Nooks and Crannies

Jay, Goldie and I got on the Connecticut River pretty early this morning, putting in on the New Hampshire side in Orford.
Jay and Goldie on the CT River 2014
When we studied the map of the river last week, Jay noticed a sizable inlet just north of the Orford put-in and we made for that.

It was perfect, full of birds, little nooks and crannies to poke around in.

We explored for an hour, paddling slowly.

At one point, we reached a spot where a brook flows over a little waterfall on its way into the big river. The sun was dancing on the water, making a perfect backdrop for my annual “Jay and Goldie in the kayak” photo.

Crafting the Connecticut (We Hope)

Warm and very humid today. The weather folks around here are predicting t-storms to clear this hard-to-breathe air out of here.

Sure hope so because we all want to get out on our kayaks tomorrow so we want the rain in and out of here, followed by cooler and drier weather, stuff suitable for September, not mid-July.

We did a recon mission last Sunday, scouting out good locations around the region for an upcoming article that I’m doing for Upper Valley Life magazine and we’ve scheduled ourselves to put into the Connecticut River up in Orford in the morning.
Grafton Pond-Goldie in the back of Jay's kayak 2 for web

Remembering Mom

My husband and I recently watched a two-part series on PBS about the Great Plains, how they have been abused and some of the folks who are trying to reclaim their wildness.
Mom at 17 for blog
Over and over again, the folks who are trying to conserve this amazing area talked about how they wanted it to be there for their grandchildren.
Mom's kids for web
It’s four years ago today since my Mom died. That’s her high school graduation picture at the top of this post. My favorite.

I’m the oldest of eight children. We were and probably still are the center of Mom’s universe. That’s us replicating a photo we took for our Mom and Dad’s 25th wedding anniversary on the day of her memorial celebration. (Please note that the third person from the left is my niece Natasha filling in for her Dad, our brother Jim, who was not there that day.)

My Mom faced many challenges in her life but she always made us her priority. She could be the fiercest hen in the barnyard when it came to keeping her chicks together and safe.

She sacrificed herself in ways that I probably still don’t understand.

In the last months before she died, she asked me to make her a smallish quilt because the bed-sized ones I’d previously made were too heavy for her to handle. Parkinson’s disease had left her fragile.

I made her a log cabin quilt, her favorite pattern, and it became the first quilt made for what became the Parkinson’s Comfort Project, though I didn’t know it at the time.

Her request became the inspiration for an effort to bring the comfort and compassion of handmade quilts to others with Parkinson’s disease. The effort started in her memory grows all the time.

There are lots of ways to reach into the future. The conservation folks in the Great Plains know that. So did my Mom, Marcia Luey Hakala.

An Enhanced Experience

Our son and daughter-in-law were married this past June at Seyon Lodge State Park in Groton, Vermont.
Mint and morning glory for web
It’s a beautiful spot and the food was absolutely wonderful.

For every meal, the staff set pitchers of cool water on the table, its delights enhanced by slices of lemon, cucumber and sprigs of mint.

I fell in love.

We have great water at our house, spring-fed, cold on the hottest days, no chemicals whatsoever. Yeah, we’re spoiled.

But that hint of mint? Mmmm. The barest breath of lemon? Nice. And cucumber is one of my all time favorite tastes and smells.

Years ago, I bought a single spearmint plant to add to my expanding gardens. Now all you dirt diggers out there know that there’s no such thing as a single mint plant. I yank this stuff out by the roots from the rhubarb and cat mint every fall and every spring, the mint mocks me by coming up exactly where I thought I’d pulled it.

I regularly harvest the leaves in the fall, drying them for tea for the winter. Mint tea will settle an upset stomach like nothing else and if you have a sore throat, make a very strong cup and you’ll find it’s the best gargle ever. It will even calm down a case of strep.

But in all the years I’ve grown it, I’ve never used it to enhance water.

Now every morning, I clip four sprigs of mint from the patch near the house, fill a half-gallon pitcher from the tap, add a couple of squirts of lemon juice and set the whole business in the refrigerator to stay cool. It’s always gone by supper.

But what about the cucumbers? Well in this house, they never make it past the peel-slice-salt-and-pepper part of harvesting from the garden, and quite frankly, the mint and lemon are great without the added veggie.

My husband’s now adding mint to the half-and-half (half iced tea, half lemonade) that’s his favorite summer quaff. He puts it into the tea while it’s brewing then strains it out with the tea bags before mixing it all together. The result is one of those “I can’t believe we’ve never done this before” experiences.

But I still don’t think I’m going to have to add mint to my garden.

Leaving Summer Behind—Slowly

There’s a tree—not sure what kind—that sits at the top of the hill opposite our house. Every year, on or about August 7, I look up to inspect the hardiness of the green in its leaves because this particular tree is the first indicator that we are turning from summer to autumn.
Yellowing tree in august for web
It was right on time this year, showing the unmistakeable signs of its weakening chlorophyll, the physical act that reveals the yellow pigment that’s been masked all summer.

We still have time with our green canopy but our big ash tree is starting to shed its leaves. They dot our yard and stick to our shoes so that we’re picking them up from the floor every time we go in or out.

But this morning, as I hung up laundry, I was struck by the dazzle of morning light being filtered by the maple that anchors the top of the bluff that holds our home.

I say this often but we are so fortunate to live in such a remarkably beautiful place.
Maple leaves in sun for web

A Tale of Two Duvet Covers

Back when I first started quilting, I was very intimidated by the process of quilting itself. Drop the feed dogs on my sewing machine? My sewing would be out of control. Nope, that wasn’t going to happen.

And quilting a bedsized quilt with a household machine? Those big quilts are heavy. Forget about it.
Duvet cover on clothesline
Besides, Jay and I had a very warm, puffy LL Bean quilt for our bed so I had no need to make a big quilt.

All was well until we brought two kittens home, Fred and Barney (yabba, dabba, doo!) They quickly discovered that racing and tumbling across that quilt was great fun, and before you could say “Get off of there, you two!” we had small tears in our quilt.

And the tears, of course, rapidly became a little bit bigger.

So I decided to make duvet covers for the LL Bean quilt. Now an explanation may be in order here for the un-quilted. If you think of a quilt as an Oreo cookie, the top is one chocolate cookie, the backing is the other chocolate cookie, and the layer of batting in the middle is the creamy filling. In a real quilt, once you sandwich these three layers, you stitch (quilt) them together so they function as a single unit.

This sewing can get pretty fancy, hence my feelings of intimidation when I was a newbie.

To make a duvet cover, on the other hand, you sew the top and back together around the outside edge like you’re making a great big bag. Then you slide something warmish, like our quilt-with-little-kitten-tears, inside. You don’t sew the three layers together. It’s like slipping a pillow into a pillowcase. Easy peasy.

So I made two duvet covers, one of which you can see here drying on our clothesline this morning. They served us well in winter. Each spring when the weather got warm, I’d take the quilt out of the duvet, wash everything, and pack them away until fall.

Which is why our duvets and quilt were not together when we got hit by Hurricane Irene and had to evacuate our house while we figured out if it was stable enough to live in. (It was and is.)

In the confusion of moving out and then back in, the duvets went in one direction and the quilty filling in another.

Once we got resettled, I found the duvets readily but the quilt was nowhere (logical) to be found. Every so often, I’d look again—closets, totes, blanket chest.

Nada, nothing, no quilt.

Irene was in 2011 and I finally gave up on finding the quilty filling this past winter. I asked my husband Jay (this man knows how to wield a seam ripper, let me tell you) to take the duvets apart. In fact, he completely dismantled one of the duvet backs, a bunch of large half-square triangles, so I could reuse them in something else.

Of course you know what happened next. Murphy’s Law intervened, and we found the quilt this summer in a tote under a workbench in the shed attached to our house. We haven’t a clue how it ended up there.

After thinking about it for a while, I’ve decided not to put the duvets together again. Instead, I’m going to make new backs for them then ship them off to a friendly long arm quilter to be made into “real” quilts.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the quilty filling but I’m thinking of dividing it up and making dog beds.

And if I ever get the opportunity to meet this Murphy character, we are going to have a very serious chat about messing around in people’s lives.

30 Days of Transition

Thirty days hath September.

Today, it’s downright hot outside.
Two turtles in the sun for web
Thirty days from now, this pair of turtles will be burrowing in somewhere that will help them survive the cold to come.

Today, it’s shorts, AC and a T-shirt.

Thirty days from now, it will more than likely be jeans and a long-sleeved shirt.

Right now, the cherry tomatoes are clustered on their vines, the garden phlox is filling the air with its new-mown hay scent, and we have an abundance of yellow squash to eat for supper.

Thirty days from now, I’ll be cutting back the gardens for winter, freezing the tomatoes, making applesauce, and eyeing my butternut squash for harvest.

It’s a big month, September is.

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.