Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Betty's Cat and Hebrew National Hot Dogs

One of my cousins married a man who had a dream house. Well, he envisioned a house on the top of a hill in Mont Vernon that had six sides, an attached 3-story, 6-sided greenhouse, and a cupola. Since Mont Vernon had lax housing standards, he started building his dream house and many of us spent hours working with him.

I met his mother, Betty, while I worked on his house. She was in her sprightly sixties and worked right along side of us. My jaw dropped when she stapled Tyvek onto the house by crawling from window to window on the outside of the house, two stories up.


Betty has a strong, Yankee personality with clear, sharp opinions, unique insights, and a forceful, yet entertaining way to tell stories. Perfect (well, unless you're my cousin's husband perhaps?).

One day we started working on the house early and made great progress. Around noontime, replenishing ourselves with water and snacks wasn't enough, so we broke for lunch.

My cousin's husband cooked Hebrew National Hot Dogs and as we dug into the chips, iced tea, and hot dogs, our lunchtime dialog wandered to Betty's cats.

Her cats personality reflect the owner as most pets do. Her cat, if I recall correctly, always tried to eat food off the table at supper time.

Betty bought an inexpensive brand of hot dog, and to everyone's surprise, the cat didn't try to eat them.

Curious, Betty bought a different brand, and the cat stayed away.

She repeated this with the solitary idea that she could determine the relative healthful quality of various hot dog brands through his cat's palate.

Finally, success!

The ravenous cat was unstoppable when Betty served Hebrew National hot dogs.

If they're good enough for Betty's cat, they're good enough for us!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Good Night Sleep

My family has roots in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and when I return there, I am struck by the beauty, simplicity, and most of all the fresh air. Lake Superior freshens the cool, crisp air on summer mornings and causes me to feel quite sleepy.

Last winter, I invested in an air-exchanger system for my house. Every three hours, the air is exchanged for fresh, filtered air. My cousin and I turned the system on last night and almost immediately, my house seemed better.

I lay down in bed last night, smiling. The fresh air brought me back to being in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and my eyes closed into a deep, restful sleep.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Going to the Big E Fair

My then co-worker Krista and I routinely ate lunch with our co-worker Carole.

During conversation during some random lunch early last summer, Krista blurts out, 'I'm taking you to the Big E fair, Tim!' Because her inside voice had been listing out my passions that include farming and agriculture.

Carole grins and laughs softly.

I brightly smile, 'Sounds good to me.'

So yesterday, we went to the Big E fair on a bright, crisp fall day. I hoped to see the Big Pig, but there were no pig barns this weekend.

I was fascinated by the cows, sheep, and horses. While in the cow barn, I saw this young girl sitting on a contented cow. A true ham, she lay on the cow and posed for me.

The Contented Cow and a Girl

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Somero Farm Report - 2009

Throughout New England, there are fairs and harvest festivals and I regret not having more to show from my land this year.

My wild success was my potato crop that I planted from $1 bags of potatoes at the grocery store. I hear reports that store bought potatoes are sprayed with something that prevents eyes from growing, but every year, I plant them anyway. My ratio was nearly 4 to 1 pounds this year and I'm thrilled.

My chickens are doing well and I have four layers, two roosters, and two pullets that haven't started laying yet. Having two roosters is a problem and one has to go, but as usual - despite my public bravado - it's not an easy task and I am delaying the inevitable.

My freezer still has eight chickens from this summer and I need to start consuming them.

My other crops such as beans, peas, carrots, and beets were either over-grown by weeds, eaten by a woodchuck, or didn't come up properly. Edwin's garden next door turned out well, but throughout Southern New Hampshire, it seems like squash and pumpkins didn't do well at all.

Finally, my dear apple trees produced this year, but without spraying them, the apples suffered.

Mistreated Apple 1

I had an interesting conversation with a family friend about growing apples. I sent him a link to a wonderful short course on pollination by Richard Norton. Did you know that crab apple trees are hands-down the best pollinators?

My Mom asked him why my brother's orchard in the Twin Cities Minnesota area has pears and apples didn't require any pesticides. My brother's apples and pears are flawless!

Mike replied saying, 'Whenever a storm blows up the coast, especially from the Gulf of Mexico region, the orchards that I help out at are plagued by bugs and disease.'


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gently, From the Past

In my early 20s when I first started working 40-hour office jobs, the first day would exhaust me. My brain would absorb so much data that by the end of the day, I was saturated. Going home would be a welcome respite and I would lay on the floor somewhere, pulsing with fatigue.

My last few 40-hour jobs weren't like that. I turned the learning curve, perhaps, and I would breeze into and out of my first day without much fatigue.

Yesterday, though, reminded me of the past experience of starting a new job. I'm learning as I go and finding unexpected things with each turn.

For example, my Mom keeps quietly sharing my Dad's experience as an entrepreneur. 'Tim, you'll eventually miss the camaraderie in the office. Dad does.'

My routines are different. My outlets for conversation during the slow times are different. What scuttlebutt can I tap into? It's not so readily available.

Where's Buddy, the receptionist? Oh yeah. She's not available except through the Internet.

So last night after an extremely long day of investing in a business framework for a photography services business, I was tired. Gently, from the past, I revisited the feeling of starting a new job.

I kind of like it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Not Working for the Man

Today is my first day of not working for the man. Cool. Scary. Interesting. Exciting. And a little weird.

I slept early and woke early today and walked through the conservation land that abuts my property. I chased fog and my feet were soaked by dewy, frosty grass and brush.

On my return, I reached a simple decision point. My fingers and feet were cold. I felt hunger pangs. Do I return the way I walked, or do I take Furnace Brook Trail and capture some shots of Kangas's Falls?

I pressed into the Furnace Brook Trail and I am glad that I did.

Kangas's Falls in New Ipswich, NH 3

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Do Kids Party Out Here?

A few of us sunrise photographers were talking when Steven approached us with the simple question, 'Do kids party out here?'

He found a bag with drug paraphernelia and of all things, homework. We called the police and they took the bag away.

Being good-natured photographers, we cracked jokes about our find, but underlying the event is something more serious.

A former co-worker of mine at IBM who passed away from cancer while we worked together taught me an indelible lesson.

He was from Hawaii and loved to tell me stories about conscientious objection to the establishment.

'Tim,' Bob says to me, 'Nana i ke kumu. Always remember this native Hawaiian phrase.'

'What does it mean?'

'Look to the source. Never rest until you find the source.'

The phrase was wonderful during my long tenure as a diagonstic (or forensic) computer support person. For example, an effective diagnostics guy always separates the symptoms from the root cause.

And with the backpack that we found today, we should look to the source. We should be vigilant that drug abuse has a root cause and unless the root cause is understood and addressed, the problem will continue.

One of the most important things is for everyone to ask themselves, 'Are my basic needs met today? Nutrition. Sleep. Emotional. Security. And so on.'

Chances are that the poor boy who left homework in his backpack is deficient in meeting one or more basic needs.

Bob's voice lasts inside, 'Always remember, Tim. Nana i ke kumu.'

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another Rooster...Bill?

If you follow my blog, you'll see below how my brother-in-law and I processed chickens last summer. When I told the story in-person to Bill (an occasional reader), his brow dropped when I got to the end of the story.

'You should have given the hen back to me.'

My heart sank. 'Uh oh.' I thought. 'So much for my misguided initiative.'

My current flock consists of Whipped Cream, Runt, Sisu, Spot, and two Americana Pullets who are not laying yet.

Spot is a rooster that Bill gave me last fall so keep the three laying hens warm.

Yesterday, Nina, from the Monadnock Backyard Farmers group in Yahoo offered a Rhode Island Red hen and a good looking (but noisy) rooster. I loaned her my live trap last summer to try and trap a fox, but she hadn't returned it.

We chatted briefly online and when I returned home last night, something caught my eye outside.

My live trap was tucked off my driveway and there was a very pretty rooster in there. I looked closer and saw the hen!

I sighed, 'Oh boy. Two roosters. Now what?'

Two roosters are bad news because the natural pecking order for chickens causes fighting.

After soccer practice I moved the new hen into the big coop and left the rooster in the live trap near the coop. Before work today, I need to give the rooster some food and water and contact Bill.


Want your rooster back?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Story Telling - What's that Sound?

Tuesday morning, my manager replied, 'We'd like you to wrap everything up by Friday. We'll pay you next week until the 25th, but you don't have to come into the office.'


For my paid time off, I scheduled a training session on how to create a calendar for charity. I have another business endeavor to go on. I might even boogie down to Brooklyn to talk to the principals of Art To Frames.

Business may or may not be good, but I'll certainly be busy.

So while I wrap things up in my job, my story telling streak emerged. The cooler temperatures are prompting me to tell this story.

When I lived in the Minneapolis, MN area, I drove a 1982 Mercury Lynx that I bought for $177.00 from my brother. The car was nearly guaranteed to run to 150,000 miles so I nursed it along month by month, year after year.

A brutal cold snap gripped the Twin Cities area and I fired up my car to drive to the University of Minnesota where I was enrolled.

About a mile from the campus on Interstate 35W north, the car started gasping its final breaths. The head cracked, I think, and the heater core burst because my windows fogged and I could barely keep the car running on the freeway.

Luckily, there was an exit.

I nursed the dying car up the off ramp and coasted silently into the parking lot of a small light-industrial business.

I sat in my car aware of the time. 'Hmm.' I thought. 'It's minus-30 below out there and I'm a mile away from campus.'

There are a few technical problems when the temperatures go down that far. Exposed skin can get frostbite in minutes.

A steady wind blew small puffs of icy snow past me as I sat in my dead car.

So the wind chill would only add to the danger.

I packed my school bag full of books. I looked through the car for as many clothes as I could find.

I tucked my glasses into my inside jacket pocket and I took my scarf and wrapped it around my head and face, up my nose just below my eyes. I pulled my hat down to my eyes so I could barely see through a slit between the hat and scarf. I pulled my hood over my head. I closed my eyes and took a last breath of relatively warm air.

My gloved hand opened the stiff door handle and I emerged into the frigid air.

'Ouch.' I said softly as the simple pain caused by such cold hit me. I looked through the narrow slit and walked towards campus.

Step by step I pressed onwards knowing that I only had a mile to walk and I gauged my path so that I walked between buildings on the lee side of the wind.

Finally I approached the bridge that crossed over 35W and would land me on campus.

By now the pain from the cold started affecting my toes and my face as wind seeped through my scarf. I tried to breathe so that moisture would not dampen my scarf and let ripping cold through.

Step by step I trudged, slowing a little when I stepped on the bridge.

The cold started wearing me down and I came to a simple realization. Too long in this cold and I could die. Wow.

Step by step, I passed over the bridge. The steady wind blew into the side of my face.

Step by step.

Finally, I traversed the bridge and ducked into a bus shelter to get a reprieve from the biting wind. My fingers hurt now, too, and I balled them inside my gloves because the fingers provided little warmth.

I closed my eyes briefly and inhaled slowly, exhaling carefully upwards and I opened my eyes again.

Confused, I heard a strange sound.

*tink* *tink-tink* *tink*

Perplexed, I looked for the source.

*tink* *tink-tink* *tink-tink*

Softly I laughed.

Icicles that formed on my eye lashes made a tinkling sound every time I blinked!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Walking into the Unknown

I trembled a little, speaking softly as usual, and showed my manager my resignation letter. My last day is on September 25th.

Simply, I am ready.

The situation is not completely unknown because a few small, startup-like companies are inquiring about my services. I joined up with a bunch of entrepreneurs while we try to carve out a photography services business in New Hampshire.

Most of all though, I finally listened to the entrepreneurial voice inside that calls to many in my Somero family.

It can be as simple as, 'How will I make money today?'