Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hope Mountain Farm Bulletin

We got about six inches of snow, but not much here now. We've had some mild weather the last few days. There's a few inches of snow left on the ground, and Susan insists it's good for skiing, but I'm waiting for another big snowfall to go out again. We put out taps and buckets to collect some maple syrup this week, just three taps, not too much, from the maple trees in the front yard. It's running like crazy, though. We have about ten gallons of it bottled. Mostly we put a pot of it on the wood stove and drink it as a mildly sweetened tea. The yearling apple trees have not been hit by any deer, not yet anyway. I'm thinking of grafting some shoots from the old tree in the front yard, and so I ordered root stock, Antonovka, from the Fedco Tree catalog online. They are an amazing company, one of the strengths of any resurgent local food movement here in the Northeast. Our old tree is so rotten I don't know if it'll last more than another season, but it still produces hundreds of incredibly tasty apples. Have no idea what variety, probably some heirloom. Bring on more winter. Usually, I'm cutting from the wood lot this time of year to make up for depleted reserves, but not this year. Plenty left.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day

Days are getting longer, but no snow in awhile. The big storms to our south have barely clipped us. Looks like tomorrow could change that. Went skating Sunday on Long Pond, taking advantage of the lack of snow cover. Michael is directly in the beam of sunlight in this photo, with the two girls off in the distance and Susan just skating out of the frame. Reminds me of the Jethro Tull song, "Skating away, on the thin ice of a new day..."
except this ice is about ten inches thick and the winter has reached that stage when it's not that new anymore. The ice is chopped up by all the snowmobiles tracking across the pond. We need a big storm to shake us out of the doldrums. Is this a metaphor for the country? It certainly seems like our politics are frozen in a dangerous downward spiral between the Supreme Court decision on corporate free speech rights, the Scott Brown victory and decisions by Patrick Kennedy and Evan Bayh to step away from the fray. Running for cover, or skating away on the thin ice of the day, and who can blame them. In tough times you do what's right for yourself and your family. There's a certain meme in the air that's saying it's too late to right this ship. Personally, I think we are yet to see it really start. Others will rise to the occasion to take their place. Keep your skates tied.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tea-Party Phonies

I only saw the first minute or so on YouTube, but it was enough to give me the willies. Watching Sarah Palin is like being back in 6th grade music class with Mrs. Holmberg. We always suspected she must be bald underneath the wig because her hair was always, every day without fail the same -- big, bouffant and artificial. It never slipped, but behind the facade and the grim smile, we knew she was living on the edge of madness. Our Sarah, this epitome of small town womanhood riding the grim smile of her Reaganesque certainties, will either take the train of faux populism that is the Tea Party movement to the limits, (see Peter Beinart's essay) or crash and burn in a bigger wreck than she has bargained for.

I like the idea of a tea party as much as anyone, but who are they revolting against? Obama's only been in office a year. Any mess we are going through now is surely not his fault. The arguments for it, the Tea Party movement, that is, and the defenses put up in its favor on various lists, are so obtuse as to be proof they are unassailable by reason and more a product of prejudice, ignorance, and knee-jerk emotion. All you can do is shine a light on it and watch it fizzle away. But we be certain of one thing. They will be back. Don't underestimate the tide of reaction in this country. It is as strong and deep as our history. The hope is that Obama will not back down but instead get more involved in the fight as seems to be happening. He's at his best when he's in community organizer mode, talking straight up to regular people.

I can't help wondering what J.D. Salinger would say, or more appropriately, Holden Caulfield, the eternal teenager seeing through the phoniness of intellectuals and snobs, about the tea partiers. He certainly shared their anti-elitist impulses, but I'm pretty certain he would also have recognized their pathological ignorance and small-minded fears, rooted in racism and fading sense of entitlement. Now that he's dead, (J.D., that is - Holden will live forever), I'm reading his daughter Margaret's memoir of growing up in Cornish, NH, "Dream Catcher." It's amazing, the deadpan tone reporting on her bizarre and abused childhood, proof of the stereotype of the literary genius as paterfamiliar monster.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Men Not At Work

As a nation we are reaping the harvest of free market ideology and individualist freedoms at the expense of communitarian well-being, and as a result a whole generation of men seems to have no meaningful employment and will end up in jail or on drugs. To paraphrase Pogo, we are the most colonized people on earth, except our colonizers are us.
Last night we were all in bed when there came the proverbial loud knock on the door. Susan pushes me awake and I stumble down the stairs. Two cops waving flashlights are standing at the door asking for our tenant Chris. "He's in the green house," I say, referring to the former coach house across the drive we rent out. I'm not feeling relieved that they aren't asking about me because I'm too asleep to figure it out. I'm just answering questions on automatic pilot. Then Kim, Chris's girlfriend, comes out the door of the green house to answer their questions, and the cops drift away holding the piece of paper I assume was an arrest warrant. Chris's car's not in the driveway, so he's probably one step ahead of them. I go back up to bed.
Back in bed I can't sleep as the adrenaline hits in a delayed reaction. This is the second male tenant in a row with police issues. Our last one, Bill, is in the Merrimack County jail on an assault rap. He was last seen slipping into the woods as the police came up the road about a year ago to investigate after he and his girlfriend got into a fight. Apparently he had a record of assaults. The thing is, checking up on police records is expensive and Susan and I always go on gut instincts about people. But this might be the last time. I have no idea what Chris's issue is, but on Saturday, their pipes froze and I had to put in a portable gas heater into the crawl space for a few hours while I took the kids and some friends visiting from Connecticut out to Pat's Peak for some snowboarding. Susan went in later to check if the pipes were all right and Chris was sound asleep on the sofa while his five year old son Kyle answers the door. Susan slipped in and saw that the water was running again and left Chris sleeping on the sofa, where he has apparently spent a lot of time since getting laid off back in September from his forklift job.
And then yesterday I took Michael to the Steeplegate Mall to buy him some jeans. He lost a pair somewhere, don't ask where because he doesn't know, and neither do we. But I owed him a cheeseburger because he took a second at the last wrestling meet so we sat down at the food park there, the kind that has outlets from about a dozen different fast food chains and metal chairs and tables set down in an atrium. At the table next to us were about six of the most feral looking teenage boys I had ever seen eating slices of pizza or just hanging around. One of them came up and asked in a rasping pirate voice if his mates'd found any work. No was the answer.