Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Day in the Life....

I wake to the sounds of lovebird Thurston downstairs shrieking from his cage, and a frantic look around tells me that the cat's not in bed with me. I immediately wonder if I left someone's cage door open overnight and Boo has taken notice.

Still half asleep and disoriented, I stub my toe on the door frame as I run for the stairs. Tattletale Thurston is fine, but I discover Lily's cage is open. She's safe on her perch as usual, now looking at me in alarm.

What was the problem? Thurston thought it was high time he was fed....

He's not the only one. My whole house is hungry.

Before bothering to turn on the kettle, I begin feeding the 30+ monarch caterpillars that are enclosed in their little beer cups on my kitchen counter. One by one. Leaf by leaf. Each 'cat' is studied (is it eating?, thriving?, otherwise healthy?). Each cup is emptied of its poop. Each leaf remnant is replaced with fresh milkweed. Each 'cat' is transferred onto its fresh leaf with a paintbrush....

The task takes time but could be so much worse. I've fostered 100+ caterpillars at one time in the past; feeding that many is a full-time affair. And today I'm also collecting info, taking pics, measuring one caterpillar in each instar phase -- all to be used as props and documentation in any opportunities I may have at this season's Fest to teach others about the monarchs.

Knee-deep in my caterpillar routine there's a familiar 'thunk' at my back door. I know what it is. This happens every morning on the days that I feed Lily and Thurston but fail to bring their spent seed and leftovers outside to the feeder. Sure enough -- moments later there's a scrabbling outside my kitchen and soon a grey squirrel is peering in the window over my sink, giving me the stink-eye as I stand at my counter.

I pause in my routine to bring seed outside to the feeder and I see him hiding behind the trunk of the mulberry, watching me with one eye. I see the chipmunk, too, hiding in the hostas. And beyond is Bad Bunny in a patch of blooming clover. Wrens dart from birdhouse to birdhouse, chittering. A monarch flutters up from the back corner, reminding me that I must check that dwindling milkweed patch for eggs and caterpillars. My back garden is full of activity and I long to pull up a patio chair, enjoy a cup of coffee, and just watch it. But there's too much to do....

A quick walk through the dining room in search of my reading glasses reveals the turtles in their tank,  finished with their breakfast now and further worrying a strip of plastic caulk in the corner of the aquarium. I pause to remove it and to appreciate their wonderfulness. Tiny turtle hatchlings, so small and perfect, almost like jewelry. And with SO much personality!

I quickly check Nell in her terrarium below them and notice she looks 'different.' Long hairy tarantula legs poking at odd angles from the end of her hollow log. A quick blow into the screen top doesn't make them retract, but it does make an additional pair of legs appear at the other end! The effect is bizarre and makes me think of a slinkydog or a pushme-pullyu. But it's just that she's moulted. I must remember to look for a jar or a specimen box just in case the moult is all in one piece (because how cool would that be??).

About the time I've finished feeding and checking on the others -- James's beta fish, his snake Syntche, the little housemouse, rattie Max -- Boo appears. It's foodtime for her, too. I've wondered where she's been hiding since my frantic wake-up call revealed she wasn't in bed with me. Or in any of her other hide-outs. Or underfoot, as usually happens first thing in the morning. Who knows where she's been? But wherever it was, I'm sure it's cozy. Someplace I'd like to curl up in if I were a cat.

I feed her before putting on my shoes and grabbing my tool caddies -- two cardboard 6-pack Guinness carriers wrapped in duct tape and outfitted with a pair of scissors, a bottle of drinking water, two ziploc containers lined with moist paper towels, and a little bottle of WD-40 in the event my bike -- 'Gladys' -- is especially squeaky. I pack everything into her basket and we're off.

And then I remember: I fed everyone but myself! Good thing I brought an apple. :)

The day is glorious. A Calvin and Hobbes day. The sun is warm on my back. The clouds are billowy overhead. I reach Postage Stamp Pond and it's too pretty for words, but I'd best keep my eye on the bike path so I can be sure to dodge the occasional pile of dog poop and the dozen or so fly-covered toads, all squashed into the tar by bike tires. Some sad in the midst of my happy.... The poop disgusts me. The toad bodies just break my heart. I love toads. I used to see so many of them when I was a child, and now it seems there are so few. So when I suspect they're being targeted on the walking path, it pains me. Although, to be fair, when James and I walked it recently at the very end of the day, it alarmed us how the toads looked just like rocks in front of us as they lay basking in the heat of the day-warmed path. Had we not been vigilant we'd have squashed a dozen or so between us. They didn't move, even when we prodded them with a toe. Perfect targets....

I ride to where the path meets the busy road. And instead of crossing and continuing on, I turn around, leave Gladys to graze on the verge, and begin to collect milkweed. Dried white spatters tell me where I harvested leaves the day before; the milkweed juice is opaque as paint. There are bees everywhere, and electric blue 'darning needles.' A family of Canada geese eyes me warily as I inch along, but I ignore them. My hunting turns up nothing but a single monarch egg.... I fill a plastic container with enough leaves for my existing herd and return to where Gladys waits on the bike path.

Back again in my cluttery kitchen I put the leaf with its little monarch egg into a shotglass full of fresh water. The ziploc containers with their fresh milkweed leaves get placed in the fridge; their contents will come in handy tonight when I feed and check the late-stage caterpillars before bed. It's afternoon now and all the monarch work is over for a bit, I think. But then I remember the little patch of dwindling milkweed at the bottom of my garden and I go outside to check it.

Happy day! -- three more hatchlings.

Work's not over yet.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

A Wonder-Filled Visit

My champion -- aka the Grandson -- visited for a bit not long ago. As soon as his seatbelt was unbuckled he hit the ground running, and I could hear him excitedly shouting all the way to my back door.

"Gwamma! Guess what?" he said as he navigated the back step. "The Wild is in the pwayoffs!"

"The Wild?" I said. "The playoffs? Cool! They must be good at basketball."

He gave a puzzled look as I held the door for him. "Gwamma, don't you know anything about hockey??"

I do, sort of. I was teasing him. But it appears that I'll have to know a bit more about it in future if I want to earn his undying love and admiration.... He attempted to educate me as he peeled off his cap and shoes, filling me in about the stats and players and teams I've never heard of.

"The 'Blues?' The blue whats exactly? The Blue jays? The Blue birds?"

He rolled his eyes. "Gwamma, they're just the Bwoos. And the wed team is the Fwames."

"The 'Flames,' huh?"

"Yep. And they're wed because fire is WED."

"You don't say!" :)

First it was a game or two or twelve of Angry Birds. ("Gwamma, I will teach you how to pway. Watch and learn.")

Then it was outside for some croquet action. "Hey.... Did you buy this game Up North??" (Someone's obviously played croquet at a cabin.) Nevermind the stakes and hoops; we spent our time in the sun knocking each other's balls out of play and laughing as they rolled into the garden and under the vines.

In the course of our game we paused to watch the busy chickadees as they carved out a cavity in my locust tree. (The face of my Green Man merely looked amused as birds took turns darting in and out of his moustache.) The grandson was captivated, but only for a bit. Then it was back to the competition! He was The Wild and I was The Bwoos and there was no way he was going to let me win The Pway-Offs. :)

I didn't try too hard. And he made sure to encourage me after every swing I took that missed.

All too soon his mom phoned to tell us she was on her way, so before he left for home again we took a break for Freezie Pops.

It was a VERY good day. :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My New Ride

Looks like a 'Harriet' to me.
On a sunny Sunday a month ago, James and I took a different route home through the Village and we passed a big antiques shop that had metal trellises and galvinized tubs and other garden-type stuff out front. And there, chained together near the entrance, was a bunch of rusted bicycles. 

This one caught my eye.

What I liked about it so much was that it kind of reminded me of the bike I had as a kid. (Granted, mine was turquoise and had a 'buck seat' in back instead of a wire basket in front, but nevermind....) And this old rusty one looked like it was missing its little girl....

Well. I was old and rusty and missing my 'little girl', too. We had a lot in common.

I carefully looked her over, inquired inside about her, and asked James for his opinion, too. But I still walked away, wondering if this interest was just a momentary bout of silliness. I swear the bike looked hopeful for a second and then crestfallen! And on the rest of the way home, I kept revisiting memories of my own bicycle and the adventures we had together. It's been 40 years since I last rode a bike, but I can still remember the thrill. Who wouldn't want to revisit that if they could?

The memories were so strong. They kept me awake that night....

So the next morning I walked back to the antiques shop -- this time with some art money -- and I asked again about the bike. It took forever for the ladies there to find the key that would cull her from the rest of the herd, and afterward I tried to perch on her seat and urge her forward (in spite of her flat tires), just to see if I could do so without being frightened. When I saw that both feet could touch the ground easily, I bought her without thinking too much and walked her the rest of the way home.

James filled her tires that evening and dared me to give her a whirl around the block, but I was too self-conscious. What if I fell? Skinned my old knee? Broke my old hip? A friend my age had warned me: she tried out a new bike before purchasing, fell in the parking lot (to her embarrassment), and didn't hurt herself so much as scared herself, and she cautioned me to at least get a helmet before getting back in the saddle. So I used the 'lack of helmet' excuse to keep from riding her in front of James.

But the next morning? Safety gear be damned. I had to see if I could DO this after all these years. 

I was wrong. It's a 'Gladys.'
So I leapt on my new ride (a lie; I very sedately walked it to the curb, perched awkwardly on its seat, and tentatively got it going in a wobbly forward direction without falling off) and pedaled her around the block a few times. No sharp turns, no hard stops. All as easy-peasy as possible. Every passing car gave me a wide margin. And I imagined myself looking like a juggler on a unicycle, comically over-exaggerating my actions to make the audience think that at any moment I'll hit the ground. (That wasn't acting.)

There was much squeaking and jerking and flailing, but after a few near mishaps we sort of hit our stride together and I experienced a quick rush of memory: me as a kid on my Big Bike, the arch of its turquoise frame like the neck of a horse. It was my steed, carrying me to adventure. I'd kick it forward and throw my leg over its back like a trick rider, then gallop down the street no-handed, the wind in my hair....

No lie: that wind in my hair once again was exhilarating.

I rode again the next morning, this time to Postage Stamp Pond and back. Baby steps. Even though I'd lubricated some of her moving parts, we still groaned and squeaked our way through the streets. She didn't try to buck me off or turn me back towards home again like the day before, either! Progress. As we trotted together around the neighborhoods I kept thinking about a name. This bike looked like a 'Harriet' to me, and all the way home again I kept trying it out in my head.

That afternoon my Eldest phoned to ask me about my purchase and to surprise me with a tune-up at the nearby bike shop. A tune-up! Suddenly everything had gotten serious. But, I wondered, when my bike and I showed up for our appointment would the guys there laugh her out of the place? Would they laugh ME out of the place?? There was only one way to find out.

Not wanting to ride her there and risk wiping out spectacularly (or otherwise looking ridiculous), I walked her the few blocks to Jerry's Schwinn and braced myself for the comments. But the young man there who'd written up the order ran a hand over her neck and said, "Ooooh, a classic. She's in really good shape!" He could tell at a glance that some parts would need replacing and he wasn't sure if they were even available anymore, so it would take a few days before I'd know whether or not she could be restored to decent ride-ability. But he promised to take good care of her.

As I returned home, I kept imagining what I would do when it came time to pick her up again, promising myself that I'd get James to drive there with his car so we could just load her up in back and I could try her out again in private. But within a few days I got a call saying she was ready, and to my surprise I immediately hung up the phone and walked there with my claim slip. A different man was behind the counter. "So the Beast is going home!" he laughed, and I cringed a little bit. This would be interesting....

I almost look like I know what I'm doing!
As he led my rusty steed out from the back room he said, "I tried it out and have to say it moves pretty well for an old tank." More cringing. With the subtraction of my tune-up I had just enough dollars in my pocket for a helmet, so I chose a blue one and tried it on for size. The man showed me how to adjust it to fit, and I paid for it without taking it off. "You gonna ride 'er home?" he joked as he held the door for me. I hesitated. Originally I thought I didn't have enough for the safety gear, and that would've again been my Big Excuse. But I was armed now. So I gingerly climbed aboard and took off.

And I didn't stop.


I rode along the river, past my high school poetry teacher's former cottage with its white picket fence, past grand new homes made of brick and stone and money. I struggled up little hills, my thighs burning. I flew down little inclines, my braids flying. 

As I pedaled, I kept thinking about the little girl whose bike mine might have been. Did she go on adventures? Pretend her bike was a horse? Did she take it to the library for some summer vacation reading? Ride it to the corner store for gum or popsicles or comic books?

It's been a glorious month since my bike and I first made eye contact, and during that time we've been everywhere together, or at least everywhere that doesn't involve traffic or other bikes or too many obstacles.... Not comfortable with the name I'd dubbed her, my new ride insisted on being called 'Gladys,' a far better fit. And at first she tried throwing me from potholes and steering me into ponds, but I think that had more to do with my 'bikemanship' skills than any headstrong attitude on her part

Interestingly, James has also fallen for her charms. He's surprised Gladys with a fancy bike lock (as if anyone would steal her) and has tempered her old seat with a new gel-filled cover so that this rider isn't quite so saddle-sore after galloping across summer afternoons of sunshine and butterflies. (He's also checked into getting a similar bike of his own!)

Since my purchase I've seen other 'coaster bikes' for sale at flea markets and novelty shops. Others in far better shape than Gladys. Higher priced than Gladys, too. But she and I are a good match. It makes me happy to think I've rescued her from possibly becoming some woman's garden ornament, and I imagine her gratefulness for this second chance at adventure. Yeah, a new bike might possibly have been cheaper than the repairs I just paid for (not by a long shot, as it turns out). 

But you can't buy good vibes and memories.

Friday, June 12, 2015


Head's exploding a little! I need to change things up, I'm thinking.

There are readers here -- friends in real life -- who don't make a habit of commenting on my blogposts, but will contact me via email about them. And that's perfect!

That being said: I'm learning that the recent accidental postings (OK, not so recent; it was a month ago) of my daily email blast have resonated with some of them, and their comments remind me of a conversation I had with my Eldest ages ago, one in which she told me that my daily email needs to be my blog. It's more 'me.' Because I don't edit myself there like I tend to do here.

Why, exactly? That's had me wondering....

I feel like I have to be careful here; Mayfaire is my biz and I worry about its 'brand.' Would sharing my scars and my daily highs and lows hurt my biz? I haven't wanted to take that chance....


Should I create a second blog?

Wondering, wondering.... And I've been wondering now for weeks.

It's not the only thing that's making my head explode exactly. There's a whole buttload of stuff going on right now that gives me tons to think about:
  • It's summer vacation!
  • I'm having Trip-of-a-Lifetime flashbacks
  • What's up with my Etsy store??
  • Monarch butterfly season here at Tumbledown has begun
  • Fest prep is underway
  • How can I turn my recent creations into Fest products?
  • My gardens are SHAGGY and in need of attention
  • My house is shaggier....
  • And -- it's summer vacation! (My inner child can't seem to get around this and knuckle down.)
Yikes! I'm not sure where to focus my attention.... But that's normal for me, isn't it?

So now you know: In the weeks that I've been silent, blogwise, it's simply the usual chaos here. Making everything crazier than it needs to be is apparently my superhero power. :)

I'll try to get things under control enough to write again. Until then!

I heart you, my friend,