Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In the warmth of the day I checked on the bees.  They seem to have taken what comb they drew in the upper chamber and retreated to the lower, which is probably good.  I worry that the hive body doesn't feel heavy enough with honey to get them through the winter, but this is all new to me, so we will see.  I didn't feed them this summer, figuring that since I wasn't taking any honey, they'd be able to forage for what they needed.  Come the first warm days of March I'll see how that benign neglect played out.

While I was away the deer had come and tidied the garden, eating the parsnip greens and anything else that had held up to the frost -- including a gallon-sized summer squash that I had let lie among the died-back vines.  They had also stripped most of the vetch that has infested that part of the yard - and even trimmed back the asparagus fronds.  Probably they're saving the apple trees for later.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The fiery colors of the maples never materialized, but in November the yellows of the beeches and the russet leaves of the oaks gave the lingering summer a mellow closure.  A few half-hearted frosts killed off what remained of the garden vegetables and I harvested a large bowl of habaneros, maybe 8 or 10 orange, but a score or two still green.  And pulled a few premature parsnips to fashion an earthy hot sauce from them.  (I also belatedly dug a row of potatoes that I'd neglected to get out earlier.)

Porter went off to Washington, D.C.  with his class on a four-day field trip to have his head dunked in American patriotism.  Nico continued his easy way through the 5th grade, charming and challenging his teachers.  Monica complained that we work too much and don't travel enough.

At work we scrambled to wrap up research and put together video on three different projects -- and the others scattered -- A. to Washington, J. to Los Angeles.  I wrapped up what I could on our project about oil conservation, and on the 16th I dropped the boys at school and drove north to Montreal for the American Anthropological Association meetings -- a 6 hour drive.  I had an audio reading of a Tony Hillerman novel, Listening Woman, to speed the time.  It was an odd juxtaposition: vivid descriptions of Navajo country as I wended through the flood-battered valleys of Vermont.  I stopped in Waterbury for lunch.  The damage from the summer storms seemed to accentuate the poverty that is never perfectly concealed beneath white paint and stoic perseverance.  

Montreal, when I got there, was gloomy though it bustled with a vaguely European, cosmopolitan energy.  The tent city of Occupy Montreal was clustered in a narrow park, the bronze statue festooned with graffiti and a Guy Fawkes mask.  Young people in dark coats called to each other in French.

The conference center was exactly like an airport without planes or pat-downs.  Escalators lift you up and away from the ground-level shopping mall to a grid-work of little conference rooms.  And there, from midday Wednesday to Sunday, at any given moment three dozen papers were being read, ethnographic films were being shown, poster sessions being held; job interviews were taking place, business meetings held for journals, interest groups, and so on -- and of course everyone was meeting and talking.  It's a teeming anthill of anthropology.

So I ate and drank and talked, caught up with old friends, made new friends, sat in little rooms parsing the arcane jargon of the discipline.  Ate more, drank more, walked in the city, talked more and listened. On Sunday morning, the 20th, after I'd met a woman for breakfast and discussed cultural models of energy over croissants, coffee and cheese, I gathered up my gear and drove back out into the rain.

When the wet highways had gotten me away from Montreal, I left them for the flat byways of southern Quebec, then along Lake Champlain and up and across the Adirondacks through a damp fog.  Had lunch at the Blue Moon Cafe in Saranac.  Again, Tony Hillerman was playing as a strange distraction to shove time along.

I spent Monday and Tuesday at Lake Como -- at the cottage, which is becoming sadly run down.  Leaks in the roof and around the window sashes are spreading rot and the old concrete foundation continues to erode away beneath it all.  And the water in front of the house has gradually silted in where the current brings down material from the swampy upper lake.  When we spent summers up there as kids it was always a major project to clear out the muck and the beaver sticks -- I remember filling canoe-loads of gunk and weeds to haul aside.  The smell of methane and the rubbery feel of the occasional leech between thumb and forefinger if you happened to notice a one before it made off with its booty of blood.

No swimming this time of year, of course -- even the beavers seemed done.  They had cleared out a couple dozen large trees -- mostly aspen, birch and maple, taking the tops, and leaving us the trunks to cut and split for next year's firewood.  The wellstone was covered in chips where they'd trimmed their loads before dragging them down through the yard and over to the lodge.  They'd stolen a third of the big blueberry bush in the yard and added it to their store.

On my way out Tuesday I went over the property that my sisters, cousins and I own, because a neighbor had said the gate-cable was down.  There's an austere beauty to the Poconos this time of year. The vegetation has lost its leaves and died back, so the land is open, but not yet leveled or grayed by the winter snows.  A neighbor had put the cable back up, and I walked into the woods a ways to see if there was any sign of vehicles having trespassed, but there was nothing.  The old hunting shack was still there, slowly falling down as always.  The apple trees held no late apples and if any had fallen creatures had long ago taken them.  I had no orange to wear, so I wouldn't walk any further into the woods at the height of a Pennsylvania deer season.

The family gathers at my parent's house in Mt. Gretna for the Thanksgiving holidays -- where we cook and eat and clean up and eat again.  And pretty much keep eating.  But with breaks in between.  Dad put Porter to work paying off his iPhone debts -- hauling wood, raking leaves. There was an expedition to Lititz for boxes of chocolate (for holiday distribution); a roadside meeting with my cousin Scott to buy half a beef - and then the divvying of that between my sister and I; there were football games to watch and a football to throw around; a box of grandma's old letters to sort through; chainsaw work to clear the fallen oak crowns that storms brought down.   Those same storms had swept away a bridge that crossed the creek and left it a hundred yards downstream in a tangle of detritus.   One end was buried two feet deep in a bank of sand and gravel, so Dad, Porter, Eric, Fred and I spent a couple of hours excavating it (re-channeling part of the stream to do so) and levering it into a new position.  We'll see if the stream chooses to leave it there.

Saturday, after a final noontime feast, Monica and the boys headed back to Rhode Island, so Porter and Nico would have time to work on a couple of big school projects that had deadlines closing in.  On Sunday morning I headed out as well -- taking the northern route past Scranton and Danbury to avoid the worst of the traffic.  And after 6 hours behind the wheel it was good to be home.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Via Rumproast:

And because Sally wanted the sentiments in classic limerick form . . . 

Oh this story of Wall Street wankers,
This passel of fuckshite bankers
They took all our money
And said, "What’cha honey!
Yer don’ even bother to thank us?”