Thursday, April 10, 2008


Spring finally, looking for a god, getting stoned, returning to high school, and an island for Lewis

Fritz and I could have kept on sugaring for another three weeks. The weather's been perfect for it--days in the 40s and low 50s, nights down in the mid 20s. That means the sap flows up the sugar maple by day and back down by night, with the tap that's been set into the tree flowing 24 hours a day.

But we hadn't the time to devote to all that effort nor the wood for boiling off not enough jars. But we did hear the value of the six gallons that we made--in New Hampshire, syrup is going for $60 a gallon, much more than last year because the cost of labor and fuel is now so high. So, we made our selves $360 worth of pure,home-made 100% maple syrup--and Fritz has been making maple pies topped with walnuts or pecans that that are pure, sinful self-indulgence--and wonderful beyond words.


It's finally spring here, however. Last night when we went to bed it was 40 degrees and this morning when we got up it was 40 degrees. Sap won't flow without the freezing nights but the property is alive with new growth.

The crocuses are out everywhere now.

And the daffodils, which are now estimated to number around 50,000 are probably less than a week from making the entire place look like a famous shot from the movie Doctor Zhivago. By the middle of each morning on those days with sun I've been working outdoors in my shirtsleeves.

I spent yesterday ripping scrap v-groove pine plank (left over from the cathedral ceiling of the great room and the underside of the four foot wide roof overhangs) into the right widths and lengths for the work table that's going to line my studio on three sides. All the cut pieces are banded together by length and labeled (Myers-Briggs type J here) and ready for sanding and assembly. I've salvaged every scrap of wood that was dumped in huge piles by the carpenters--a fortune in usable lumber and firewood for the wood stoves that would ordinarily have been hauled away and dumped somewhere.

It's good to be saving this kind of money because I got a rude surprise yesterday. Our general contractor has scheduled the town's building inspector to come next Monday morning at 8 AM to inspect the house and--big drum roll--ISSUE A CERTIFICATE OF OCCUPANCY! This is a huge moment, somewhat but decidedly marred a bit by the news that I have to pay $4322 for something called an Impact Fee before the Certificate will actually be placed in my hand.

In "tax-free" New Hampshire there may not be sales and income taxes but there are many, many fees that sure look like taxes to me. However, when the money's paid and the certificate's in hand, we can do a huge clean-up in the house and move in!!!!

So I am, of course, looking for a Chinese kitchen god. The kitchen is very important to me and I want it properly blessed. I always had a kitchen god in my house in Boston--a handsome fellow in red reverse painted on glass that eventually broke in an incident having something to do, I suspect, with one or the other of my cats.

I want a new one for the new house and went on line looking to buy one from an on-line Chinese kitchen site or gift shop. I spent the better part of one afternoon searching all over the web, typing in every combination of "kitchen god" and "gift" or "for sale" or whatever I could think of and may finally have found something you really can't buy on the web. All I found was this picture of the god, but nothing for sale.

I'll have to hit Chinatown on my next trip down to Boston, although I'm a bit worried. The number and quality of gift and kitchen stores in Chinatown has declined markedly over the last several years and the huge super market there that used to have such things including small altars and other devotional items, now has a big new deli department and no kitchen gods at all.


Stonework has begun on the outside of the house. I'll have pictures in a couple of days. A couple of mistakes were made at various stages of construction, one of which was that the ground around the foundation was back-filled without any masonry pedestals having been built to support the stone facing for the piers. So, our stonemason has had to dig down (fortunately through relatively easy crushed rock) to the footings and build up with concrete block. Setting of actual stone may begin either today or tomorrow.


Quite some while ago, I was blueskying with Fritz about the house in relationship with the local community. It's a unique type of structure in the town of Raymond, although solar and other varieties of sustainable housing exist throughout the region, as we found out when we were a stop on the NESEA home tour last fall. I wondered out loud if science teachers at the local high school would be interested in in monitoring the house with their classes for energy consumption, electrical generation from our photovoltaic arrays, and the economic reality of living as green as possible in with the technology available today.

A month or so ago, Fritz introduced me to a teacher from the local elementary school who's a student here in one of the Masters Degree In Creative Arts and Learning classes. I spoke with him about how I hoped the house could be a learning tool for local students. He thought it a great idea and, in turn, got in touch with the high school science department.

To make a long story short, as soon as the school day ends next Wednesday a group of at least ten teachers will come here to the Center for an orientation session on the house and the history of its development. I've prepared a two-page summary of all the sustainable and other green components of the structure that we'll give out, along with a front elevation of the house and plans of both floors. Then we'll go up the hill and take them through in detail.

Most encouraging is the real excitement we've felt from the teachers for making this an ongoing study. One of the middle school English/social sciences teachers has even asked to become involved as she's the faculty adviser to the Environmental Club. If this all works out, as it looks it might, a lot of what I had hoped the house could do will be fulfilled.


This is for Lewis in Portland, Oregon, a lovely man we've been lucky enough to have here as a guest. His blog is The Spirit of Saint Lewis, which is always a joy to read. It's a picture of the Isle of Lewis, one of the Outer Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland. I discovered the Isle of Lewis this morning as we pulled yesterday's page off a table-top calendar pad and there it was, looking very beautiful in a picture of its harbor. Above is a stretch of the lovely, unspoiled coast--quite appropriate for such a lovely, unspoiled and friendly guy.

Will, you're such a visual (and randy) person that you should make your own Chinese kitchen god. Find an attractive young (or not) man of Chinese extraction, take some pictures, manipulate the images (or not) and voila (or whatever the Chinese equivalent is): Chinese kitchen god. Seriously, shouldn't the household god be something that turns you on? Not that you seem to need much help in that department, but still.

By the way, I and the world are still waiting for that picture of your abs. Nothing says spring like half-naked men.
50,000 daffodils!
that would seem like heaven to me, as they are my favorite flower.
You have such a lovely paradise going up there; I would not ever want to leave it when it is all completed.
i'll trade ya pound of crawfish tails for a pint of maple syrup....hmmmm...

sound like spring is finally gettin' there.

You hit on one of my most favorite places - the Hebrides islands.

The knitting designer extraordinaire Alice Starmore comes from there and maintains a lovely web site (Virtual Yarns) where she sells her designs and yarn.

There is a long history of knitting in the Isles and Ms. Starmore illustrates it on her website which also has lovely photos - featuring the island in all of them.

how about some pralines in trade for some maple syrup?
I agree with TED. You might want to begin by meditation and then as soon as you get inspired, paint your own Zao Shen (kitchen god).
The "proper" date to dedicate your kitchen stove god would be a week after the lunar new year, when he and his quarrelsome wife returns to earth from gossiping about you and your kitchen activities to heaven. So that implies by the next Chinese New Year Eve, you will send them away with a little bribery offering and torch up the painting you accomplish.
Of course, non-Chinese believers are spared with far more favors and leniency. Good luck.
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