August 2017

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Before I say ANYTHING about my video or stick and mud season, I want to wish a happy birthday to my friend and fandom partner in crime [personal profile] heartofoshun. I love you as an author and a scholar but most of all as a friend. I appreciate so much all you do for our little corner of the Interwebz and for me personally. Few people in my life have been so unconditionally supportive of me, and I can't express how much it means. I hope your day is as wonderful as you deserve!

Next things next: My video has creaked through the YouTube upload process on my satellite Internet. It's just the audio of me reading my paper with the slides. So this one is not 45 minutes of watching me sit and read! It's also only 20 minutes. I haven't watched it, so if there is anything egregious in the images or audio, it's a mistake--please let me know! The images are pretty crappy on my computer, but YouTube videos are usually pretty crappy on my computer--to the point that I can't always do my Drupal tutorials if it's rainy or snowy or windy because I can't see the image well enough to get anything out of it!--so I hope they're not actually that bad for people with normal Internet. If they are ... it's doubtful I'm going to have time to do anything about it, since it is basically redoing the video. But it can be used as a last resort as a sleep aid, presuming my accent isn't terribly annoying.



And! It was amazingly effing beautiful weather today. It was like Vermont said, "Fuck! It's spring!" and decided to do something about it. It was 77F/25C driving home from work this afternoon and brilliantly sunny. Most of the snow is now gone. And the river is thawed so ...

What else to do but go kayaking, right?? Bobby texted me when he got home--I was still working, of course!--and I pretty much packed up and left immediately, and he had the kayaks on the car already by the time I arrived home. We launched just a couple hundred yards/meters from our house because the river is so high that places that are normally an impossibly steep bank are only about a foot above the water now.

The Barton River flows near our house. Well, normally, it lazes past our house. It's a very calm river. In February, we had a few very warm days and a thaw, and the river rose to where River Road was, in places, just a car-wide track with water on either side. It wasn't so dramatic this time, but the river did rise to about a foot below the road on Friday. It's much lower now, but it actually has a current to it.

So going down the river was easy and fun. At one point, there was a tree fallen across the river except for a two-foot wide passage. I knew as soon as I went into it that I was going to regret it going back: With the current funneling into that tiny outlet, my kayak shot through like I was on the log flume at a theme park. It was hella fun! We rowed down to the bridge where Coventry Station Road crosses the river mostly because it was a logical turn-around point and I wanted to go under the bridge. This is our usual launch point on the Barton because it has a public access with a path down to the water. Looking at Google Maps, we paddled about 1.5 miles/2.5 km round-trip.

The row back was definitely tough, not helped by the fact that the only arm workout I've gotten since packing up the kayaks last fall is occasionally hauling wood pellets up from the barn--and Bobby does that most of the time! I almost didn't make it back through the log flume. It took two tries. It didn't help that the first time, Bobby essentially piled his kayak onto mine from behind! I let him through and tried again, and made it.

River Road runs parallel with a set of train tracks (a train came through while we were paddling, which was cool), and beyond the railroad bridge, the water was still solid ice. It was like looking through a portal into the North Pole.

We saw quite a few critters: two beavers, a great blue heron, what appeared to be a red-tailed hawk, umpteen redwing blackbirds, lots of different waterfowl. We're officially in mud season. One day last week, I stepped out of the car and sank about an inch into the driveway. But all in all, it hasn't been too bad. People always warn us first about the long winters--and we survived our first of those--and then mud season, and we're surviving that too. (It helps that we have an amazing road guy who has raked the road about weekly since the snow melted off of it. Our road is pretty scary when the traction isn't good, so I think I'd feel differently about mud season if not for our road guy. <3 to the Coventry road guy!)

It's also stick season since our trees are far from blooming or leafing out up here ... but some have buds! And I'm starting to sneeze more, which tells me they're doing their thing. And there is some green among the grass: faint and brave but there.

Right now? I'm tired. I want to stretch out somewhere and read. I wonder if my arms will be sore tomorrow.
This is apparently peak leaf weekend in our neck of the woods. We saw a lot of out-of-state tags during our errands today. That's great! Come enjoy our leaves and support Vermont's economy!

My posting here should relieve anyone who was worrying that, no, I did not reach an ignoble end in a killer-clown attack at school yesterday. It was a little of a rough afternoon, and my colleagues and I gathered at the end of the day, kind of heaved a collective sigh, and I said, "Well, the good news is that no one was killed by clowns today."

Bobby had a rough week too, so we both very much needed to recalibrate. We discovered while picking up the perennials from his colleague on Thursday that we are about ten minutes from Brownington Pond, so we loaded the kayaks on top of the car and went out to explore.

It was just what we needed. About an hour-and-a-half out on the pond with the setting sun making the surrounding forest glow like fire and we both felt like new humans. Pictures are below the cut with the usual caveats that they are cell phone photos taken from a kayak on the water. I do my best to keep them clear and my horizons straight, but currents and winds sometimes foil my best efforts!

Pictures below the cut )

So I did end up letting that cute bearded guy who followed me up the creek take me out to dinner. We went to the Newport Ciderhouse for their Oktoberfest weekend. I have written here before about how I have the occasional allergic reaction to beer. A lot of beer makes me itch and cough a little, but it's very minor, and so I limit myself to one and never mix varieties, and I'm fine. But every now and then, I get a hold of one that progresses beyond itching and coughing. My face and lungs fill with mucus, so I'm constantly coughing and sneezing, and my face gets red and hot. I had tasted 14th Star's Maple Breakfast Stout when Bobby's ordered it before, but when I had my own pint last night, I was three sips in and felt that distinctive itching start between my shoulder blades. I asked Bobby to finish it for me and resigned myself to sticking with water going forward. Unfortunately, it didn't stop there, and I had a full-blown allergic reaction! D^:

I enjoyed dinner as much as I could given that my head felt like a water balloon being filled by a garden hose. When we arrived back home, I went to bed to read and ended up falling asleep very early, which I probably needed because the Goldens were very restless a couple nights this week, and I was operating under a sleep deficit.

I still can't figure out what causes that reaction. It seems so random. It's happened with four different beers: two stouts, a porter, and an IPA. The only thing I can figure is that it's a specific type of hops or yeast being used. Since Vermont has so many amazing ciders, I'll probably be sticking more closely to those.

Tomorrow, we are hoping to hike Mount Mansfield, Vermont's highest mountain, so I hope I will have more pretty leaves and mountains to share soon.

Holland Pond

Oct. 3rd, 2016 08:50 pm
dawn_felagund: (autumn leaf)
Autumn is still descending in its multi-hued glory to Northern Vermont. Yesterday was a grumpy, gray, rather miserable day: 55F/13C, damp, with those drifting, misty showers that seem to ooze out of the air itself. Nonetheless, Bobby and I decided to take a couple-hours kayak jaunt out on Holland Pond, about a half-hour northeast of us. It had been recommended to him as a rather remote and especially beautiful site among the Northeast Kingdom's myriad ponds and lakes.

The rain thankfully held off for the duration of our paddle, and there was enough wind to ensure that we were kept quite warm as we fought to keep our kayaks on course. It was a really fun pond--definitely one of my favorites--with a handful of cabins on its western shore but otherwise surrounded by a wildlife management area and very remote. It was unusual in the large, gray boulders that lined its edges. There were quite a few little coves to explore, one of the things I love best about kayaking. While hiking, of course, leaving the trail is verboten. On the water, one can duck into a little cove or start down a creek to see where it leads, worrying at most about getting stuck and having to make an undignified exit. (Not a problem once yesterday, despite putting myself into some tight spots; I am getting good at navigating the new kayak like I once was with the cantankerous bastard.) When I was a kid, there was nothing better than opening a novel with a map on the first few pages, and even now, I can read a road atlas for hours if left to my own devices. Kayaking scratches that itch to explore very, very well.

Of course, I took pictures. They are cell phone photos taken on a gloomy day, mostly from a kayak being tossed lightly in the wind so not the best quality, but I hope they give some sense of Holland Pond and the day! Click for photos )
I am presently on the train to New York, for the New York Tolkien Conference, stopped in Brattleboro in sight of Whetstone, the excellent nanobrewery that changes their beer menu daily. My train left Waterbury ... at 10:20, more than four and a half hours ago.

No, Vermont is not that big. The train was slowing down to stop in Brattleboro, people were standing in the aisles collecting their luggage, when the brakes went on hard. I heard one of the conductors say, "Uh oh, what happened?"

Remember last time I was on the Vermonter, when the train in front of us derailed? I didn't think we'd top that.

A few minutes later, the conductor came over the PA system. The train struck a "trespasser" (their words; I detest it in this context, although I understand the legal reasoning for it), who was pronounced dead immediately.

This was at 1:30, so two and a half hours later, we are just beginning to move. You know what? I don't care. I keep thinking about the poor person on the tracks, the "trespasser," and wonder why they were there, did they not hear the train? Or ...? To be fair, everyone was really decent about it, at least in my car, even though quite a few people were destined for Brattleboro, which was just a short walk away. No one complained, although the people seated near me for some reason misunderstood universally (maybe hopefully?) that the train had hit an animal. Ever the Mary Sunshine, I corrected them.

I did get a lot of work done while waiting, and some non-work too. I remember reading someone once remarking that many academics write their conference presentations on the plane to the conference. I couldn't do that! Anyone who knows me knows that my inner Hermione is hyperventilating at the mere thought. Of course I am not an academic and don't really aim to be! But I did do much of the Powerpoint on the train, so maybe that qualifies me to move up from baby-scholar status to wannabe-scholar. (I'm never sure what to call myself. The s-word seems fraught.)

I'm going to get something to eat. And a beer. I was expecting to arrive in the city in two hours and we just crossed into Massachusetts. I'm hungry, but I couldn't bring myself to buy pizza and beer while a person was dead under the train.

This week was pretty busy, mostly with getting ready for the conference (I think Oshun will be happy to not get any emails from me for a few days! I clicked the wrong button my phone today, and she was listed as my only Frequent Contact, which sums up my last week quite succinctly!) but also continuing to work on the house. We painted the living room and hallway this week, which involved a lot of taping and finicky, detailed work and so took longer than I wanted to spend on it.

We had fun too. On Sunday, we climbed Mount Pisgah, the third-highest mountain in the Northeast Kingdom, with both dogs. We didn't mean to. We thought we were climbing the more modest nearby Bald Mountain, but Vermont played a joke on us and had two identically named roads on opposite sides of the access area, with both trails blazed in blue. The only clue was to "walk east" from the access area, and I guess we walked west. (We did, I realize now that I'm thinking about us in relation to nearby Lake Willoughby, but I honestly wasn't thinking about it. I saw the road name, Bobby found the blue blaze, and we were both like, "HERE.") We made it to the top--even Lance! our little old man--and the view was as stunning as one would expect of the third-highest mountain in the Northeast Kingdom and overlooking Lake Willoughby to boot. We only figured out that it was the wrong mountain because there was supposed to be a fire tower and wasn't!

Oh am I out of shape! Remember when I was snowshoeing up mountains this winter? Four months of thesis-writing followed by all the chaos of moving (and making it to the gym maybe twice per week and usually copping out and doing weights when I did) means that ain't happening unless I get back to work.

On Wednesday, we took our trusty old inflatable Sea Eagle kayak out on the Barton River that runs near our house. We rowed (and floated a good deal, enjoying the scenery, the wildlife, and some incredibly scented flower that we never identified) for three and a half hours and made it most the way to the South Bay of Lake Memphremagog and back. We now know that if we row more than we float, we can easily make it. (If we cross the entire South Bay to Newport, we can treat ourselves to a nice lunch as well, but our neighbor says that it is ten miles from the access area near our house, so we might have to build up to that.)

We saw and heard these massive brown birds and assumed, they're massive so they'll be easy to identify, right? And it's Vermont, so it's not like there are hundreds of species of things. We've struck out utterly. Anything that lives in Vermont that looks like them doesn't sound anything like them.

Yesterday was Lancelot's ninth birthday, so we took both Goldens to Prouty Beach on Lake Mem in the evening and let them get in the water. It was Gwen's first time in the water, and she jumped and splashed with such unbridled joy that, when she'd stop, she had to catch her breath. Lance frolicked a little too but mostly acted like an old man in a pool and stood belly deep in the water. Gwen also treated herself to a nice roll in the sand that left her filthy. (Whose birthday was it again?)

I have so much catching up to do--including pictures from our various adventures!--but for now it is pizza and beer time.
Wednesday was Bobby's 34th birthday and also the last day of our trip, so we saved the excursion we were looking forward to the most for this day. Shell Island, as I noted in the last post, was created when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the channel between the Grand Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico to allow for the passage of shipping traffic. It is an uninhabited section of the park with absolutely no amenities and accessible only by boat. A shuttle boat runs regularly from St. Andrew's to Shell Island. There are some wooden poles stuck into the water to show where the shuttle boat will ride up onto the sand, but that is it. There are signs posted at St. Andrew's: Shell Island contains no water, shade, or bathrooms. If you want it, you have to bring it over with you.

The NO SHADE worried me the most. We brought over two big bottles of water, and if I needed the bathroom, it would not be the first time peeing in a wild place (or the ocean ... tmi!) by far. Despite properly applying sunscreen the day before, I was becoming tender in places, as was Bobby. So that morning, we stopped at the Ron Jon surf shop and picked up a pair of rash guards with SPF 50+ so that we could spend the day in NO SHADE in comfort.

We had lunch again at Finn's--the third time! The food was delicious and the open at 10. We had the scallop ceviche this time and I had the shrimp crunch wrap ... which, yes, is like the things they make at Taco Bell but about 100 times better! At St. Andrew's we rented a tandem kayak for the day, which was loaded onto the shuttle and across we went.

Shell Island was beautiful and wild. We donned our rash guards and launched our kayak and headed out along the coast on the channel side. I love rowing--there is something immensely satisfying about pulling yourself through the water--but I kept getting a crick in my right bicep that was annoying and sometimes painful. We pulled to shore so I could give it a rest and also to explore the island.

More and pictures below the cut ... )

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