Last spring, Son 1 was working at the house and was listening to an audio book. As I popped in and out assisting or providing water, I was intrigued with what I heard and asked him what the book title was and who was the author. The book was Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Late August, as I was preparing to travel southwest to the mountains of North Carolina for a fiber retreat, I attempted to get the book from our public library as an audio book to listen to as I travelled about 7 hours round trip, but I was so far down on the list that I purchased a paperback copy instead. This followed having read Overstory by Richard Powers based on another of Son 1’s recommendations. For Christmas, he gave me a copy of Gathering Moss, Robin Wall Kimmerer’s first book which I have read a chapter at a time savoring her wisdom.

Several varieties of mosses growing just off the mowed area in a wooded rocky part of the farm.
Several varieties that grow on rocks in the same area.

These three books have caused me to pause and even more strongly recognize what we are doing to our environment. Like Kimmerer, I love a sheet of white paper on my wood desk with the grain of the wood as a background, but at what cost were they provided. I love wood tools, live in a log home cut from a monoculture tree farm and again at what cost to the environment were they provided. We have planted dozens of trees on our farm to create windbreaks and in areas where haying is impossible. We have avoided weed killers, have woods on three sides of us, but see the effect of some of the non native invaders both vegetative and insects that wipe out entire species of trees. Years ago, these mountains were covered with Chestnut trees, all killed off by blight. All of the mature Hemlocks die off from the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid. Now the Ash trees are dying because of Emerald Ash borer. We are invaded by Tree of Heaven and Autumn Olive, plants that were introduced as ornamentals that have become invasive. As we drive up the mountain we see several areas that have been logged and I recognize the value of the timber but also the destruction of habitat for native vegetation and wildlife.

To add to my mindfulness thought process of late, as I was returning home from taking Son 1 to the bus Sunday morning, I listened to a program on NPR where the speaker discussed how we couldn’t provide for others if we didn’t take care of ourselves. We have to give ourselves permission to be kind to our own person to fill our cup enough to share. We need to be thankful for what we have, not want for what we lack, not complain about our ills, but be thankful for the health we have at whatever level.

These books and this program have reminded me to be more mindful. I suggest we should all be.

When a home improvement, isn’t

Quite a number of years ago, we had our basement finished into a rec room with TV, pingpong table, futon, and a small bedroom with a tiny closet that is the preferred bedroom for Son 1 when he visits. At the time we built the house and had the HVAC system installed, we began paying for an annual maintenance contract that provided twice a year maintenance and 10% off parts, free labor if a repair within reason needed to be done.

Shortly after the basement was finished, one of the HVAC maintenance visits was done and only 2 of the 4 damper motors was left in an accessible location and 1 of them had a door jamb that prevented the open/close lever from moving. The HVAC guy was able to chisel out enough space for the lever to move, but on the last visit, he realized that motor had failed. We didn’t have it repaired that day, but had a tech here today to replace it only to find out that the replacement motors are physically larger and don’t fit in the space and that if that damper or any of the dampers ever need to be replaced, that the contractor that did the basement work did not leave enough room to remove them from the ductwork. While trying to check the other motors, he couldn’t get to one of them, so I guess it hasn’t been checked since the work on the basement was finished. I think some creative carpentry will allow enough space to replace the failed motor, but don’t know what will happen if the inaccessible ones fail. The system is 15 years old now.

We had left much of the designing to the contractor with only our wishes known. The tech today said this happens often in basement completions as the owner or contractor is trying to get the most finished space possible. Though the basement looks great, this isn’t the first problem that has been revealed, not all the contractor’s fault, but some are. So far, Son 1 has had to tear out the wallboard on a soffit and build a wood siding removable panel that allows access to the space above the wallboard. And most recently when trying to repair ceiling damage from a failed dishwasher, he discovered the drywall ceiling was bowed under a drain pipe so that a new piece of drywall didn’t really fit so another removeable panel has been placed there.

I’m not sure what we will do, but for now, the damper motor that failed serves the basement, and as three sides of the basement are below grade and the fourth side is south facing, it stays mild down there even when it is cold outside.

It didn’t happen the way we planned

Son 1 left for his dwelling and job at 6:40 this morning, arrived there on the bus, train, and his bike and let us know he made it back. Son 2, who owns his on medical transport business ended up on an ambulance today due to employees calling out in the snow/ice storm the coast of Virginia received, so they couldn’t come.

While Daughter, Son 1 and grands were here on Friday for lunch, they taught me to use Zoom so I could join in the Zoom session that my Jenkins spinning challenge group does on Saturday afternoons and I did join them for about 35 or 40 minutes yesterday. It was delightful to see live faces and real voices of people that I have communicated with online for the past couple years. There were only 16 of us but one was in Germany, two in the Netherlands that are “neighbors” close enough to walk to each other’s homes, and from one coast to the other in the US. Such fun, I will try to join them more often at least for a while each Saturday.

We took another cold walk on the Huckleberry as it is the only route we usually do that isn’t still covered in ice, and snow flurries are supposed to happen tonight for a couple hours, but I doubt it will amount to anything. I can’t remember the last time snow and ice was still on the ground a week after it fell here. After our walk, I followed through with the plan to bake bread and make soup that was to be for a dozen or more, but just made less, and Daughter and her two came over to share the meal with us. Hot Herb and Onion bread, fresh cornbread, and a pot of delicious soup for a cold winter evening. We sent them home with the extra milk and juice purchased in anticipation of more family here, and one of the two loaves of Herb and Onion bread. There is still a part of a loaf and part of the cornbread for us to enjoy over the next couple of days.

I continue to work on the dark wine colored fiber that hubby gave me for Christmas. By spinning it on the spindles, I can enjoy it for longer, make a finer yarn, thus more yardage and then enjoy it again as I make myself something warm to wear and enjoy. The January challenge as I mentioned before, changes every couple of days and today and the next two are just to spin at least 2 grams a day and take a photo. While bread rose, then baked, and soup simmered, I sat in a sunny spot in the dining room and spun my bit for the day.

It isn’t quite as dark as it appears, but I waited until dark to take the photo.

There is some babysitting in our plan later in the week, first at their house, then bringing them to ours for a couple of days. Last time I did this, the kids and I got snowed in for a day. I hope I didn’t just jinx us.