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.