February can be a strange month around here. Poke through the archives of this blog and see for yourself. For that matter, a lot of the winter-time stuff found in these pages verges on the odd, perhaps due to a phenomenon known by some as “cabin fever.” Some others will say they’ve come down with a mild case of the “winter blahs” and a goodly number of folks will become so s.a.d. they must sit near bright lights of appropriate spectrum to survive. Around here we prefer the term “shack nasties” but the irony is that, no matter what you call the way folks feel mid-way through a long winter grind, it can happen even to those who are able to get out of their cabin or shack.
Posts Tagged With: Rural Life
(To the delight of some and the consternation of others, this is not Part II of our tribute to Forgotten Fly Fishing Legend Little Dickie Conroy. That particular dispatch will appear shortly, just as soon as our top-notch research staff has finished
making stuff up reviewing source materials.)
A symbolic bonfire is an appropriate and sometimes exciting way to bid farewell and good riddance to the old year. It can also extend a warm welcome to the new year and serve to celebrate the gradual lengthening of days in the midst of a long winter slog. A spontaneous attempt was made to light such a fire three weeks ago, using a very large pile of brush, which was crusted with ice and covered in snow. Despite the use of various accelerants, the effort had to be abandoned and, while someone might have had a good chuckle at the time, someone else came out of the deal with nothing more to show than some ironic burn-holes in his raincoat and a hat that smelled like diesel fuel.
Symbolic, perhaps, but not what we would consider appropriate.
Several attempts since have yielded similar results but we’re sure to get a good one going sooner or later to serve as the symbolic cremation of MMXIII. In the meantime, here is a photo of a fire from a previous post, “The Cremation of MMX” (rest assured that the surprised-looking man in the foreground had no hair to begin with and was just fine):
For the purposes of this post, the fire will be metaphorical, and the brush to be burned is a few things found laying around in the form of notes and half-started nonsense. This should lessen the chances of someone flapping and running, chased by a ribbon of flame, while everyone else hollers, “Drop the can! Continue reading
Everyone knows Quill Gordon wears steel-toed drinking shoes and even a helmet from time to time. That said, he is not one of the drunks in the title of this post.
Shortly past 2:00 a.m. one late-September night, I woke up to the sound of what I took to be screaming outside. Dashing to the open window I saw, beneath the waning gibbous moon, a figure staggering about and whooping it up for all he was worth. While 2:00 a.m. might be the time, my dooryard is not the place for such drunken antics and I became consumed by the desire to put an end to his nonsense immediately.
Crashing into the frame of the bedroom door while pulling on some pants delayed me for just a minute or so (I think) but from there it was clear sailing as I made my way outside to give that booze hound a piece of my somewhat foggy mind. He was tricky, though, and ran to the other side of the house so I ran back indoors to the living room, where I banged on the windows and shouted obscenities as he ran by. I thought to cut him off at the porch as he made it around for a second circuit but he headed for the draw, where he hid in a thicket of willows and barked unintelligible nonsense at me while I threw rocks. Continue reading
Five days remain in the season at Fish in a Barrel Pond. Just one more round of making beds and folding washcloths and soon it will be six months before I again wipe the Sunday whiskers from the sinks after a bunch of fly fishers clean up for their return to what they call the “real world.” Please note the gender neutrality of that sentence.
After half a year of all anglers, all the time, my wagon is draggin’ and the purposeful stride of spring has become a shuffling autumnal amble, interrupted by the occasional hop as I hitch up my pants. Long summer twilights and the splashy rises of trout taking mayflies seem distant memories as I walk the shore this morning in cold rain, seeing only desultory slurps here and there as a few late-season midges emerge. An entire mountainside disappears as fog works its way down-slope and soon the whole valley fills in, creating for a moment the illusion of being lost in time and that the lake, the camps, and all other things in my own “real world” are nothing more than memories themselves.
That, of course, is nothing more than hogwash its own self as at that moment a terrible noise shredded the foggy mountain silence. Continue reading
Usually seen on maple trees or in the grass around them, this pelecinid wasp was on a truck window the other morning. These black beauties use their long abdomens to probe for white grubs, upon which they lay their eggs. The larvae consume their hosts from the inside out before pupating and emerging as adults. At close to four inches long, adult pelecinids are clumsy fliers, what with their small wings and long asses dragging behind. They really have to lean into the turns carefully so their rear ends don’t whip around and send them into a spin. Not all of them do, and the smallest of breezes prove daunting enough that most pelecinids seem to just fling themselves around, hoping for at least a soft landing. Continue reading
Winter’s stark grays softened beneath a gauzy green veil as spring returned to the slopes of Nonesuch Mountain. A last toast to winter drained the dregs of that bitter keg so I took up the cup of spring with a nod to the transition of season, acknowledging an important milestone along our planet’s annual journey around the sun. I lifted the vernal chalice to my lips as for a kiss, and imbibed the essence of the season with intemperate relish as spring flowed like syrup, at its own leisurely pace.
Another cup appeared, brimming with the prospect of the return of anglers to Fish in a Barrel Pond, top shelf stuff, and you know I simply couldn’t resist. But I took a wide stance and held onto my hat as I quaffed because, Dear Readers, drinking from that vessel is like drinking from a damn fire hose.
So there I was, ready to wax rhapsodic as spring returned, but winter threw a hissy fit.
The beginning of spring in these parts was marked by a storm that dumped more than a foot of new snow. Winter’s keen, cold edge might have been worn down but her message remained blunt. The temperature dropped, the sap ceased running and it seemed for a few days that ours was the grumpiest village in the world. It’s not often people admit out loud that they wish it was mud season already.
Their wishes have been granted and, while it may be too soon to tell for sure, this year’s mud looks to be at least average.
Mud season takes some by surprise, especially those who recently moved here from other places looking for the “rural chic” of catalogs and magazines. If a full Vermont winter didn’t do them in they must be sorely disappointed when March rolls around and tosses chic in a ditch, leaving them with only the rural. If there were a way to keep dirt roads dry in the spring I’m sure a Vermonter would have figured it out by now, but mud season is such a part of Vermont’s culture that maybe someone’s just keeping it a secret, so as to not spoil the fun. Continue reading
Water boils at 212°F, syrup at 219. My job this week was to achieve and maintain a constant 219 degrees in the sap pan, using a wood fire for heat. In searching these pages for photos of fire and me, I came across my post The Cremation of MMX and the photo below. I would like to reassure readers (especially Skye and Tina, whose sugar house I have not burned down) that the man in the foreground had no hair to begin with and was fine.
The fire in this post was of a completely different nature. Continue reading
(A new tab at the top of this page (or this link) will take you to a collection of photos and links following the production of maple syrup this spring from the sugar bush of some friends. Their new enterprise is called Bobo’s Mountain Sugar, and the taps are in on Bobo’s Mountain — all 2500 of them.)
In mixed martial arts, tapping out is an act of submission, the end of a fight, and often the result of a violent twisting of arms. In maple syrup production, tapping out is a declaration of victory, the end of a job that no one’s arm had to be twisted to do.
The snow was deep when I started helping on the hill above the sugar house, but I waded and floundered and stomped my way along the lines, tapping trees for a few hours each afternoon, doing what I could. The steepness of the hill, combined with thickets of beech and short balsams, had me convinced I made the right call in leaving my snowshoes at home, even as more flakes fell every day. After struggling in the wake of an additional 14+” from one storm, I finally gave in and strapped them on the next day.
If, as they say, snowshoes make the impossible difficult, it was a very hard afternoon. Without my snowshoes I had sunk to my knees; with them I still sank to my knees and had to high-step to clear the holes I’d made, with the decks weighted down with snow. Lifting a leg, expecting 25 pounds of resistance but getting none because the snow slid off, resulted in a few sharp blows to my chin and twice I kneed myself in the ear when my right foot sank deeper as I lifted my left. Continue reading