emotion.

I return to my house.

I wait.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Old Man Pants

A Billy Joel song wakes me up at 3:52 AM today and by the time I brush aside the covers, the next song plays on my radio alarm clock. I lean up towards the end of the bed and stroke Nelja's fur.

I walk into the kitchen and flip on the light, pouring some food into the cat dish. My thoughts turn to my breakfast as I prepare to meet some other crazies at the Hillsborough Balloon Festival at 5:00 AM.

I hear Nelja's claws tick softly into the laminate flooring in the hallway. She walks slowly behind me toward the food dish.

Since she was sick earlier this week, now recovered, she moves and acts cautiously, perhaps a little tired.

But as I watch her walk I laugh inside. Every time that I see the back legs of a cat, any cat, while they walk, I can't help but think that it looks like baggy old man pants!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My Cat and the Garden Meal

Earlier tonight as I shucked fresh picked peas and snapped beans, I envisioned a story here about my home-grown meal consisting of beans, peas, an onion, potatoes, a beet, and two fresh eggs. I heard my cats running around. Life was good.

Soon my food was boiling, microwaving, or frying on the stove.

I called my neighboring uncle to talk about his recent trip overseas and I walked to the picture window. I noticed drool on the floor. Curious.

Then I noticed some more and I took keener interest.

In the kitchen, I looked towards the bay windows and I see my cat Nelja looking at me, drooling and breathing quickly. Oh boy.

'I have to go and investigate this more.' I hung up the phone.

Childhood stories of rabies circled in my thoughts. My anxiety welled up and I wondered if Nelja had rabies. Instinctively, I shied away from her.

I flipped open the phone book and called the local vet. The lady who answered assured me that any animal with rabies has to have an open gash from a rabid animal. And symptoms develop over two weeks before the mouth foams. She politely explained that they were closing, but I could call the emergency vet in Manchester.

I did. The kind lady answered my questions, gave me directions, and explained that the emergency office visit was $75.00 and that included a consult with various options. She also referred me to the national animal poison control hotline. I called and for $60.00 I could talk to an expert.

I waited and investigated.

I couldn't think of any poisons that Nelja could have gotten into. I walked into the basement, and I saw that she vomited several times, but each time was simply undigested food. There was nothing unusual.

She moved around and followed me. She crouched on all fours, trembling and breathing quickly. This reminded me of the sweetest thing, when she was 6 months old and recovering from being spayed. She sat for hours trembling, purring on my chest while she bravely withstood the pain.

Memories like this welled up emotion inside.

My thoughts cycled into a series of what-ifs. What if this is my last night with her? What if she dies? What if she needs to be put to sleep? What is the best way to do that?

I approached her with a washcloth to wipe away the drool. I cleaned her. When I touched her haunches, she startled. I breathed deeply and retreated upstairs, thinking. The cat moved to the foot of the stairs.

I called my friend and his wife later called me back. I contacted someone online. I called a recent date who has experience with animals.

Briefly, I panicked.

While I talked to my friend's wife, I worked through some of the technical and emotional aspects of my situation. She bravely shared her experiences. I listened. She narrowed down Nelja's plight to a gastro-intestinal distress and thought it was good that there was no diareah or discolored vomit.

Then the simple, obvious question emerged, 'How is she now?'

I didn't know.

It had been a half-hour since I watched Nelja curl up in safety under the desk in my clutter room. My imagination had been casting her drifting peacefully into sleep forever.

She suggested that I investigate, and call her later with an update.

Nelja wasn't there.

I looked in the spare bedroom, and she sat on her four haunches, looking at me as I approached.

I extended my hand. She sniffed it. I touched her. She purred.

I left to get a plate of water, returning with it to encourage her to drink. She took no interest.

I touched my finger in the water and touched her nose. She licked the water droplet. I moved to the bathroom where her water was. Somehow or other, she followed and I started to pet her. She purred.

Eventually, she started drinking water and then later slowly walked to eat something from the food dish. And then she walked past my familiar seat and sat on a chair arm next to an open window, enjoying the cool breeze.

She seemed normal, but tired.

At some point during the concerned period tonight, I ate my meal of two fried eggs and fresh vegetables. Despite the anxiety and potential deep sadness, I enjoyed the fruits of my farming and gardening.

The circle of life nearly closed today for my dear cat Nelja, but she persists. Laying outstretched now, she sleeps on the chair next to mine as she enjoys the cool breeze pouring in the window.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mountains and Fresh Water

I'm catching my breath.

Yesterday morning, I woke before sunrise and met some people from the New Hampshire Flickr Group to climb Pack Monadnock and take photos at first light.

The dew point hovered at the temperature and we had fog and billowy clouds rolling over us until 7:30 or so when sunlight started to shine through.

Glen at the Pack Monadnock Meetup

After this, four of us went for breakfast in Peterborough before I returned home and went to church. At church, a cousin asked me if I would go fly fishing at dusk at Waterloom Pond. I smiled, sure.

After church, I went to Concord, NH for a meetup at Bagel Works where 18 of us from the photography club are hanging printed, framed works. After eating a quick meal at Subway, we left.

When I returned home, I sat down for a minute to breath and I nearly fell asleep. But I took my fly fishing gear with me and went to the pond and the story begins...

We wade into knee-deep water and the lines start whistling through the air as our flies softly plop onto the water. The sun is a few degrees above the horizon and casts glorious colors into the sky and reflected in the dark water.

Dean Fishing at Waterloom Pond

'Just wait, Tim. Last night, I was here and when these moths hatch, the fish go crazy! But we have to wait for the sun to go way down before it starts.'

We fish. I catch a variety of sunfish, perch, and shad (we think).

Fish start to surface. Their mouths break the surface of the water.

'See those wings floating by on the surface of the water?' My cousin points out to me. 'That's a moth that is hatching and flying for the first time.'

I start seeing the wings pointing straight to the sky. And the fish rise close to the hatchling moths. The circle of life is tight tonight.

Men in a boat across the pond struggle to start their motor, running it intermittently while the darkness deepens.

Faint colors continue to paint the sky and the reflected water as we see fish surfacing to eat bugs.

We continue to catch fish. I land a small, large-mouth bass.

The pond empties of everyone else yet we wait as the nighttime envelops us, our lines whistling through the air as we drop the flies where the fish are.

Finally, the magical hour starts and fish all through the pond start surfacing as we see hatch circles and corresponding fish going for the new moths.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fresh droppings.

I think to myself, 'This is a good place for deer.'

I turn and see them. A doe and two fawns look at me, the smallest fawn has spots.

Surprisingly, buck fever isn't setting in and I think clearly. I snap a photo, aware that the shutter speed is too slow. So I extend a tripod leg to stabilize the camera. Too slow again. I adjust the ISO to 1600, adjust the shutter speed, and start taking photos.

The deer remain frozen as if they are posing.

Deer looking back to see...

Finally, the doe turns and walks into the Souhegan, body lengthening as she springs once, twice to the other side. The fawns follow.

I walk directly towards where I saw the deer, through the river and upstream on the far bank. I cross again and I look through the field to see a different deer making its way from right to left in the waist-deep grass. The doe moves slowly from the woods to the river, looking at me.

I set the tripod down and snap photos until I see her pass. Without thinking, I try to escape an angry bumble bee buzzing around my head, and I startle the doe. I see the doe spring urgently upstream along the far bank away from me. With more care, I could have stalked her and made a better shot.

After crossing the river again, I walk through the waist-deep grass, through the edge of the cornfield and see the cellar hole for my great-grandparent's house. The light isn't interesting, but I take a photo and walk down into the river again to see the waterfall under Warwick Mills.

The Cellar Hole at Ma and Pa's House

The fog continues. The skies are dark, heavy. Today is day three of a five-day weekend and I walk home as the dark edges of lonliness press inward.

Yellow Mushroom Kind of Day

Sunday, June 29, 2008

New Hampshire Comfort

We're fortunate that the severe weather spared us for the most part except for some severe storms in the urban Boston area. This weekend is rainy, overcast, and cool, but our gardens are thriving with the regular watering from above.

Today is an unscheduled day for me. My to-do list from a month ago is largely complete and I'm reluctant to start a new list. I woke at 5:00 AM today, but lingered in bed until 6:30 when I couldn't handle it anymore and I started my day. So in this limbo time between waking and waiting for my greater family to be available socially, I feel like writing. I don't have any discrete or concrete ideas, but yet I write.

A year ago, I most likely blogged from Brooklyn where the newness and excitement were fresh and vivid. I often wish that the thrill could continue, but I also know that the gnawing sense of lonliness in Brooklyn would not be good for me. Because in the steel, bricks, and mortar of Brooklyn, I would pine for quiet comfort, but here I simply look out my window and marvel at the dew-heavy grass bending with ripe, purple grass-seed. Comfort.

Yesterday, my nieces spent the afternoon here and I got another sip of the elixir of having a family, and I also felt the encroaching weariness of tending to the relentless needs of dependent children. My brother-in-law and sister spent the afternoon grazing on the greener grass of time without kids, and I grazed on the greener grass of having children around.

We did cool things.

We picked peas from Edwin's garden. We watched a little TV at his house and afterwards they pointed out potato bugs that I picked and we fed to my hens. We watched the little chicks for a while and fed them worms. We picked lettuce, beet greens, and swiss chard from my meager gardens, washing and drying the leafy greens for supper. Inside my house, we baked cornbread and a cake from a box. I prepared two types of macaroni and cheese and we mixed them together and discussed how it tasted.

My niece discovered my jelly samples given to my by a first cousin, so we debated the merits of spicey apple jelly versus wanda lime mango preserve (or something like that). Eventually we spread two flavors on cornbread and futher discussed the merits of the jellies. The same niece continued her discovery of an expander worn in her top palate.


A chick-a-dee just went into my eldest niece's birdhouse. There has been a fierce, non-stop bird battle recently because the house wrens are defending their turf from the inward migration of chick-a-dees. All four houses are hot properties and I watch birds flitter around testing each house one by one.

My television has been off for nearly a month, only on during Betsey's visit while we watched an episode of FireFly. Today I am tempted to turn it on, but that would require hooking up the powered antenna and even though episodes of The Three Stooges are a strong draw, I'll do without (or I could walk to Edwin's to watch TV).

Something unexpected happened in my experiment without television. I hear better. Recently on a prior weekend, I heard something so I looked to my left through the picture window. Nothing. I waited. Two turkey hens emerged and walked the line of the split rail fence towards Edwin's house.

It's easy now to hear the mailman approach and open my mail box. I hear other animals moving through the field or brush along the road. Maybe it's not that I hear better, but I know what normal is without the piped in cacophony of regular media.

Just now, I see a house wren pause on the fourth birdhouse and call out a message, as if she is saying 'Ok you chick-a-dees, take note of this skirmish in our epic battle for property. I ~landed~ here on the house. Oh wait, a worm. I better fly off and eat it.' As she flies away.

I know what normal sounds like because my windows are wide open in all but the most severe weather. The differences are easier to detect. As I wrote earlier, this is comfort to integrate myself here into nature and dwell on the mid-crest of a hill in southern NH.

Speaking of dwellings, the homestead is up for auction starting yesterday and the rumor is that the starting bid is $99K. I debated whether or not I should try to purchase the property, but in the end I decided to not stretch myself thinner than I have. The price is a bit steep for me right now and I would have to dedicate myself to renovating the old building because the bank wouldn't let me just knock it over into ruins. That costs time and money that I'm unwilling to give.

I still dream of joining the old homestead property back together, but for today, I am happy with what I have.

Yesterday , a half-dozen people from the New Hampshire Group on Flickr met at the Ponemah Bog in Amherst, NH at 5:00 AM. We took photos for a while and stood on a viewing platform and talked for nearly an hour. It was reminiscent of our respective youth where everyone was equal, happy to be together, and happy to share. comfort.

The Boardwalk Ponemah Bog Style

On the way back, another photographer (that I shared a ride with) and I stopped at Tucker's Brook and I took the oddest self-portrait that I have ever made. The pose was bred from a combination of encouragement of an online friend overseas, the work of Arno Minkonnen, and a bit of boredom after capturing most of the conventional shots at Tucker's Brook.

Tim at Tucker Brook

I always love to push the envelope into bizarro, but I keep looking at the shot with a raging internal debate to the tune of - leave it on Flickr? Take it down? Is it disturbing? Is it ok?

And I reflect on the succinct words from my friend Pat Henderson regarding good personal writing. If you're not trembling in a scary place while you write, dig deeper. That's how I feel about my self-portrait and for now, I'll leave it posted.

** final aside **

I see the buzzword 'change' in the recent US election and I'm confused. The verbs 'repair', 'correct', or 'renovate' all make more sense to me. I admit that many things are broken; so let's fix them. Service and repair is a humble and important job. I'm good at it. I know.

Change. Change to what? I am not comfortable with a 'change' indicated by exorbitant amounts of money spent ($4.00 gasoline anyone?) to flood some aptly (or unfortunately) named town with hyped-up people to deliver a specious message in a flashy way.

Flash, in my mind, usually indicates a weak foundation and makes me suspicious, nervous.

At a previous job, we hired a pair of horrible executives who directly added to the difficulty of my work as I tried to hold the world-wide installed base together. (That means that I was a key piece to our worldwide service and support organization, responsible for 10,000+ machines working properly.) I looked to a respected manager for help reconciling what was happening and also for support, because it was easy to see the impending mess that these two flashy guys would cause.

Things turned messy, too. I remember railing against technical problems that required buy-in and support from our flashy executives. The support wasn't there because they couldn't build credibility or trust with our customers. The customers were equally frustrated by messages without substance like I was.

I read the buzzword 'change' and see displays like the one in Unity that give me the same sinking sense of foreboding doom.

The managers reply to comfort me? 'These guys have a track record of two years between jobs and they move on. Be patient. Everyone knows that they are all sizzle and no steak.'

The only problem is that politics is not a minor corporate skirmish for a few hundred people's income. The risk of 'change' (to what?!?) is so much greater when it comes to our nation and our world.

I'm nervous.

** I guess that wasn't the end **

Besides, should we even trust ourselves in our inherent human frailty to direct change?

Still trying to add it up, while settling deeper into my personal political beliefs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reflection from the past, 'Uhmm...the pool is drained'

Before I tell the story about the pool being drained, here's a brief update after my last post. As you may have read, I lost three chicks and the guy at Blue Seal assured me that I could get replacements. So I waited until Saturday to pick up more layers when I got my four broilers, but by then there were no more layers left.

I talked to Becky (who is buying some started layers from me) tonight and she'll take four birds, and I'll keep the other layer. The birds are doing very well in the brooder and I trapped a raccoon last week that I think may have killed the chicks.

Earlier tonight, I was reminded of an event from twenty years ago when I managed the Town Pool.

I lived at home at my parent's house and was trying to sleep in on some random weekday.

The phone rings. I ignore it.

My mom answers and talks for a minute before calling down the basement stairs.


I groan and roll my eyes, sore, tired, 'What?'

'Phone. The pool's drained.'

Adrenaline hits me hard and my mind reels?


'One of your lifeguards is on the phone. Come talk to her.'

My mind races and I wonder what or how the pool can be drained? And more importantly, how can this be fixed? What now?

'Hello?' I ask into the phone.

'The pool's drained!'

'Uhm. What does that mean? You mean empty?'

'No. But it's drained.'

'By how much?'

'Maybe two feet? What should I do? There are kids here for lessons.'

'Uhmm...tell them to go home. I'll be right there.'

I grab a piece of fruit and I go outside and hop on my 10-speed bike, coasting down the driveway and riding the half-mile to the pool. My mind races as I wonder. What does it mean that the pool drained?

The 10-speed clicks as I coast into the pool parking lot and I look into the pool. Sure enough, the water is down by 18 inches or so. I wonder aloud, 'How does a pool lose 18 inches of water?'

From the pumphouse, I hear a strange sound and logic flashes through my thoughts and I know what happened.

I break into a smile, laughing. ' all the parents and tell them that lessons are cancelled. And get the hose and turn on the water. Maybe we'll need to buy water to get this thing filled up.' But inside my thoughts reel again wondering how we'll pay for the water.

The night before, I had asked a junior lifeguard to backwash the pool and that process involves flushing the filter with backpressure. The excess water drains a few hundred gallons of water that we refill with a hose.

I walk into the filter house and look at the valves to confirm my suspicion. The valve wasn't closed and the pool drained at a low rate all night.

After I close the valve, I walk into the poolhouse laughing, 'Uhm...I need to call the junior lifeguard. Wait til I wake him up with the same statement...the pool is drained!'

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Loss Hurts

Eventually, I saw a tiny slip of dried blood on the newspaper under the watering tray.

The entry point into the brooder was through an unsecured length of chicken netting and looking around I saw several places where the predator dug little holes in the dirt around the brooder. I suspect a mink.

After I took an inventory, I found that I lost three chicks including two black ones and another New Hampshire or Rhode Island Red.

I fed the remaining five chicks, cleaned the water tray, and secured the wire netting around the entry point. I covered another possible entry point with additional netting.

I moved the live trap from the garden to a spot under the tarp behind the brooder. I looked unsuccessfully for a rat trap that is hiding somewhere in my cluttered house.

My emotions led me to wax philosophically as I thought that everything has its natural duration. After a few years of raising chickens, I come to expect loss and short periods of time with these birds.


Loss hurts.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tractors, Farming, Photography, and a Mystery Revealed

Things are happening fast and furious in a Southern New Hampshire sort of way. The weekend has flown by without much time to reflect, but yesterday I took my eldest aunt to Danbury, NH to look at a Massey Ferguson garden tractor.

We had a pleasant conversation and seeing the tractor was worth the trip. I plan to buy it. The lady selling the tractor is a sister-in-law to a local teacher, and my aunt empathetically listened as she explained that her husband is in a nursing home, thus the tractor sale.

Our ride home was fun, punctuated by a stop for lunch and numerous stops for me to make progress on a NH Flickr Group project to capture a photo from every town in the state. And I also captured another NH State Marker sign for our collection, too.

Rain hammered down overnight and the rain tent that I constructed for the chicks worked well enough, although like a surrogate mother hen, I interrupted my sleep by checking on the little girls every hour or so. One hen, Sisu, was a bit bound up on Friday night and early Saturday morning, so I gently washed her backside so she can freely do her duty once again.

At 5:30 AM or so, I drove to Milford to meet a few guys from the NH Flickr Group and we took photos at Tucker's Falls. As usual, the venue did not disappoint for photogenic opportunities.

Tucker Brook 3

After braving the chilly wetness and intermittent rain, Glen and I went to Santos Dumont Coffee House for a quick bite to eat. While there, the concept of a forgotten frontier popped into my thoughts for a future story here on my blog.

The forgotten frontier in our over-indulgent lifestyle is simply dawn. Who would have known that I would meet others who revel in waking early to capture photos? And dawn brings the benefit of the beauty, calmness, and a sense of daily renewal. Do we ever stop to think that we only have a finite number of mornings to experience? Yet the majority of us slumber through this forgotten frontier.

I returned home and settled on my recliner to upload my photos. I heard a rustling sound outside my windows and turn to see a turkey hen walking past my bird houses along the fence. And a second one.

Quickly, I disconnected my camera and tried to find a good angle to capture a photo of the birds. They moved through the long grass into my uncle's garden so I called him and he went out to scare them off. They flew a hundred yards or so into our neighbor's trees.

Later I joined him in his garden and we talked and suddenly, I realized that it was most likely turkeys that ate the tops of my pea plants. They stuck their necks through the larger fence and thankfully, haven't figured out that they could fly in and destroy the garden.

My uncle agreed with me. I saw the lettuce plants and marigold starts that I gave him were thriving. He offered me a squash plant that accidentally started from a composted squash and he pulled a start out to see how deep the root system is.

After he went inside, I returned with a shovel to dig a squash start. I transplanted the plant into my lower garden in the hopes that I grow some squash that the deer will favor come hunting season.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chicks in the Summertime

I see sunshine cast through the trees that caresses the long grass in Edwin's field. The color is difficult to describe and nearly impossible to capture on film. But I should try. The color is equal parts grass and sunlight reflected in the dew and the result is vibrant, yet pale, milky green that shimmers in the midsummer breeze. I feel like I could look at it for hours.

Yesterday was a big day. My laying hen chicks arrived and I have to pick up the broiler chicks on Friday. I put the finishing touches on the brooder, I installed the heat lamp, and I marveled again and again at how beautiful and fragile young living things are.

My Chicks Arrived

Like their respective mother hens, I checked on them repeatedly, peeking in through the ventilation gaps in the brooder.

Oooh! A tiny hen planted her beak into the food and took a nap.

Another hen stretches and flops on her side.

Oh boy. What do we have here? A black, cross sex-link hen decides to bathe and walk in the watering tray, nearly wedging herself in!

A friend in the UK who is enthralled by my operation named one of the black chicks: Posh.

One of my co-workers told me that she was amazed that I would rearrange my schedule for chickens. I tried explaining that it was akin to her taking time off to bring her dog to the vet. She didn't buy it and I didn't push the topic too far.

The benefits to raising chickens are numerous. The emotional reward for cupping the chicks one-by-one in my hands, breathing on them to socialize them (I don't know if this works, but it's what I do), and directing them to their first sip of water fills me with indescribable good feeling.

And then worrying about them, watching them play tricks and do funny things is better than television. Speaking of television, I haven't turned mine on for over three weeks and I'm still standing.

From a long-term view and especially in light of our declining economy, preserving and sustaining a farming culture is important. We never know what will be necessary in the future.

I am grateful for periods of time like this. My rooster is crowing, my cats are relaxed and happy. My new chicks arrived. My gardens are doing well (although something, a deer maybe, ate only the tops of most of my pea plants), the weather is gorgeous. The sun is rising further and shining brightly now.

Life is good.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Cultural Exhange

'I feel like I am in a different country.' My eldest niece turns to me and says.

Last night, we sit in Gillette Stadium watching the Brazilian national soccer team play the Venezuelan national team. The stadium is nearly full of Brazilians of all shape and size wearing bright-yellow soccer jerseys and expressing their national pride.

Next to us sit four Latinos sans the Brazilian jerseys. The elder proudly wears cowboy clothes - boots, a brown leather vest, jeans, and a jacket. A strong man, he talks loud and proud in a mixture of Spanish and English. His Latino macho attitude is familiar to me.

At one point, he belly laughs when he rattles off some Spanish statement ending with 'Hugo Chavez! Hugo Chavez!' repeated apparently for good measure.

The Venezuelan team wins by a score of two to nil. The first goal is questionable as the Brazilians try to trap their offense offside, give up on the play amid vigorous protesting, while a Venezuelan approaches the keeper unopposed. Score!!!

The Venezuelan sitting next to me smiles and says softly, 'It is too easy.'

The second goal is brilliant and beautiful. During a rare Venezuelan attack, a player crosses the ball from the right corner of the 18 yard box, through traffic to land on the foot of a Venezuelan attacker - SCORE!!!

During the first half, the Brazilian crowd goes wild when #9 or #11 touches the ball, but in my impression, these players are too busy proudly being themselves to find a practical attack to exploit the Venezuelan defense. However, the sweeper for the Venezuelans is brilliant with his timing, risk taking, and execution.

He routinely thwarts the relentless advance of Brazil with some clever play that sets up an infrequent, but lethal attack by the Venezuelan offense.

One player, #5 on the Brazilian team plays like a thug.

Throughout the game, I vocalize many of my opinions, coaching my nieces who are enthralled by the game also. The dexterity and footwork of the players is breath-taking. Time and time again, the players use their skill to shield the defense and maneuver with graceful talent towards the goal.

My niece picks up on my analysis with her own, shouting frustrated at times like I am, 'Pass the ball cross-field!'

Our plan is to leave at an odd time to avoid the traffic, but my sister is reluctant and my nieces thankfully whine about going. This is the true mark that they enjoy their time.

We buy some Revolution T-shirts and linger for an hour or so in my sister's mini-van while we wait for traffic to ease up.

In my mind's eye, I reflect on the players footwork as they rolled the ball under their feet, swung circles around the ball, stutter stepped, and creatively touched the ball again and again.

Then it was an equal thrill to see my niece's eyes light up with similar eagerness for the soccer season to start once again this fall.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My Two Cents on Healthy Children

My brother and sister-in-law introduced a new Somero to the world today. His name is Jonathan Isaac Somero and he weighed 9 pounds, 12 ounces at birth and was 22 inches long.


On a related note, you'll see a link to Bonnie Harris Connective Parenting below because I discovered her work a few years ago when I dated someone with a then five year old son. I felt strongly that I needed to learn how to make a positive influence in her son's life. Bonnie's work resonates with me and surprisingly, many of the points that she makes work very well in the workplace, too.

But I digress.

One of my co-workers is passionate about fatherhood of his twin sons. We rode to lunch today to meet a mutual friend and we discussed the effort in our society to 'Say No to Drugs!' and 'Don't Drink and Drive' messages that pervade our media.

This is all critical, effective messaging.

While we discussed these topics, we started seeing room for growth and it was clear in our dialog that we as individuals and we as a greater society can do more.

Our thoughts centered on why kids turn to drugs and alcohol and what we might do to alleviate the need to take drugs and drink to excess rather than simply stop the self-destructive behavior.

Aside - I worked at IBM with a native Hawaiian who taught me a phrase 'nana i ke kumu' that means 'look to the source'. Sadly, Bob passed away from brain cancer during my tenure at IBM, but I'll always remember him imploring me, 'Always look to the source for the root of the problem, Tim. Nana i ke kumu. Don't stop until you find the source.'

As my co-worker and I talked, a few general concepts became clear. When emotionally and physically depleted, all humans are susceptible to self-destructive behavior. And if we human suffered chronic neglect, abuse, or stress in the past, that too, could lead someone to self-destructive behavior.

Our simplistic approach to extend 'Say No to Drugs!' would be to put children's needs first and foremost. Start with satisfying physical needs - nutrition, exercise, sleep - and move into satisfying emotional needs - comfort, affection, consistent and fair discipline, love.

Identify and satisfy the child's needs while the opportunity exists during the natural co-dependency of a child on adults. The desired long-term outcome is a removal of the pre-conditions that lead to taking drugs and drinking to excess. We produce healthier children.

But most importantly, we protect and preserve our greatest American natural resource - ourselves and our children.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Delight of Flight

I stand in the oil-worn floor at my auto mechanic's shop. He slowly types information in for my car inspection. I stare idly at the clutter and gradually realize that I'm looking at three model airplanes.

When he's done, Dan hands me my papers and breaks the silence.

'You're on Old Tenney. Who owns the ABC building? I need a place to fly my planes.'

I answer with what knowledge that I have and he talks about his model airplanes. One has a cracked fuselage. He hasn't flown the other one.

But most importantly, he needs a place to fly the planes because there are too many wires at the school up the road.

We finish talking and I leave.

Last night, I walk Old Tenney Road towards sunset with my camera. On my return, I have a fleeting idea that I could capture the reflection of the sunset off Furnace Brook by the old pump house. So I walk towards the ABC building where the pump house is.

I hear the sound first. The buzzing of model airplanes and I look over the ABC building to see planes buzzing, lifting, and rolling in their flight.

I walk the driveway, or should I say tarmac, and watch as one plane spirals down into the brook! The little crowd at the far end of the runway laughs! Apparently, the wing broke in mid flight and the young man returns with the plane, one foot drenched by the brook and muck that the plane landed in.

Ready For Takeoff 1

A young woman smiles and says, 'Dad wired the pilot in this plane to look either left or right depending on where you turn the plane.'

Dan beams!

I laugh as he prepares the plane for its first flight.

Taxi Down the Runway

Eventually, Dan warms the plane up with a taxi down the runway and eases the plane, motor screaming, for its first ever flight into the cool late afternoon air.

In Flight Photo

The little crowd is enthralled as Dan guides the plane higher, farther, swaying large circles around us and buzzing the parking lot for photo opportunity.

He calls one of his daughters over to see the controls and the girl laughs and refuses to try and fly it.

The plane soars, glides, rolls, and eases through the air. He makes a low pass over the field and begins another ascent.

'Oh no! Oh no!' Dan yells. 'This isn't good!' We watch stunned as the plane surges and the sound from the motor stutters.

'Oh no!'

The plane clips a small false olive tree and crashes into a patch of cat tails in the swampy channel that the Furnace Brook flows through.

Dan scurries along and I follow to see the wreck. We look into the swampy mess and predict where the brook runs. Dan walks to the far side of the brook and since I wear sandals, I decide to move in.

There's enough firm ground that I reach the plane at the same time Dan touches the edge of the brook on the far side.

'How's it look?'

'Good. There's fuel under the plane body.'

'That's ok.'

I feel a sting in my fingertip where I balance the plane off the hot exhaust system. Ouch!

I find a better place to carry the plane, I emerge from the muck to set the plane down on the pavement.

Dan's back and asks again, 'How does it look?'

'There is a little tape unfurled here.'

'It was like that before. She looks pretty good. Not a bad place to crash, I guess.'

I nod and smile. I said goodbye to the crowd and I walked home, listening to the buzzing of airplane motors as the crowd enjoyed the delight of flight.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Basketball Question

Gravel pops under my tires as I slowly ease the car past the basketball court. My eyes, and Erik, Troy, and Edwin's are all glued on the pack of young high school boys who are playing a game under the single hoop. More boys sit at a picnic table at the edge of the court.

Privately, we each debate if we should join them. Or challenge them. My thoughts sway between staying or leaving because for some reason I am strangely intimidated by the boys.

In our stoic Finnish way, we vocalize a decision to play. I stop the car and turn off the motor. Erik and Troy spring out and approach the boys. I reach behind the seat for my indoor soccer shoes in exchange for my sandals.

I join the trio and the current game wraps up. We pass Erik's worn ball around and I wait to see what we'll do.

From under a mop of shaggy, blond hair, one of the young men looks at us. 'Game to 11. Four on four.'

Out of pity, we old men get the ball first. Troy is the pup at 26. I'm 37. Erik 38. And Edwin's 70.

Oh boy.

Game on.

Surprisingly, I seem tall against the other team so I start at the baseline. Erik and I used to have a telepathic basketball connection and I wonder idly if we still do.

I move up and set a pick. Troy whizzes by, floating, and dipsy-dos a layup.

King's court and we keep the ball.

Troy snaps a pass to Erik. I move again from the low post. The ball bounces into my hands and I flip the ball to Troy who cuts strong to the hoop.


Easy layup.

Erik's on top. Gives a pass to Troy and receives the ball as he goes to the hoop. Short jumper. Score.

Troy shoots, miss. I spring for the rebound and score on the putback!

'What's the score?' I ask, grinning a little.

'Five nothing.' Soon the huddle of boys sitting on the table takes keen interest in the game; calling out.

'Oh man! You got schooled! Oh, that hurts! Are you in the NBA? Can you dunk?'

The game finds its momentum and some of the young men hit a couple of outside shots. Swish. We counter with five or six fundamental plays. Pick and rolls. Give and gos. Outside shots. Dipsy-do layups.

The boys try to get our attention by cursing.

Erik and Troy say simply, 'No cussing boys. No cussing.'

King's court so they stop.

But they continue, 'I thought that we were good!'

Game one ends 11-3. Game two 11-5.

We split teams for our final game by a shoot-around for teams. This turned into comedy as everyone went cold and clang after clang off the rim.

Finally, I ended up with three boys playing Troy and Erik and two other boys.

Troy and Erik's team wins, but not before I school Erik a few times with some clever defense. The boys, I learn, are talented, but quite lazy. So more importantly than our talent, we out hustle and outwork the youngsters.

Between games, the onlookers shuffle off the picnic table to shoot. The players call out, 'Hey dork, I thought that you said that you weren't going to play. You stink!' The shooter isn't athletic is show-boating while shooting. Clang! The rim vibrates after he shoots.

And in a flash of insight, I see what is happening. We earned the respect of these young men by playing hard, setting standards, and winning with dignity. They crave interaction with positive male role models. So the show boating boy is asking for his share.

The games end and the four of us walk to my car. The boys are enthralled by Troy's ability so they ask, 'How old are you?'

He laughs, '26.'

I put my two cents in and say, '37! And he's 70!!!'

Everyone laughs and we drive back to the campsite. The four of us are laughing and happy for the simple thrill of playing a fundamentally sound game and the delight of winning so unexpectedly.

'We walk up to them, and they're like to themselves, 'Yeah, lets just play them and get it over with. Whatever.''

'Did you hear what they were saying?'

'Are you guys in the NBA?'

Not by far.

But we all briefly restored our glory years and definitively answered the basketball question.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A Simple Visual Tour

Today's entry is a simple visual tour of the beauty of New Hampshire.

Lady Slipper Mirror

Above Lower Purgatory Falls 1

Old Wilton Reservoir Water Falls 4

Old Wilton Reservoir Water Falls 1

Maple Leaves at Old Wilton Reservoir Water Falls 1

Friday, May 23, 2008

Boom! You ok?


The striker kicks the ball into my lunging left foot, I feel sudden, sharp pain in my leg, yet I turn to see the ball squirt safely past the endline.

I smile.

'You ok?' The striker asks, worried that his kick hurt me.

'Yeah. I'm fine. I just pulled my hamstring again.' As I jog away happy to have defended the goal.

As you might guess, soccer is one of my passions. In childhood, a neighbor said, 'Everyone can play soccer and it's inexpensive. All that you need is a ball and you can play in your band shoes.' (Whatever band shoes are.)

Speaking of wearing band shoes, this reminds me of last summer when I watched the locals play soccer in Sunset Park in Brooklyn, NY.

Look at these shoes...

A Shoe Share in a Futbol Game in Sunset Park 1

The boys apparently could not afford two sets of soccer shoes, so they shared. One spiked shoe to each boy.

A Futbol Game in Sunset Park 1

The thought still brings tears to my eyes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Practical Science: Fruit Tree Pollination

I am a clear amateur at numerous things, and fruit tree pollination is high on my list.

Apple Blossoms

My cousin planted a few apple trees over a decade before I bought the property and due to my interest in farming, I started researching information on growing fruit.

I am learning that there is a global crisis in the lack of bees and my uncle and I often talk about whether we've seen bees on our trees. We discuss type of bees, frequency, nests, and so on.

We'll even discuss the viability of keeping bees on our property. (This is quite low on the ambition list.)

The bee problem is simply that there are far less bees today than there were in years past. Scientists are studying the decline and trying to determine simple, clear reasons why.

From the little that I read, there are no conclusive answers yet.

During my research into fruit trees, I found a self-described short course on Effective Pollination, by Richard Norton with additions by David Green.

The information suits my learning style because of the practical, succinct, and thorough scope of the document.

The messages that I retained are:
Apple trees do not generally self-pollinate.
Crab apple trees are the best pollinators.
Touching crab apple blossoms to apple blossoms is only slightly effective.
An apple blossom is only ready for pollination for a short amount of time.

My uncle and I pored over the document and we devised a scheme where I cut down flowering branches from his large crab apple trees and plant them in buckets of water near my apple trees.

I did this last weekend next to my large apple tree.

Then I worry.

'Will the bees jump from the crab apple blossoms to the apple blossoms? Will the wind be too strong? Will the rain stop the bees? Is there anything more that I can do?'

I also encourage every crab apple tree to grow on my property. In fact, I learned on the same Website that if you grow a tree from a store bought apple, you get a crab apple tree.

I routinely toss apple cores out of my house that resulted in at least two crab apple trees near my driveway.

Last year from these accidentally grown trees, I picked some of the crab apples for jelly and I laughed.

The crab apples from these trees look like my favorite, but mini, Fuji apples!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Skid Row

My sister and brother-in-law leave my nieces at my house for the evening and I walk with them around my property.

I say, 'I made that birdhouse and some birds fight over it every day.'

I sense their eyes lighting up before they enthusiastically bubble, 'Could we make some more bird houses?'

'Sure, later.' I smile.

We walk through the rest of my yard, seeing my meager gardens, the brook, some Jack in the Pulpit flowers and I take them inside.

Peas A'Growing

Jack In the Pulpit

Sliding pencils and drawing paper on the table, I say, 'You guys draw pictures of what you want your birdhouses to be like and I'm going to work on the barbecue grill.'

Before our picnic, I get as far as cutting out the wood from some rough-cut pine.

Apple Blossoms

The New Ipswich Memorial Day parades are going on now, but I don't feel like going. So I cut some more flowering crab apple branches to place near my apple trees and I finish the bird houses.

Skid Row

I install the ramshackle row houses on the posts for my split rail fence before I return inside to sit on my recliner.

Something catches my eye.

Oh boy.

A little bird flies to the center of a fence rail. It sidles across, furtively. The bird darts to the fence post and then flies up to the base of the birdhouse!

Oh my.

Bird House Number 2

Then it flies to sit on the perch and peeks inside!

Another bird flies along and lands near the first.

The first bird goes inside the house!

I watch and the birds are simply the neighboring nesters who apparently were seeing if they should upgrade their position on skid row.

Eventually, the bird peeks into each birdhouse.