COVID Stove In

Yeah… I guess it was finally our turn.

We ducked, dodged, moved, masked, sanitized, and social distanced that thing for over 2 years. But just 5 days after they lifted the mask mandate from Vermont schools, Daphne came home lethargic one afternoon, then spiked a fever the following day.

In-home tests proved she was COVID positive. And yours truly followed 4 days later. (Although strangely, two different in-home tests assured me that I was negative throughout the illness.)

The good news is that it completely bounced off Jen’s vaccination/immune system and Daphne shrugged it off after just a couple days.

But it beat the hell out of me.

I don’t recall having ever performed a “doubling over in pain” maneuver in my life up to this point. Between you and me, I’d always assumed it was a dramatic literary device, and not a thing that people actually did. However after waking on Wednesday of last week and coughing for the first time in the morning, that’s exactly what happened. What felt like rattling fishhooks lodged between my sternum and neck took me entirely by surprise and truly did bend me in half at the waist as I gasped at the sudden pain.

I think that was the point where all of us became moderately concerned as to just how bad this thing was going to get…

Unfortunately I also had a brutal week of work last week, and couldn’t take any PTO to simply rest. So I tilted my office chair back as far as it would go and adjusted the angle of my conference camera to “Dutch/Oblique” so, unless they were really paying attention, people in meetings wouldn’t be able to tell that I was nearly prone during our meetings. It also kinda gave the impression that my home office was in a 1960’s Batman villain’s lair…but I’m starting to get all freshman film study on you with that one.

I am starting to improve, though. I mean, my chest still doesn’t feel great. And I definitely still have COVID-head, as I’ve been wandering around the house confused for days at this point… (The hours of binging shows across various different streaming services hasn’t helped there either.) But I think I’ve leveled out after the nose dive and have started the climb back up to a proper altitude.
I’m probably at about 65% at this point. Yeah that sounds right; I’d give my health a D+ right now.

To the question you’re likely asking yourself right now, rest assured it’s the same one that I’ve wondered about as well. I have no idea how well the whole vaccine/booster thing worked. I mean, I assume it helped. Maybe it would’ve been much, much worse if I hadn’t had them… Maybe it would’ve been the same. No way of really telling, I suppose. I’m sure they didn’t hinder the recovery process, though, so they were worth the shot. (ZANG!)

Anyway, here’s hoping next week proves to be easier than the last one.

See you soon.

Arcing Back Toward the Sun

Well… That was a quick 4 months.

Between the holidays, preparing for winter, and a whole lotta day job (and the need to rest after all the hours at said day job), there just hasn’t been time for me to write.

So, let’s try to catch you all up… And we’ll need to go quite a ways back to do that, won’t we? Brace your Internet connection, because there are a whole lot of pictures coming…

First, and I don’t believe I’ve mentioned this prior, my neighbor and I split the cost of a moonbounce for all the kids back in October.

Yes, I have a bouncy castle timeshare

And so, with winter fast approaching, we were getting as many uses out of it as possible. The below video is Daph’s second round of jumping…

She jumped around like that for at least 2 hours while I raked up all the fallen cherry tree leaves in the yard. Which, as it would turn out, would be a Sisyphean effort…

The bouncing was not to last, though. Shortly after this video was shot cooler weather arrived and jumping around in bouncy castles would have to wait until spring.

Instead, Halloween was suddenly upon us…

Solid Force Push pose happening here.

Yes, sometimes Padawans wear Nikes. And they also occasionally get Jedi Halloween care packages from family back in Texas…

Llama Llama Trick or Treat was a hit.
The pumpkin-shaped popper on the right I totally get, but what’s that pink one there on the left? A spleen?

Our chickens did just fine throughout the fall as well, growing like little feathery weeds. Partly from the Himalayan mountain of chicken feed they went though and partly, I’m convinced, of how much one of our residents happens to love them…

“Our house now, you big bearded rooster. Out you go.”

And as of yesterday, they are officially no longer freeloaders.

Behold…breakfast.

Shortly after Halloween came our first (mild) snowfall of the season.

Which meant I was officially running out of time to winterize the house.

Fortunately, the wood stove we’d ordered back in July arrived and they came to install it the week before Thanksgiving.

Yes, that’s a very large hole in our wall. And yes, I was so uneasy at this point that I took a picture of their progress.

But they did a nearly flawless job with the installation. I say “nearly” because they did forget to give all the bolts a final tightening, which caused each handle on the stove to fly off in my hand in the following weeks.

But, after purchasing the requisite Allen wrenches and replacement hex nuts, we’ve been extraordinarily happy with it.

The ability to keep the house livable in the event of a power failure was something very high on my list of priorities after the Texas Grid Debacle of 2021. And I can say that having this woodstove has alleviated much of the stress where that’s concerned. With it, my family will stay warm, even in the absence of electricity…

This is actually a picture of it today, after a winter of near daily use…

The thing has been rock solid all winter. And so I wholeheartedly recommend Vermont Castings stoves, should one of you be in the market for one of these. And no, I have not been compensated in any way for saying this. Quite the opposite, in fact. (They aren’t exactly cheap.)

But bourbon by the fire when it’s snowing outside is a lovely thing.

What we’re desperately looking for at this point is a mason able to put a brick veneer behind the stove, which will hide those lines where the built-in shelves were, and generally hygge-fy that corner a bit. Alas, we haven’t been able to find one willing to do the work yet. The search continues…

Anyway, as we’re all aware, it’s roughly seven breaths after Halloween before Thanksgiving arrives. And our first holiday in Vermont was a good one.

All our usual dishes were represented, including green bean casserole, my hyper-garlicky mashed potatoes, and one of those alien cranberry cylinder things.

J.T. came back up to spend the holiday with us, so that was awesome as well.

There was, however, moderate concern when, just before dinner, the neighbor’s dogs decided to come by and let us know how thankful they were to have us in the neighborhood by utterly terrorizing our chickens.

They chased them in circles around the yard until our entire flock ran off and hid in the Christmas trees, with the exception of Mabel who’d been caught and was bitten/shaken by one of the dogs.

We actually thought we’d have to put her down since when we found her she was unable to walk without falling over.

But I’m happy to say that they all returned home a couple hours later, and little Mabel staggered her way back to the hen house and spent the next few days recooperating. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist that one…)

Then, on Black Friday, the first “real” snow came.

And I must say that the world has been pretty snow-covered up here ever since…

Of course, this officially began the Christmas season and we obviously didn’t have to go that far to pick out a tree this year…

Right around here, somewhere.

This trudge through the snow to find a tree slowly turned into…

A WILD interpretive dance of Christmas tree selection!

“Annnnd…YOU! You’re the one! You’re our tree!”

And so, I dutifully cut the tree down…

Gave a quick pose or two for manliness points since I wasn’t wearing gloves…

And now here’s the moment when it hit me that we were a full quarter-mile from our house, and I was going to have to drag that tree all the way back there, bare-handed.

But getting it into the living room, then lighting and decorating it, made the whole thing worth it. It smelled absolutely amazing throughout our downstairs.

A couple weeks before Christmas, we took a drive down to Newport to visit Grammy and Munka who’d come up to use their annual timeshare. (I mean, it’s not a bouncy castle or anything…but it’s pretty nice nonetheless.)

We also found what has become one of Jen’s favorite stores, Kiel James Patrick.

Daphne, however, was not nearly as excited.
She did like the dog outside the door, though.

And she definitely enjoyed climbing on the giant anchor with Grammy.

Unfortunately, I became rather ill on Saturday evening and ended up bedridden for the entirety of Sunday. No idea what hit me, but fortunately it left as quickly as it came on and we headed back home on Monday morning.

Then, Christmas. And I’m happy to say that Santa was quite kind this year.

This, in addition to the snowboards that were technically part of Christmas, made for a lovely day. And Daphne opened nearly all of her own gifts this year, which was a first.

Speaking of snowboards… Daph had her first lesson (without bindings just yet) and did amazingly well. Turn the volume up and you can hear how much fun she’s having…

And, as it would turn out, she seems to be goofy footed, just like her father. Although I suppose that’s not entirely surprising. She inherited his “I aim to misbehave” grin as well.

God help us.

Those of you looking closely at the Christmas morning picture up there will also note a rather large, plaid-cushioned toboggan being ridden by a stuffed bear. And the answer to your next question is, yes. We have indeed taken it down our big hill.

Several times in fact.

You might also have noted some snowshoes in that Xmas picture, which Jen and I now use 2 or 3 times a week to take walks in the morning after she drops Daphne off at school. You may even have seen us livestreaming said walks on Facebook, during which time she strolls quietly with her coffee, taking in the stark beauty of a Vermont winter morning, while I pant like an asthmatic bulldog.

This brings us neatly to January which was, as you might imagine, cold.

“Sunny. As if it matters.”

There were several admonishments from the National Weather Service throughout the month about -45° wind chills and to not go outside for longer than 10 minutes, lest frostbite ensue. But, on the flipside, I seem to recall similar statements being made back in Houston about heatstroke during the summer…

So it would seem the weather is trying to kill us no matter where we live.

I will say that the cold did a number on the hot water pipe to our kitchen, though. Froze the thing up twice, which in turn caused a crack in part of our dishwasher and forced us to pay for rather costly replacement parts labor.

But overall it’s been a fantastic first winter up here. Daphne absolutely loves the snow.

And we aren’t going to need snowshoes much longer, as it definitely feels like we’re on our way out of winter. Today the high is well above freezing, and as I write this I can hear ice and snow sloughing off the roof and onto the ground in satisfying “shhhrrrrlump!” noises.

Okay! I think the last bit for us to cover here is Daphne’s AAC device, which was provided to us by the State of Vermont.

An AAC, or what we call Daphne’s “Talker” is essentially an iPad that has a sequence of pictures and words on it that help Daphne communicate. So by using this she can tell that she’s hungry, AND exactly what it is she wants to eat as well. (Which, more often than not, is yogurt and Goldfish.)

She’s really enjoying using it. And you can see how excited she is about being able to communicate something as simple as “Yes!” back and forth with me.

I’m actually signing “yes!” back to her, which is apparently why it’s so funny.

We’re super happy about this development and… sigh… Okay, I’m afraid I’m going to have to take a shot here…

We’re very appreciative of being in a state like Vermont, and in a school district like Kingdom East, that readily provides these kinds of assistive devices to kids who need them without forcing their residents into countless interviews, consultations, diagnosis referrals, waivers, contracts, etc.

Do better, Katy ISD. You might just have some happier kids.

You’d certainly have happier parents.

Okay, off my soapbox. Sorry about that.

That’s just about everything from up here. Hopefully it won’t be another 4 months before I make a post… Then again, I’m not promising anything either.

See you then.

Leaving Leaves

Hi there.

Seasons have indeed swung up here…

Beer & Candle (and Gourd) night!

It appears that the Northeast Kingdom is at the vanguard of that whole “autumn foliage” thing. The trees began to noticeably change colors here in the last week in September…

As you can see from what is still a moderately erratic drone flight, said foliage did get pretty impressive. I took this video 2 weeks ago and, for anyone interested in the timing of such things, I would say the first 10 days of October seem to be the peak of color. Sadly, as of the time of writing this there are very few of these golden leaves still clinging to their branches.

We did get out for another hike last weekend, though, this time with 100% fewer ticks and 33% more family.

Kilburn Crags

And those leaves make exactly the noise you’d think they would when walking on them.

We actually had my uncle in town for the weekend and Daphne, having been on this trail before, acted as his Wilderness Guide so he wouldn’t get lost.

After the hike we were all pretty famished, so we headed over to the Littleton Freehouse for some lunch and an Oktoberfest pint.

Well, not Daphne, of course. She actually drank 4 pints of water instead, which had the expected outcome whilst on our way home.

As for Daph, her school seems to be regularly requiring us to pick her up because she’s coughed, or sneezed, or hasn’t eaten her lunch, or seems tired, or has too many strands of hair out of place… So that’s been a minor source of frustration.

It’s made it difficult for us to settle her into a comfortable routine since, just about the time we finish a full week of classroom instruction, they either require us to come pick her up and administer a COVID test and keep her home until we get the results (this actually happened yesterday), or someone else in her class tests positive and they shut the whole thing down for 8-10 days.

Worst. Lollipops. Ever.

Anecdotal evidence from other parents across the country would suggest that we’re not alone in this frustration. I’m sure we’re all, her school included, doing the best we can to keep our kids safe and healthy. But that means Daph has had a lot of at-home time, which means a lot of swinging outside in between regular work sessions with Mom.

No, she’s not being eaten by a giant, pink, nylon fish; that’s the sensory swing we bought her a while ago.

But, other than not being able to get into a steady routine with school, she’s doing quite well. As I mentioned earlier, she really enjoyed the hike we went on last weekend…

And, in even further outdoorsiness, one of her Christmas gifts has arrived early…

Which has prompted an important existential, self-actualizing question…

Is Daphne regular-footed, or goofy-footed?

Now, for my non-surf/skate/snowboard crowd out there, this means does she naturally prefer to ride with her left foot forward on the board (regular-footed) or her right foot forward (goofy-footed).

Sounds silly, but this is indeed an important distinction. Her father is goofy. (I mean…you know what I mean.) And given that we can’t really discuss with her which stance feels right, I’m having to get clever with distilling this information from her daily mechanics.

Meaning I’m doing things like watching which foot she uses most often when kicking a ball, or when taking the first step on the stairs. I threatened to sneak up behind her and give her a quick push to see which foot she uses to catch herself…but her mother put the brakes on that little experiment. She’s probably right (typically is); I can see how that might end in tears.

Anyway, once I can determine her stance, I can attach the bindings and we can work on getting her comfortable being strapped into the board. This kind of thing usually happens by bouncing on the bed with the board attached.

I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

Talk to you soon.

Zoom Meeting

No. Not that kind…

The kind where you and your new neighbor speed around on one of those 4-wheel thingies for an afternoon. (“Eh, Teevees,” I’m told they’re called.)

Now I’ll level with you. This is not a thing I saw myself doing.
Ever.

And after about 10 minutes of riding, when I’d wrenched the right tire into a log and flew head first off the 4-wheeler into some tall grass (and had to “catch” the thing with my feet to stop it from rolling on top of me), I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue doing it.

But…

Those who know me are shaking their heads sadly right about now, because they’re well aware of my blind arrogance in the face of adversity. And crashing only made me want to master the infernal machine all the more. Yes, sometimes pride cometh after the fall.

My neighbor and his daughter did have to come around and rescue me, though, and used a winch to pull the toppled ATV out of the ditch and get it back up on the trail.

And I’m happy to say that was the only time I wrecked the thing. The rest of the afternoon was spent zooming along miles of beautiful trails deep in the Vermont woods:

And learning about some really interesting sites that are hidden back there. Like, for example, a graveyard from the early 1800’s:

A bit macabre, sure, but someone cares enough about this place to maintain it, keeping it mowed and edged…and I found that to be a lovely sentiment. There was also this beautiful paddock behind the graveyard where we stopped for a rest.

Note the grey clouds there… Foreshadowing.

As we turned and headed back home, the sky absolutely opened up on us. Each and every raindrop becoming a 35mph bee sting on my face and arms for the last 15 minutes of the drive.

But, totally worth it.

So much so, in fact, that I want to figure out a way to bring Daph and Jen along to see how beautiful these trails are up there. So I’m currently formulating a plan to procure a 4-seater version of one of these things. A “Ewe TV” I believe they’re called.

A bit like this thing…

We shall see if that actually happens…

Also, as I threatened in my last post, we did go back to Burtt’s Orchard to pick some McIntosh apples. And we stopped off for a picture at one of the most Vermont scenes ever on the way home…

A quick “Craggy McSailor” dance in the field needed to happen.

Again. Ridiculously beautiful.
The scenery is quite nice too.

And finally, we did quite a bit of upgrading to the ol’ chicken coop this weekend…

So they’ll have plenty of room when they eventually move out and get jobs making breakfast for us in a few weeks.

I’m not quite sure Jen is ready to be an empty nester yet, though…

See you soon.

Orchards and Australorps

I told you all this day was coming…

“O hai. Ahma cheekin.”

“What we are dealing with is a miracle of evolution… All this machine does is eat, sleep, and make breakfast.”

These little gals were born in Iowa on a Sunday, packaged up on Monday, and winged their way to the post office here in Vermont, arriving early Wednesday morning.

And you can hear Jen absolutely falling in love with them in that instant.

So we now have 2 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Black Australorps, and 2 Plymouth Rocks living in a plastic tub in our laundry room.

Welcome to the farm, bebe chicks. Oh look, I see you’re pooping already. Swell.

Fortunately for them, someone doesn’t care about the potential for a chicken caca surprise.

(I believe this one is “Mabel?” Might be “Mildred.” I can’t tell.)

I’m happy to report that they are growing like tiny peeping weeds, and they’ve doubled in size since the day we brought them home.

In fact, they’ve become so grown up that they were ready for their first field trip a few days ago. I cobbled together a little chick enclosure outside with some hardware cloth and stakes.

Eat your heart out, HGTV carpenters…

And so the chicks got their very first taste of the world outside of a processing facility, cardboard box, and/or a Rubbermaid tub:

Lots of happy peeping and dust bathing happening in there.

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll have lots more to say about these girls in the days ahead.

In other news, yet another Vermont rite of passage has been completed recently…we went to an apple orchard.

“What our apples lack in flavor, they make up for in ‘on the ground.'”

Yep. We drove out to Burtt’s Orchard, which was about 30 minutes away, and picked a huge bag of apples (a “peck” I’m told?) right off the tree.

“Okay, we pull from here…”
“Then drop ’em in here…”
“Aaaand… What happens now?”

Their McIntosh weren’t quite ripe yet (but they are as of a couple days ago, according to that website!) but the Jersey Macs have been pretty darned amazing. And the old-fashioned apple cider donuts were mind-blowing as well. Honestly, I’m thinking another trip might be in order this weekend sometime…

So, generally speaking, that’s been the last couple weeks ’round here.

Oh! I did convince our landscaper to drive his tractor up the giant hill in our yard, effectively creating a hiking path for us… That’s white-hot exciting news.

I’m told it was the steepest thing he’d ever driven up on a tractor, and…likely he won’t be attempting it again.

That said, it afforded us this new vantage point of our property…

Tiiiny Subaru!

I’m sure you’ve all had to hear us gushing about how beautiful it is up here, so I won’t bore you with it again.

But seriously…

Okay, see you next time.