chelidon: (Tractor Caution)
Okay, from my local paper, this is very nifty:

Fill It Up With Oak and Pine (subhed:
Tunbridge Man Builds ‘Gasifier' That Uses Wood for Fuel)

I'm not that green yet -- I converted the house to wood heat, but the car still runs on gas and the tractor still runs on diesel. Cool idea, though, especially for the tractor (for the future -- I'm waiting until it's totally paid off and gets out of warranty before making any major engine modifications...)

sleep now

Dec. 24th, 2008 11:04 pm
chelidon: (Winter Grin)
Tree is trimmed and lit (with Forest, as the youngest in the house -- at least until next year -- doing the honors of placing the star on the top), family and friends in the house are asleep or on their way there, Forest is long asleep with visions of sugarplums, or perhaps Legos, in his head, there's plenty of wood on the fire, the lovely dinner meal is digesting with the help of some good wine and after-dinner port, stockings have been, per tradition, hung on the mantle with care (and well-stuffed by house denizens and/or Santa), other gifties have been sneakily snuck downstairs and placed under the tree, the dog has been walked and is happily now it is finally time for me to grab a few much-needed Zs myself. Heck, if I stay up much longer, Santa might pass us by, and that wouldn't do at all, not at all.

I am particularly grateful that we moved to a somewhat more innocent place, where my 9-year-old boy, and most of his classmates, have not been jaded beyond their years, and still believe in Santa Claus. Because I still do, too.

A thrice-blessed Yule and a very merry Christmas, in the very best traditions of both, to you all. Good night and sweet dreams!

big news

Dec. 24th, 2008 03:43 pm
chelidon: (Default)
Now that most folks are off for the holidays and away from their computers, I'll take this quiet time to post some news...

So I've been pretty quiet the last several months. Partly that's just massive busy -- just this last week we've been through the culmination of two year's worth of a project at work, a few feet of snow, hasty tractor repairs, the Winter Revels performances, the last month brought a new puppy (see previous post), and the last six months brought a few zillion other things and happenings, most of them quite wonderful.

But another reason for quiet has been just breathing and hoping. That takes a lot of time and energy. Now that we're past the end of the first trimester, I can tell you that my partner Claudia is pregnant, and the baby is due on or about Summer Solstice. Those of you who know some of our history of the last number of years know that miscarriage, cancer and the simple realities of getting into our 40s, made this something that we both thought and were told was basically impossible, and which we had pretty much given up hoping for. Having tried the whole in vitro route, the docs had told us the chances were beyond miniscule that we'd be able to have another child, and with sorrow, we had let that hope go. In fact, just this last year we finally gave away the last of our baby stuff. Ha. The universe has a really incredible sense of humor...and is endlessly surprising, and infinitely creative.

So please, if you would, think good thoughts in our direction, for Claudia and the new little person growing in her, that they both may be healthy and strong. There are never any guarantees, but so far all appears well, and we have hope for the future, and for the immense blessing of the impossible made manifest. This winter's hibernation and gestation is quite literal for us here, and we hope for a child of promise, full of life and joy, to be born come summer.

Yuletide blessings to you all, and good surprises all around, to you and all your loves,

chelidon: (Griffin walking)
Some big news to post later today, but in the meantime, more pics of Griffin (scroll down for the more recent pics and movies). He has decided that snow is just about the most fun thing ever. When we got the big storms (24" of snow) over last weekend, and before I plowed, he would leap in and just about disappear but for the tip of his tail, then pop up every so often like a seal. He wasn't too happy about the pooping when cold wet stuff is touching his butt (can't blame him, really), but quickly figured out that some pirouettes in place would tamp the snow down enough that he could stand on it, rather than in it. Smart pup.

It really is amazing how much difference a month makes -- he's got to have just about doubled in size, and is 22+ lbs. Griffin is going to be a big boy, and is growing into a very handsome dog.

winter fun

Dec. 15th, 2008 06:01 pm
chelidon: (Winter Grin)
We have power again, after four days without. All in all, we fared quite well -- no ice damage at all, the storm seemed to pass us right by, other than a few inches of snow and messy slush plus a pretty glazing of ice on all the trees. But others got hit very hard. Our electric cooperative described it as the worst and most damaging ice storm in their history of operation. We did lose power, along with 400,000 other people (and our electric coop only serves 500,000 people all told), and I was grateful that we're fairly self-sufficient when need be, at least for essentials. Which means heat, water, septic system, fridge, plus a few lights in the house, only if absolutely necessary. A gas cooktop is a very good thing. Internet would have been nice, but it's not worth dealing with satellite service just for occasional outages. As both land line phone and cell towers ran through their backup batteries and generators and dropped off the grid, it got very, very quiet, and our world got much smaller and much more immediate (the landlines came back after a day or two, but the cell towers just came back online late today). Suddenly, I remembered that we do in fact have radios in the house, and wow, they still work. Work got done according to the natural cycles of seasonally-abbreviated daylight, not when it was most convenient for us. In the worst-case, we could have retreated to the barn and gotten by with the wood stove and hand-pump water and lots of blankets, but really, it was kinda a cushy storm crisis, all things considered. There was good cheese, and good wine, and coffee, and warm soup, and a good bit of camaraderie and laughter.

Lots of little snippets of fun among the last few days -- dinner by oil lamp, storytelling by candlelight, and a heroic Dunkin Donuts employee who brought coffee over to her store in town from another store about 30 mi away with power, so she could sell yesterday's donuts and hot coffee to folks even if she had no power. You'd have to know New England to get why that was so important. It's not that DD coffee is any good -- it's that DD is like some kind of state religion, like Starbucks used to be in some big cities, with a zoning regulation seemingly stipulating a mandatory store every so many feet. The world can turn upside down, but if the Dunkin's is open, it'll be okay. So I went in and had a cuppa, even though I had a hand-grinder and a french press to make my own at home. Religious reasons, really, sacramental coffee -- about the same relationship to real coffee as sacramental wine is to a good Bordeaux, but that's not really the point. It's the spirit of the thing.

This was the longest we've had to go without line power, especially during Winter, and it's another good reminder that I'd like to be able to provide for even more of our energy needs, and without needing to use petro fuels of any kind. We'll get there...I have high hopes that one of the things that an Obama administration will bring is decent tax credits for microhydro, solar PV, solar hot water, and other forms of alternative energy. Aside from small-scale personal projects, there's already a big wind farm coming in to the next town over, another local power plant runs off of sawdust and wood chips from the local lumber mills, and there's some hydro power here and there.

Anyhow, nice to be back in the world, more or less, now to catch up a bit.

puppy love

Nov. 28th, 2008 07:12 am
chelidon: (Griffin walking)
I'd like to introduce you to our newest member of the family, Griffin. He's a Hovawart, and a real cutie. The cats will forgive us. Someday. Maybe.


A rapidly-growing gallery of puppy pics and vids here

chelidon: (Greenhouse sun 2)
On this national day of wretched consumer excess, following a day of thankfulness and family (and perhaps a bit of gustatory excess), I am personally thankful for those who have managed to escape the well-greased consumer chute, like this local fellow:

Vt. engineer designs a good life for $5,000 a year

Merkel's book, Radical Simplicity, is a good one, and the associated website, is well-worth purusing.


Nov. 13th, 2008 06:16 pm
chelidon: (Pan Mardi Gras)
I love my local paper, but sometimes its small-town roots show, and not in a good way.

Front-page above the fold photo caption today, pic of kids on a school bus:

Third- and fourth-graders from Westshire Elementary School in West Fairlee were heading down I-91 yesterday to see Phantom of the Tollbooth at the Lebanon Opera House.


Clue for editor: Norton Juster is not the same as Gaston Leroux, nor even Andrew Lloyd Webber. Wikipedia and Google are your friend.

more hope

Nov. 12th, 2008 11:46 am
chelidon: (Greenhouse sun 2)
Judge opens door for gay marriage in Connecticut

Justice happens, one small step at a time.

c'mon over

Nov. 5th, 2008 12:25 pm
chelidon: (Lugh-ahyup)
To my friends and loved ones understandably discouraged by the California Prop 8 results, as well as the equally despicable Prop 102 in Arizona, Arkansas Initiative 1, and Florida Amendment 2, take heart -- times (and minds) are indeed changing, and injustice and bigotry can not stand against truth and basic human rights forever.

But in the meantime, same-sex couples can marry in Massachusetts and Connecticut, same-sex civil unions are the law in New Hampshire and Vermont, and same-sex domestic partnerships have legal rights in Maine. Winters may be chilly, but there's nothing more romantic than sitting in front of a blazing fireplace with someone you love...and knowing it's it's legal. Also, deep blue really is a lovely color, especially on a political map. Just sayin'.
chelidon: (Kitty Litter party food)
Two words we will not have to fear hearing for a while, if ever, are "President Palin." See excerpt below.

This from the woman who routinely sent her kids on junkets at State expense, and yet who went on about fiscal responsibility and liberal excess. $20,000-$40,000 of clothes for her husband? I don't know that I could spend $40K on clothes if I tried. And good for saner heads in the McCain campaign that denied Palin's bizarre spotlight-grubbing request to speak at the concession speech. What an utter maroon.

From Newsweek:

NEWSWEEK has also learned that Palin's shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family—clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.

A Palin aide said: "Governor Palin was not directing staffers to put anything on their personal credit cards, and anything that staffers put on their credit cards has been reimbursed, like an expense. Nasty and false accusations following a defeat say more about the person who made them than they do about Governor Palin."

McCain himself rarely spoke to Palin during the campaign, and aides kept him in the dark about the details of her spending on clothes because they were sure he would be offended. Palin asked to speak along with McCain at his Arizona concession speech Tuesday night, but campaign strategist Steve Schmidt vetoed the request.


Nov. 5th, 2008 12:51 am
chelidon: (Default)
Breathing again now. I didn't realize until the election was called and McCain had conceded just how much energy I had been putting into this, and for how long.

Now the real work begins. But yes, there is hope.
chelidon: (Greenhouse sun 2)
Showed up at 8:15a.m., polls opened at 8am. Small line, perhaps 20 people, another 10 already in voting, about 10 election officials doing a very efficient job of sorting us into lines by last name and checking our name off on the voter rolls. I waited about 2 minutes, didn't even have to show ID (a small-town benefit, where folks know at least your face, if not your name). Filled out my ballot (marking bubbles with black felt pen for an optical reader), turned it in, got my "I voted" sticker, in and out in about 10 minutes. Our town gets high turnout even for off-years and primaries, so I'm expecting somewhere between 80-90% turnout.

My Lovely Housemates voted about 30 min later, and my Ravishing Partner will go after work, and bring the Beamish Boy, who asked to be able to come along -- we've been taking him with us to vote every year since he was born, and he feels very much a part of the process and can't wait to be able to cast his own vote someday.

I do hope. I do.
chelidon: (Default)
You don't have to finish it. All those things you could do, all those things you should do, all those things you want to do -- you don't have to finish them all. And you won't. When you die, as you will, there is so much that you will leave undone, incomplete, unfinished. And that is fine, that is not only normal but inevitable, that is the way of the world, and you share that in common with all people in all places and times.

You don't have to finish it. And you also don't have to see your life as one small step in a long chain from point A to point B, a milestone against some arbitrary measuring stick in an inexorable march of progress from what was, to what will be. That is not how the world works. Times rise and fall, empires rise and fall, fashions and moral codes and religions and schools of thought rise and fall, and if you do not see "progress" in your own particular lifetime, that is okay. Do what you can, what you are called to do, and that is enough. Some cycles, perhaps most cycles, play out in decades, centuries, eras, and some cycles, perhaps most cycles, are not even obviously cycles at all. Humanity projects a need for simple rules, narrowly-defined forward progress and easily understood patterns onto a universe which is so much richer, so much more complex than that. The universe is far more vast, more wonderful, surprising, and full of mystery than we can possibly imagine.

You don't have to finish it, and you won't. You don't even have to make progress, and you may not, depending on your own definition of progress. All you have to do is let go of the fear, and live your own life fully and completely. With passion and fervor, engage the world around you and those in it, and do what is in your heart to do. Love, live, and create, and know that the trajectory of your life, the words you speak, the thoughts you have, the lives you touch, and most especially, the love you bring to the world, these are the impressions you make onto the essence of the cosmos itself. These wonderful tracks made as you walk, your life's true Tales, they never fade, do not age, do not pass away, they are forever and always part of the eternal fabric of the universe, for all time, as long as time shall be. This one truth is a thing so true that all the universe stands in quiet witness to it, now and forever.

You don't have to finish it. And you don't have to make progress. You have a life, and a death, a beginning and an ending. And in between is magic, that is your birthright: to live your life as fully as you can, and have your own unique Tale become a part of the grand weaving which is constantly creating the universe -- an essential piece of the great infinite story which tells itself, the song of all voices which sounds everywhere, in all places, creating and reifying existence, at every moment, sung in love and beauty by every speck of matter and energy that was, is, or shall be. You are not merely a meaningless letter upon a page, you are not a single word in a sentence, you are not a sentence in a paragraph, a scribbled footnote, or even a single page in the book. Your life is a dense, rich chapter, a whole section, one entire book in a series, full of richness and meaning, and the loss of a chapter, or an entire book, leaves a gap that no one else can ever fill.

But you don't have to finish it, because there is no "it" to finish. You don't have to make "progress," because your entire life is progress enough. You don't have to worry if you are doing enough, or if you made the right choices, you don't have to second-guess your own life. By the standards of the universe, you are already a success, and the proof of that success is your very existence. Just as you cannot escape your life, your life cannot escape you.

You don't have to go out and write the book of your life, because you are writing it, in every moment, through every action, every choice, every word, each creation, touch and love. Your living history, the song of your life, the story of who and what you are, and your place in the great Tale, is being told all around you. There are no bit players, no anonymous actors, no unimportant stories. All voices are heard, and all tales are told.

So you will leave things undone. And yet, your Tale will be complete in itself -- not a fragment, not an unfinished story, but complete, entire and perfect.

So relax, open fully to the wonders of the universe, drink deep of the exquisite joys and precious pains and love and laughter and sorrow and agony, immerse yourself in the communions and loneliness and rapture and boredom and wonder and mystery. Know that who and what you are, your life, however long it lasts, will be complete, and that your Tale, whatever it is, matters, and that your life has meaning, even if that meaning is not clear. The fact that you are here is mystery enough. Your existence itself is such an incredible, improbable miracle that to question its worth is very much the same as questioning the worth of the universe. It is, and you are, and that is mystery and meaning enough to ponder for one lifetime, or many.

Breathe, live, and love. That's all you need to do. And look, you're already doing it. That's all there is to it.


Nov. 2nd, 2008 11:16 am
chelidon: (Default)
Here in Battleground New Hampshire (or what was supposed to be a battleground state), in the last few days we've now had about a dozen calls and three drive-by personal visits (in a very population-sparse, rural area) from Obama volunteers. There's been not a peep, even by phone, from anyone from the McCain campaign. I take this as a very good sign -- McCain can't even get enough people to man the phones, much less drive all over the place to canvas and get out the vote.

One of the Obama drive-bys yesterday had a rare supply of Obama signs (nobody can keep them "in stock," another good sign), so I was able to replace the one out front that someone stole last week (along with many of the other Obama signs in the area). Besides being extremely pissed about having some lowlife asshole come onto my land and steal my property, I was morally offended that someone would be so utterly unAmerican as to mess with both free expression and the democratic process. That kind of thing is also so VERY MUCH not typical, and not in the New England ethic (you may disagree with what someone does on their side of their rock wall, but you do NOT come over the wall and mess with them, and you do NOT mess with democracy).

So my new Obama sign is now being overseen by a battery-operated camouflaged motion-sensitive waterproof night vision camera (typically used around here to scout out possible game trails for naturalists and hunters). If someone snatches my new sign, night or day, the police will get color glossies, and in a small town, the local cops tend to have plenty of time to follow up on petty larceny.
chelidon: (Tractor Caution)
Really excellent piece by Michael Polllan in the NYT here.

With cheap oil coming to an end, so is cheap food, and so is being able to temporarily, and artificially, boost agricultural production by in essence, pouring oil all over it (in the form of fertilizers, chemicals, pesticides, industrial-scale production and distribution methods, etc). Localized, sustainable agricultural practices that do not depend on massive injections of petro-based chemicals to counteract equally massive soil nutrient depletion will have to become the norm, and soon.


Farmer in Chief

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention.

Complicating matters is the fact that the price and abundance of food are not the only problems we face; if they were, you could simply follow Nixon’s example, appoint a latter-day Earl Butz as your secretary of agriculture and instruct him or her to do whatever it takes to boost production. But there are reasons to think that the old approach won’t work this time around; for one thing, it depends on cheap energy that we can no longer count on. For another, expanding production of industrial agriculture today would require you to sacrifice important values on which you did campaign. Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them. Let me explain.

After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.

Full article here, login required, blah blah.
chelidon: (indaoffice)
A bit more emo than my usual fare, but this video from an upcoming album release by an artist I'd never heard of (suppose I'm out of touch, have had my head fairly buried in trad stuff recently), is rather a decent simple tune, a good voice, and a well-made video, in a fun, deliberately over the top, over-stylized way (at least I hope it was deliberate). It's seasonal, I liked it, thought some of you might, too:

chelidon: (Reaper-2)
In keeping with the seasonal shift towards thoughts of the ending of things...

Neil Gaiman: Important and pass it on

...a really good post from Neil Gaiman about the importance of writing up a quick will -- for anyone, but especially if you're an artist and care about what happens to your work (and want to make things *much* less difficult for your friends and loved ones). There's a link in there to a simple will form (for US folks, but international forms are available online) that anyone can fill out in 30 min or less. It doesn't require a lawyer, or spending any money, or really, much time at all.

Really, death is the one thing that absolutely, without exception, will happen to you, sooner or later. Might as well spend just a few minutes of life dealing with that. While you're at it, write a living will/advance directive, so others clearly know what you do and don't want medically if you can't say it yourself, could save loved ones endless heartache and grief. Working in a medical setting, I know too well what happens if you don't have one of these -- people who don't know you have to try to figure out what you wanted, so they'll usually err on the side of ridiculous and extreme measures, or family will make choices which are clearly against the will of the patient. Don't let it happen to you, remember Terri Schiavo.

More info here (including a link to the easy to use Five Wishes template: Advance Directive)
chelidon: (Default)
I've been mostly offline for a while, so much is going on, I don't even know where to begin. Tomorrow we're going to spend the day out helping a friend and his family after he had a motorcycle accident a couple of weeks ago that will keep him immobilized (and out of work) for at least a few months. We'll stop at the farmer's market on the way and pick up a bunch of food so we can fill their larder, chop firewood, and help out with all of the pre-winter chores, 'cause that's what you do around here.

Speaking of what you do around here, two stories that made my day:

Connecticut Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage

Connecticut Ruling Overturns Ban on Same-Sex Marriage

Now both Connecticut and Massachusetts have legalized same-sex marriages, Vermont and New Hampshire have same-sex civil unions, and Maine has a domestic partnership law that covers same-sex couples. Not because New England is uniformly liberal (though parts of Mass and Vermont are), but because in what I know of New England ethics, your personal and sexual life is a personal and private matter, nobody else's damn business, and to discriminate against someone on that basis is just plain *rude*. What you choose to do on your side of the fence -- your own personal, sexual, religious life, whatever, is yours to pursue, so long as you don't come over to *my* side of the fence and make it my business or try to tell me how to live. I may or may not agree with how you live your life, but I have the right to decide whether I choose to associate with you. I have no such right to infringe on your freedom to live your life as you choose, or to intrude on your personal life. That's just wrong.

Ah-yup. Works for me.
chelidon: (Three Hikers)
Off to Vermont Camp with my Ravishing Partner and Beamish Boy (his first Witchcamp! ...and my first in 10+ years where I don't have to teach)... The weather seems to have finally changed from tropical rainforest back to a more normal New England temperate summer, so we should have nicely warm sunny days and lovely cool nights, with perhaps a few rainstorms in there, but not the daily thunderstorms and deluges we've had for most of the last couple of months. There will be swimming, and sunning, and much musical and drum jamming and dancing, and hanging out with old friends and new, and reading, and much delicious family time with my much delicious family.

Catch you all on the flip-side, and have a lovely and wonderful week! I am afraid that by the time I return, the impetuous and resolute pumpkin vines will have fully consumed the hapless Japanese Maple tree out front (one of them is working at it, even now, over the top of the tree and down the other side, anchored with heavy pumpkins growing larger by the day, tendrils seeking, searching, inching closer, closer to the house...)
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