Summer’s Providence

Hi there.

You know, it’s an odd thing. I used to write here so often that I’d instinctively know where the last post’s timeline ended and the new one should begin, each having been only a few days apart.

Now, with month(s)-long hiatuses between posts, I have to go back and review where I left off the last time, then try to figure out a narrative on what’s happened since.

For example, when I left you all last it was somewhere around Memorial Day, and the beginning of Daphne’s summer…

“Gloriosky. And I absolutely needed the break, dahling.”

Initially, we’d planned to enroll Daph in the local Kingdom Autism school over in St. Johnsbury (“Saint J” to the locals) for supplemental summer classes and therapy. However it seems they have a lengthier waiting list than we’d expected, and we’re told it’ll be at least a few months before we’re able to get her enrolled.

Totally understandable. Which also means that I’m glad we went when we did, so she’ll hopefully be able to be enrolled by the next school year.

She’s not getting off that light, though. As a matter of fact, she and her mother are upstairs doing addition and subtraction problems as I’m typing this…

We’re obviously still making time for a real summer break for her. For example, we took a trip over to Burlington a few weeks ago for the white-hot excitement of the L.L. Bean Grand Opening in Williston! Replete with free ice cream, bracelet weaving stations, and yes…

The Bean Bootmobile.

We also went to Church Street, which is rapidly becoming one of our favorite spots when we’re in need of a “city fix.” There’s a solid selection of shopping, outdoor music (Daphne loved a cello soloist and spent quite a while dancing to his music), and there’s some damn fine pizza at Ken’s that goes wonderfully well with sipping a beer on their patio.

And, at the risk of a bit of gloating, the weather here has been absolutely perfect for over a month now. Sunny, mid-70s, with just the right amount of rain to keep things growing and green. The aforementioned garden has been loving it, and we’re already harvesting more lettuce than we know what to do with…

These berries (well, the ripe ones) have been delicious too.

I realize that a large part of the country has been suffering through what sounds like a miserable heat wave since June. And I can totally commiserate, as we suffered through those for way too long before moving to Vermont.

The summer up here has been exactly what we’d hoped for though, and Daphne has been outside nearly every day. And the rest of you don’t see -30 F in February either, so no geographical climate’s perfect.

We also purchased our first shed/outbuilding for the farm. The garage is “perpetually nearing completion,” and so we needed somewhere else to winnow away our winter tires, weed whacker, and wheelbarrow.

Those of you who’ve been paying attention have undoubtedly seen the blue tarps all over the yard, as if we’re suffering a chronic case of Smurfpox.

Back it up! Yep! Smurf it over there by the henhouse. And don’t worry! It’s not smurftagious. You won’t catch anything by smurfing near them.

We bought it from the same folks who sold us the Chicken Hut around this time last year, Livingston Farms. I wouldn’t call them “inexpensive” exactly, but they’re good folks over there and we’ve had solid experiences with them both times.

Next step is to get a real fence (with a gate and everything!), up around the garden.

Oh! So this has been another development…

That’s right! We’ve signed Daphne up for the local hockey team. (You should see the defenseman.)

Yes, the ever-amusing, missing front tooth. Kid’s growing up fast.

The new one is already levering its way down through her gum line, which means all my “bah, she’s gonna lose those teeth anyway…” handwaving about eating sweets has to come to an abrupt end.

In other news, we took a trip down to Providence a couple weeks ago as a family mini-getaway. I’ve had a particularly challenging month at work, so I needed some recharge time.

After an long-ish afternoon on the road, we eventually arrived at the Omni Providence with a little girl that was supremely happy to be out of the car and in a hotel room.

Mad silliness.

Oh! That little pink tablet she has there bears some explanation, doesn’t it?

So that’s Daphne’s AAC (Augmentative & Alternative Communication) device. Basically we purchased a stock iPad and a program called TouchChat, and she uses it as her “talker.”

With it, she can tell us what she needs and/or wants. So, for example, if she’s thirsty she can hit the buttons for “water” and “ice” or “Capri Sun.”
Or, if she’s hungry, she can tell us what she’d like to eat. Granted, usually the reply is “cereal” and “toast,” but occasionally we get “chicken nuggets” or “hot dog” in the evenings.
She tells us what songs she’d like us to sing, that she wants to watch YouTube or listen to music, “good night,” “I love you,” and she’s learning more of them every day.

I’d like to say that my insurance helped us out with that little purchase, since it is technically a medical device. But we live in the U.S. so, yeah, not so much.
In fact, while we’re on the subject, would you like to know how much monetary assistance we have ever gotten from our commercial insurers to cover Daphne’s various therapies, schooling, devices, and/or assessments?

Zero. Zilch. Goose egg. Bupkis. Not a dime.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel incredibly fortunate that I earn enough to be able to provide for the things she needs, but…I mean…I pay about 15% of my monthly take home salary on health insurance. You’d think there’d be some benefit there other than “I guess if one of us gets really hurt we won’t have to declare bankruptcy, maybe.”

Wait…where am I? And what’s this soapbox doing under my Bean boots?

Anyway, back to Providence.

Daph got to swim in the hotel pool with Mommy….


Then we ventured into…The Mall.

Now, I feel equal parts confident and abashed to tell you that I’ve spent more time in a mall than the vast majority of human beings that have ever existed on this planet. I worked in one for years, ate lunch in one every day even when I wasn’t working there, and have spent an unhealthy amount of my free time walking around in one.

I loved the damn mall.

But this was the first time I’d darkened the automatic doorway of one since moving to Vermont (which means it was way pre-COVID).

After about 5 minutes, the weird pizza smell they pipe into the ventilation units as “scent marketing” (yes, that’s a thing) became chokingly acrid.
The competing music blasting out of every commercial cave hutch proclaiming there was an even BIGGER good time to be had in their store versus those all other ones, was discordant and disorienting.
People felt like they were way too close to us (although this particular mall wasn’t even all that crowded), and they craned their heads around like worried chickens, randomly stopping in place lest they “miss something.”
The candy-colored signs blazing in gaudy neon were aesthetically offensive…
You get the idea.

It all became too much for us. More so for Daphne, who strode the mallways with both hands clamped over her ears and eyes pointed fixedly down at the carpet. So we decided to head back to the room, and made the conscious pact to, if at all possible, avoid malls forever.

Clearly our little quiet farm life up here has drawn some indelible sensory boundaries around us, outlining just how vivid things should be. Definitely a Country Mouse moment.

We also took Daphne for to Sand Hill Cove, which was one of my favorite beaches as a kid…

This is the international symbol for: “Behold! There is sand in my bathing suit.

Dad stayed on dryland for this one, acting as the keeper of all the stuff. Besides, I’ve been swimming at Sand Hill Cove a dozen times; could totally sit this one out.
I did, however, roll up my sleeves with the intent of blending a bit of color into the serious farmer tan I have going. Alas, all I succeeded in doing was sunburning my shoulders. The result of which is still causing me to shed like a python with eczema.

Some other highlights of the trip were, going to Roger Williams Zoo…

“Octopuses have NINE brains. I know, right? Crazy!”

We stopped by the street where I was born and took Daph to another beach where I swam as a kid.

“You mean the seas weren’t frozen from the Ice Age when you were young?”

And we drove over to Colt State Park, which was another favorite haunt, albeit in my later years when we’d come up to R.I. for the summer.

We were also in Providence for Water Fire, which is a thing everyone should check out at least once. Makes for a really nice evening stroll along the river.

And finally, no first trip to Rhode Island would be complete without an Awful Awful at Newport Creamery. (Don’t start with me; we’re saving clam cakes and Del’s for next time.)

“Why, that’s not ‘awful’ at all!”

Overall it was a really nice trip…with one exception.

We unfortunately got a text from our farmsitter on Friday night that we were down one chicken.
Our rooster, Marty, had gone missing and there was a pile of red feathers on the ground not too far from their coop.

He obviously felt terrible, but we reassured him that this was the risk we accepted when decided to free range our flock, and that it was unquestionably not his fault. I’m not sure it made him feel any better, but it was the truth. And the rest of the girls were none the worse for wear, so it seems he did his job protecting them. Requiem for a rooster.

But then, the 4th of July happened.

So late that evening I noticed that our hens were wandering past my office window a bit later than normal. So I got up and headed outside to check on them.

On the way, I noticed Daphne had left one of her spiky vinyl balls in the driveway. So I picked it up, intending to carry it back into the house after I shooed the chickens back toward their run. (That’s Chekhov’s Ball, folks.)

And then, as I rounded the corner to where I saw the chickens pass by, I saw him.

A fox.

A fox with one of my wife’s chickens in its mouth, running right across my path.

Before I’d entirely processed what I was looking at, I barked “HEY!” in a guttural voice and sidearm flung the ball at it as hard as I could…

And hit the fox squarely in the ribs.

The fox was knocked sideways which caused it to loosen its jaws around poor Mildred just enough for her to bounce upward in a flurry of flapping wings and loose black feathers. The fox darted off into the rows of Christmas trees, a mass of black feathers still in its mouth.

Foxbane, Protector of Poultry

Between us, I have no idea how I pulled that maneuver off. I wasn’t even consciously thinking about what I was doing. I do feel like I should include “can hit a fox with a dodgeball” on my resume somewhere, though.

The bad news is, I found a different patch of black feathers by the lilac bush…and we were missing another chicken. So best guess is that The Fu*@#ng Mr. Fox had already taken one chicken, and had come back for seconds.

I scoured the yard and tree line for over an hour looking for that chicken, to no avail. The search was also set to the dulcet tones of coyotes “singing” from the forest behind the house, which lent an unsettling air to the proceedings.

So I locked the other 4 hens up for the night and went inside, saddened by the loss of yet another of our chickens.

Later that night, just before I headed to bed, I decided to make one last check outside to see if she’d come back and might perhaps be waiting by the coop.

So I flipped on the porch light, opened the front door, and took about four steps out before a VERY large dark blur ran from the front of our car and scampered up the driveway.

A black bear was sitting on my Subaru…fifteen feet in front of me.

The bear ran off to my right while I backpedaled into the house, tripped over the jam, and kicked the door shut, my heart bouncing off the inside of my ribcage. I locked the door (because who knows if lockpicking bears are a thing) and went upstairs to bed…after some calming breathing exercises.

About an hour later, I heard a WHUMP! from just outside our bedroom window. The damn bear had come back, and was after the leftovers from our 4th of July BBQ that were in the trashcan. (We’d double-bagged them, but I guess he could smell it anyway.)

In the bear’s defense, it was a delicious brisket, overnighted from Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX.

So I leapt out of bed and ran downstairs, once again having no idea what I was going to do when I got there.

Turns out, my genius plan was to simply open the door and shout “WHOA, BEAR!” really loudly into the night…then slam the door and lock it again.

This was about as effective as you’d imagine. Although I have to believe that it at least amused the hell out of a black bear for an hour or so.

When we awoke the following morning, we found the bear had returned at some point in the night and clawed the trash can open (despite the bungie cord holding it shut), and had scattered trash all over the yard.

Turns out, ours is actually the fourth house this bear has hit, and he’s becoming increasingly brazen and unafraid of people. Sadly, that’s when bears end up getting shot.

So I just took a short break from writing this as Jen found a concert that was happening at Burke Mountain this evening. It seems the Vermont Symphony Orchestra traveled here to play an outdoor program and, since we want to support the Vermont arts wherever possible, we went to see them.

And it was a lovely evening, albeit a bit cooler than average. So much so that they had to cut their program short so as not to damage any instruments in the evening’s chill.

That’s Mount Pisgah and Mount Hor in the background there… No, I’m not sure which is which.

The three of us sat there on a blanket, Daphne on my lap and Jen leaning next to me, our hands all clasped together, and we listened to some lovely music that echoed along the mountainside as the sun set ahead and the moon rose behind us. Was a beautiful moment and made me, once again, incredibly thankful for my life.

And since this post became way past long enough about 5 paragraphs ago, I think we’ll call this thing here.

See you soon.

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