Wednesday, October 22, 2008

what a mother

The other day I heard a fascinating story on NPR about a woman involved in the construction of a mosque in Turkey. About midway through the piece, there is a lovely description of the installation of glass raindrops beneath the dome:
On one particular day, beneath the mosque's 130-foot diameter dome, Nahide Buyukkaymakci instructs a worker on how to hang dozens of blown-glass rain drops from an asymmetrical bronze and Plexiglas chandelier.

The glass drops are inspired by a prayer that says Allah's light should fall on you like rain, Buyukkaymakci explains.
And all I could think was: Oh god, that would be so hard to clean.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

rockets and rabbits

To celebrate Juliette Gordon Low's upcoming birthday, the Girl Scouts gathered at Palisades Park to make rockets and eat cake. We were instructed to bring a 2 liter plastic bottle, which was a bit of a challenge as we don't drink soda. So, after my long group run in town early Saturday morning, I stopped by the Conservancy to go dumpster diving. I looked through three different bins before finding one!

Once at the park, Leah decorated her rocket with stickers and markers:

All the parents were wondering how the rockets would be lauched. See the contraption below? A hose and an air compressor are routed through the same line, which is attached to a foot pedal. The spout of the 2 liter is screwed onto the nozzle of the water/air hose. The group counts down -- 3, 2, 1 -- and the Girl Scout slams her foot onto the pedal. For anyone who has never actually experienced this, I cannot emphasize how amazingly freaking fast and high these things fly. They then turn right around and come crashing down to the ground. It is a most spectacular display.

Leah waits her turn.

I wish I had a picture of a rocket in mid-air, but they shot up much too fast for me to even try, and once they reached their peak and paused for just a moment before dropping back down, they were too far up in the air to be snapped.

Upon landing, pieces of Leah's rocket flew off in all directions, but the kind lady with the tape assisted in putting it all back together again.

So that was how Saturday started.

A little later, we took both Leah and Neal to Paw Paw and Dee Dee's for an overnight campout. Their cousins Meredith and Travis were there, too. The kids ran around while the adults chatted, until suddenly Leah walked up to Lee and said, "Uh, Daddy -- we have a rabbit situation." In the meantime, Meredith and Travis were yelling, "Aunt Meg! Aunt Meg! There's a rabbit!"

Now, there are a great many rabbits where we live, so I assumed they had spotted a regular old brown rabbit with a cute little white tail off in the woods behind Paw Paw's house. I was wrong. This rabbit was gray and white, and was coming within inches of the children. This was not a wild rabbit. This was somebody's pet. And I'm guessing you can guess whose pet he ended up being.

Here he is, in our living room, eating an apple:

We're going to try to determine whether he already belongs to somebody, but, sadly, odds are that he was intentionally released. Which is okay, because he's just about the cutest thing you ever did see, and we're happy to have him.

Friday, October 17, 2008

diagramming sarah

This is too good not to share. Grammar geeks rule.

the buzz on pumpkins

First, a couple more shots from Falls Mill:

Spinning Wheel

Wagon Weight List

And now back to Hayden, where Neal and I went to the Great Pumpkin Patch to pick ourselves a great big pumpkin.

I'm not sure there's much distinction between big orange pumpkins and big orange balls. I had to keep reminding him not to throw, roll, or stand on the pumpkin, lest it become pumpkin mush.

It was surprisingly cold and overcast given the weather of the past week. Neither Neal nor the ponies seemed to mind.

The chosen one.

Pumpkins were once pollinated by squash bees, but now mostly by honey bees. The decline of the native squash bee is likely a result of pesticide sensitivity, which is particularly troublesome given the recent increase among honey bees of Colony Collapse Disorder, also thought to be at least in part related to pesticide use. Look people: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I LOVE me some pumpkin pie, so quit poisoning everything already, okay?

After the pony ride, the wagon ride, the jumper, the hay maze, the petting zoo, the patch, and lunch, we were tuckered out and ready to fetch Leah from school. I love this Charlie Brown time of year.

Monday, October 13, 2008

t is for tennessee

We've just returned from a long weekend at Tims Ford State Park in Tennessee. It was the absolute perfect time to go -- the leaves were beginning to change and there were folks playing bluegrass all Saturday long. It was a lovely and, thankfully, short road trip: red barns, blue sky, and white clouds, reflected on a smaller scale in the cotton growing along the roadside.

I can't complain about not being in any of the pictures -- here is my arm in the side view mirror of an otherwise lovely scene.

I used to ride for miles and miles at Oak Mountain and all over Southside, but it had been so long since I'd ridden my bike that Lee had to put olive oil on the chain. And I can attest to the fact that you use your muscles differently when you ride versus when you run. While I can run ten miles without feeling any soreness in my calves, I am still feeling the bike rides.

Between riding and fishing, we ventured to the Swiss Pantry, a Mennonite bakery in nearby Belvidere, Tenn. It's stocked with bread, cookies, candies, preserves, and cheese, to name but a few of the yummilicious things we found there.

We noticed there are also quite a few Amish establishments in this area. My understanding is that Mennonite and Amish are two branches of the same Protestant Anabaptist church. The main difference is not so much what they believe as how they practice their beliefs. The separatist Amish shun the world, while Mennonites live simply but without separation. Whatever -- they can bake, is what I'm saying.

On Sunday, again between bike riding and fishing, we found Falls Mill, a water-powered grain mill in Belvidere. The water wheel is huge, and powers many smaller, belted gears inside. Leah has an Eric Carle book called Pancakes Pancakes, about a boy named Jack who wants pancakes for breakfast. His mother instructs him to gather the wheat, take it to the miller, gather the firewood, put it in the stove, fetch the jam, and so on, until the pancakes are finally ready to eat. It was nice to see her connect the mill to the book, and both she and Neal were so excited to watch the water spin the wheel that spins the gear that spins another and another, and so on.

In addition to gears and grains, the mill also has several old spinning wheels, looms, broom presses, and a working nickelodeon. And, they sell their flours, meals, and grits, so of course we came home with a bag full of stone ground grits!

This tree man lives beside the mill.

We returned today, stopping at Ave Maria Grotto on the way, where Brother Joseph Zoettl created miniature reproductions of many of the world's most famous buildings. He incorporated marble, glass, beads, jewelry, and shells into his work.

I especially like the dragon (above) peeking out from under the Castle of the Fairies (below).

A good example of the Brother's fondness for shells. He was well suited for this kind of craftmanship: maimed in an accident, he was a hunchback whose miniatures required an attention to detail perhaps best acheived by hunching over his work.

The kids loved the Lizard Condo, complete with toy lizards.

The Tower of Babel.

More to come. Right now I'm gonna go snack on some Mennonite cheese.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

historic preservation

Based on conversations with locals, we believe our house was built in the latter half of the 19th century. The original supports consist of rock piles and timber. That's right -- rocks stacked up with no mortar, and tree trunks or branches, in some cases with the bark still on.

We're investing in a bigger wood burning stove, so we wanted to be certain the floor would support the weight. Harry, who rents our old house in the city, drove up to help Lee bolster the house. Leah and Neal played together nicely while I napped after a nine mile run. Every now and then I heard voices drifting from under the house, and then, suddenly, I heard rather loud, rather freaked out sounding voices. Fearing the worst (whatever that was), I quickly shifted from halfway asleep to fully awake and began mentally listing the things it could be. I will not list those things here. They are too weird. As it happens, the thing it was is pretty weird, too. There are hundreds -- hundreds -- of big, old, glass jars beneath the house.

Back in the day, there was no garbage service (we were actually quite relieved to learn that we have it now), no way of storing that many jars inside for re-use, and no way of disposing of any excess. It's possible they were using the crawl space as a root cellar, in which case they would have stored vegetables and preserves there. I've been reading about root cellars lately -- perhaps it's something we can add to our long list of homesteading to-do's.

There was too much other work to do to add fruit jar removal to the list, and we don't have enough storage space above ground, so we'll leave them be for now, saving the excavation for another day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


These are our teenagers. There were six, but one of the black and whites was beheaded by a predator. They're not as old as our original chickens, and not as young as our chicks. (Well, we call them chicks, but they've long outgrown the cute fuzzy yellow stage.)

The teenagers are our friendliest chickens. The old birds are kinda jumpy (it doesn't help that they peck at the coffee grounds in the compost), and the new birds are the jumpy birds' progeny. The teenagers seem to like people, and they're not so skittish.

We only ever wanted to collect eggs, but now we have so many birds that we're contemplating downsizing to just the teenagers and maybe a rooster. Perhaps we'll meet some people who just moved out to the country and are interested in raising chickens....