Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ploughshares Post: Nightwood, Revisited


I've always been fascinated by Djuna Barnes. And perhaps a little intimidated, too. A while back I challenged myself to finish Nightwood and report back to the Ploughshares community.

Read my mixed review here. And then consider giving the book a peek, mostly because I'd love to chat with you about your experience. I'm still mulling.

Photo Source

Holiday Week Recap



Am I allowed to say I'm glad this week is over? I loved the extra time with my family, but the extra chaos, extra calories, and extra snow are exhausting!

Extra Chaos: Renovating a house, book edits, toddler hopped up on Christmas. Although said toddler is amazingly cute, even if she doesn't know that she shouldn't sing Jingle Bells after the 25th.

Extra Snow: Two feet of it! See snow leopard, Dogtor, Wumpus, and icicles on the old clinic above.

Extra Calories: I made homemade cinnamon rolls for the first time on Christmas morning. Dangerous new skill. (Anyone else have this thing where you think just because you're a mom that you need to have some sort of culinary tradition? I'm experimenting.)

The sun is shining today (you actually need sunglasses for once), and I'm determined to get out for a snowshoe. And we're going to hit the thirties this weekend - whoever thought I'd get excited about temperatures in the thirties?!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kitteh Edits


Why must cats nest on whatever you're working on? What makes them think this strategy will endear them to you and not send you into a blind fit of rage?

Narcissism -that's what. It is completely incomprehensible to a houselion that they are an inferior priority in any circumstance.

I'm working through book-length edits and will probably owe my editor an explanation about the hair and drool spots.

Luckily, kitteh makes such a pleasant sleep-purr that instead of shooing him away, I pull out the pages I need and let him sleep on my work.

Update: Kitteh #2 has moved in. It's like hard work is some sort of challenge and they must reaffirm their ability to distract you with faux-love. Like, okay, whew, still got it.

Always professional in VT,
MMB

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pizza and Snow Leopards





We had a great weekend at home. Our winter farmshare is still providing culinary adventures (see acorn squash pizza with feta and arugula). Holiday parties are keeping us busy - and yet we're still in bed by 9.

We spent a good amount of time in the snow this weekend. I knocked out a few snowy runs, one of which felt like doing a Running Man with each step. Fray got some legit snow boots, and waddled around quite effectively in her purple Teletubby-esque snowsuit. We took a long walk in Mile Round Woods, and a few around our property.

When we walk the property line, Pi the cat-dog follows us. His nose gets pink with the cold, but otherwise he blends in and has earned a snow leopard moniker. So, as of this weekend, there are three house lions, and one snow leopard. Perhaps that explains the constant discord in the house.

In other news, Fray is delighting us with renditions of Jingle Bells and the voiceover parts in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (Like Dumbo! Whoopee! etc.)

I continue to appall the Dogtor with my dismal and wasteful present wrapping skills. The man never wastes a square inch. My corners look like they were fashioned by a two year old. One thing I can assure him of: I'll never learn.

**Last two photo credits: Dogtor

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Equal Opportunity Bedding


...in close proximity to the woodstove.

The Night Train





The Dogtor and I are just home from a whirlwind trip to NYC, where we got to visit our fantastic friends and I was lucky enough to join a reading at KGB Bar.

Monday was a marathon. We were up early for a walk in Central Park. Hyper-stimulated by all the diversity and commotion - Shaftsbury, for all its pleasures, is a little homogeneous - we drank the people and the place in. (Side note - Nothing hurts me like seeing people run in jeans. Why?) We hit the Neue Galerie for breakfast at Cafe Sabarsky and then indulged in Schiele, Klimt, and Messerschmidt's "character heads."

The wind picked up as we left. We paused for a moment in Rockefeller Center - it was a mob, albeit a happy one. Then I had a delightful lunch with my editor and got to meet the Scribner folks I'll be working with.

From there, we met up with some lovely relatives for tea. Then, onto an early dinner with my agent, and from there to KGB. The place was packed, and I was delighted by all the friends who came out to support me. I was feeling the love! Thank you, friends!

Sadly, Bo and I had to sprint out of the place at the first intermission to catch a train home, which we barely did. Picture us on the streets of NY, hurtling toward Penn Station, snow swirling around us. (I actually choked on a snowflake while running. I live in VT, and even I didn't know that was possible.)

At midnight, we drove home from the station through thick snow. Our little farmhouse looked so peaceful after the hustle of the city; the snow has a way of putting a hush on things. We peeked in on Fray immediately; a day and a half and I was desperate to be close to her again.

This morning we took a snowshoe around the property (See MMB-too-cold-to-smile-properly photo). Pippa, the corgi, did some excellent dog-plowing, and the three other dogs followed her lead. The snow is resting inches-high on the branches, and for now, everything looks clean.

KGB Bar Photo Source

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vick, Frey, and Redemption


I have a love/hate relationship with stories that fall in my lap and demand to be written. This essay on Michael Vick, James Frey, and Redemption Narratives was that way.

It took me a while to write, mainly because I kept revising. One version was too choked up with my strong feelings about Vick and my ESPN obsession. Another was long and winding. But it kept clawing at the inside of my brain until I got it all on paper, and I felt a strong urge to get it right.

I'm not sure I got it right, but I got something, and as always, I'd love your thoughts.

For your reading pleasure: My latest Ploughshares post on Michael Vick, James Frey, and the Power of Redemption Narratives

Thanks for reading,
MMB

Photo Credit

Cold Chickens, Birdseed Meals, and New Words



The snow is here, and will be here intermittently until, say, April.

It was 16 degrees out this morning, and I forced myself to take a walk in the backyard. I take walks whenever I find myself angry at the cold weather, because I inevitably find it beautiful if I can quiet the nagging Southerner within.

The birds - the ones that are left - are out and easy to spot in the bare trees. We have a giant, forty pound bag of feed, and the Dogtors keep the feeders stocked so that Frasier and I (and the dogs and cats) can watch the birds from the kitchen windows.

The dogs - mostly lead by Monsieur Scooty Beags - are also fans of birdseed. Scoots nibbles it up from the snow and does the work of 100 chickadees. The habit also causes him some intestinal distress, and us some annoyance. He begs to be let out so he can eat seeds. Then he beagle-yodels to be let back in. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

The chickens are cold - they aren't spending much time in the snow. The Dogtor is letting them peck around in the goat stall. I went to visit them this morning, and they complained as loud as my inner Southerner about the chill. But they are still laying - check out our first silkie egg! We have one silkie hen, and I know the little dear worked awfully hard on this one.

Frasier debuted a new word last night as I was tucking her in: cozy. It was precious - the first z sound I've heard from her, and certainly an important word for the Vermont winter.

I'm wrapping up year-end grading and starting in on book edits, which is exciting. But I'm also recovering from food poisoning (five days ago!) and am still on the toast train. I love food, so it's really depressing to be anti-food for so long, especially when there are stacks of holiday cookies in the pantry.

We head to NY for the KGB reading this weekend - if you're in town, come see me at 7PM on Monday!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Story and an Explanation



It's a weird day. This morning I nailed myself in the forehead with the lid to the diaper pail. A wind storm is raging outside, and the doors are threatening to blow open. The dogs have muddy paws, but they are staring pitifully through the windows, begging to be let in out of the wind. The houselions are wild with energy, play fighting until they forget themselves and get serious, shuttling across the kitchen floor with puffed-up tails, claws out.

But there are still some lovely writing updates:

The very kind folks at One Story have put my "Housewifely Arts" out as their current selection (with an interview!), and provided a lovely introduction. (You can even download it onto your Kindle!)

I cannot say enough good things about my experience with this journal - they are good to their authors!

I also have some new posts up at Ploughshares:
Enjoy! (and thank you for reading - and supporting- these journals!)
MMB

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What We've Been Up To....



Sorry for taking a break from the blog, but we've been zipping through life at a fast pace lately. We just returned from a wonderful Thanksgiving week with my family in Raleigh, NC. This meant flying with Frasier - a firecracker 19-month-year-old. Luckily, the Dogtor is not just a dog whisperer - he's a baby whisperer, too.

Today, on the flight home, Fray plucked the safety manual from the seat back pocket and proclaimed Wheeeeeee! at the picture of the people headed down the safety slide. Wheee indeed.

We returned home to snow and to dogs and cats marinating by the blazing woodstove. (See upside down Betsy Spaniel above).

With the weather getting colder, and the book becoming a reality (thank you, Scribner!), I have the urge to WORK. But tomorrow is about making wreaths with friends and putting up lights...and, of course, listening to a little Holiday Wham!

And maybe a little work.

Cheers!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dog Hygiene


Yesterday - with the almost warm sun shining down on us - the Dogtor and I got out the Zoom Groom (good for beagle hair), the Furminator (good for all hair), the nail clippers, and flea and tick preventative.

We aren't regular dog bathers - they have to really roll in something green and dead or absolutely noxious to earn a wash. But before we all get trapped inside for the winter, it's a good idea to make sure everyone is reasonably well kept.

Jack - aka Monsieur Scooty Beags - is Captain Pitiful during dog hygiene runs. He's a total wimp about getting his nails cut, but he lingers around the scene before it's his turn because he knows there are treats involved. He can't help himself. The other dogs run and hide and cower, but he cowers at close range, ready to earn his just reward.

One-eyed Kitteh Pi likes getting groomed - who knew? He stretched out like any good cat-dog and let the Dogtor Furminate him. One more reason to love the latest rescue.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Weekend in Review



1. I don't care what the calendars say - it's winter. Monday morning we woke up to high winds and the dubious "wintry mix" - or, to a Southerner calling it like she sees it - aggressive ice pellets.

Suddenly, carrying a toddler across the driveway to the car becomes a dangerous mission. I start planning ways to fall (backward, not forward). I curse the number of bags I seem to need to drive Frasier from Point A to Point B.

The dogs cower in the garage, begging to be let in - they haven't acclimated to the weather change yet. Neither have I. Checking the weather in the mornings is not an option.

2. Frasier looks awfully cute in her winter gear.

3. Frasier's favorite word from the weekend: SPICY! (spi-sscthey). It applies to everything, apparently even Mama's chocolate chip banana bread.

4. Friday night, the Dogtor took me on a Real Date to Hattie's in Saratoga - a charming place with tea, pies, fried chicken, and gourmet mac and cheese, which the Dogtor ordered. It was smoky, rich, and baked to a buttery crunch on top.

Hattie's is one of my Happy Places. As in, I take my time eating, because I don't want to leave. I love the gingham tablecloths, the happy buzz, the cheap lights, the old photographs.

5. I'm officially slipping into the winter day routine: I wear elastic waistband pants with warm boots and a fleece (one of the major perks of living in Vermont - super casual winters). I make hot tea and schlep it across the driveway to my cold office in the old vet clinic, where I am surrounded by outdated books on goat husbandry and labels that say scary things like "Fecalyzer." I flip on the space heater, and a purring impaired one-eyed cat hops in my lap and wheeze-purrs happily.

Work is done, wintry mix slapping against the windows.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ploughshares Posts and a New Story


For those of you following - and my gratitude if you are - there are a few new Ploughshares posts up, and a story:

"Anger Management" features UFC fighter Kimbo Slice and Sven Birkerts in the same essay - that's gotta be a first.

xo
MMB

Photo Source

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Sugared Up Dose of Fall Cuteness



This is one of my obsessed-with-my-own-offspring moments. Frasier, a giant pile of maple leaves, and a wicked cute pink bear hat with ears. She's like a pokemon character or something. I love the unbridled face plant and slow, methodical rolling...the girl has technique.

I like how the beagle scoots across the scene. God knows what kind of "treasures" are underneath those leaves. The beauty of a four dog household...

The Busy Spider


One of Frasier's favorite books is Eric Carle's The Very Busy Spider. The book is a good fit for the Bergman mode of life...a life constant projects.

As I sit in my office - a one-eyed white cat on my lap, down jacket on, space heater going, trying to bang out an article - I find myself distracted by what is legitimately a Very Busy Spider.

The spider has been inhabiting the space between my office window panes for weeks now. This morning I decided her web was sagging. Sure enough, by 10 she had started rebuilding. An hour later and she's still going. She started by cleaning house - breaking the saggy threads and balling them up. She used the ball to re-center her web. She's a crafty weaver. I can't stop watching her efficient little tugs and punches.

I'm trying not to worry about the lady bug, who, from what I can see, is the only potential prey between the panes this morning.

In other news, I will be adding to my list of projects. Yesterday I was elected to serve as a Justice of the Peace for the town of Shaftsbury. I'm excited and ready to join couples of any kind; that's the beauty of Vermont. And the tax review part - well - that's not as romantic, but I'm ready. Here's to an even busier mode of being.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Farmshare Update + Miscellany


Dogtor Sr., aka OPA, fetched the farmshare from Clearbrook today. It's a good thing he did, because when I picked Fray up from daycare she was covered in head-to-toe hives, and we bee-lined for the pediatrician's office. (Turns out Wump is allergic to amoxycillin. Fun.)

We arrived home from the doc's to find a gorgeous array of vegetables: turnips, beets, collards, lettuce, carrots, super fat leeks, two kinds of raspberries, shallots, eggs, bread, goat cheese, purple potatoes, and a new loaf of bread.

I made open-faced sandwiches with herbed goat cheese, caramelized shallots, and freshly chopped beets. Yum.

The problem - no one was around to eat them. OPA was visiting friends. The Dogtor was clocking a late night at the office, unblocking a cat, sending messages about how he'd just eat mac n' cheese.

I think not.

Eggs and more eggs in our future. And potato leek soup. And I must train the new one-eyed cat not to jump on the counters while we're cooking and eating. Or ever, for that matter. He protests and pretends not to understand. I've had to remind him that the whole woe-is-me-I'm-a-one-eyed-cat routine will only work for so long.

*

As an aside, I'm battling a cold and am still traumatized - seriously - from flying solo with Frasier to Raleigh last weekend. Am I Vermont-bound until she outgrows tantrums? My sanity says yes.

*

Outside, the beagle howls to another beagle. Or a coyote. Let's hope neighboring beagle.

*

Dogtor, coming in from outside, confirms: coyotes. Close ones.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Once Upon a Reading


I was asked to join a reading at Newtonville Books in Newton, MA to help promote the New Stories From the South anthology. I was so pleased to be asked. Like, really pleased. Like, dancing around my house pleased. How often does one get to read with Amy Hempel and Bret Anthony Johnston?

Not often.

Of course, the night before I was supposed to go, Fray was diagnosed with a double ear infection and roseola (measles-ish thing.)

It was one of those Dark Mom Moments where you find yourself hogtied in a gray area. Before Fray's nap, I had resolved to cancel my appearance. After her nap, a happier girl appeared (thank you, antibiotics). Still, the Dogtor had to push me out of the door.

But to Newton I went.

So here's the thing - alone time in the car is kind of novel, which resulted in three and a half hours of bad power-singing - Whitney Houston to Wham! to Rage Against the Machine to Journey and onward. And then I pulled up at the reading, wondering what would happen when I opened my mouth to read. Would anything come out? Would I have a voice?

I did. Phew.

Newtonville Books is a super charming independent bookstore - equal parts smart and darling. The owners were beyond kind and fun. The audience was warm. My fellow readers were excellent. AND - I was asked to sign the back wall of the store - like I was a real writer or something! GASP.

I signed in the most discrete place I could find, down near the electrical sockets, lest anyone accuse me of getting full of myself.

Three plus hours of driving later, I was back in Vermont around midnight, and ready to squeeze a much healthier Fray in the morning.

More Ploughshares Essays

For those of you keeping up, here are some links to some of my recent weekly Ploughshares essays:
I remind myself to zero in on conflict. I chide myself for not finishing a difficult book. I opine on why you can't reliably set a Southern story on an antebellum front porch. I openly covet marked-up books - the older, the better.

Thank you for reading.
XO
MMB

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Surviving Your Farmshare...and Liking It


Anyone who has ever had a farmshare knows what I mean. You arrive home with bags full of incredible produce. You feel good about yourself. You are going to feed your family with pesticide-free, non-GMO food. You're supporting the community farm. And suddenly, looking at the obscure root vegetables, radishes, and Very Healthy Vat of Yogurt you wonder: how the hell am I going to use this up?

Because wasting food would totally squash all those self-righteous warm fuzzies.

You get on Epicurious. You ask friends what they do with Swiss Chard, because you just can't imagine eating it one more time the way you fix it. You make a weird casserole and egg salad with the ridiculous surplus of eggs you now have in your life (the girls are giving us 2 a day in addition to our farmshare dozen!).

And somehow there is still a head of romanesco 24 hours from bad in the bottom drawer of your fridge, two peppers, four onions...and pick-up for the next week's share is a day away.

Here are some suggestions:

1 - Everything tastes good in quiche. I always sautee miscellaneous greens (I'm talking to you, Swiss Chard and Kale), onions, and leftover veggies and dump them into a ready-made crust with good cheese. I make two at a time, and they inevitably get eaten.

2 - Soup. I recently made a tofu-noodle soup - no recipe, just Megan muppet-chef cooking - with all sorts of refrigerator and pantry miscellany. Red peppers, onions, Swiss Chard (ubiquitous!), mushrooms, tofu, stock, half a box of orzo, carrots, garlic, etc.

3 - Make absurd, adventurous, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salads.

4 - Look for the farmer's recipes. Our farm, Clearbrook, sends out weekly emails with suggestions for how to use the produce. Pictured above: roasted carrots and fennel with Parmesan. It was simple and delicious, and the farm's suggestion. Roasted fennel is high on my favorite-roasted-things list.

5 - Try different seasonings. My default for everything is garlic and more garlic. But it's good to do some curry one night, smoked paprika another - or all the vegetable dishes start to taste the same, and enthusiasm wanes.

6 - Double or triple recipes and freeze what doesn't get eaten. A good tactic for soups.

7 - When in doubt, blanch and freeze.

Let me be honest - I still fail, and lettuce goes bad. But each year I'm getting craftier with kale.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall Portraits





The Dogtor took some fall portraits while out and about in the yard last weekend. Fray can now sport pigtails AND her fall/winter clothes, which are too big for her today - but soon....

Don't you love the way gravity works on those cheeks?

Also pictured:
  • Captain Nemo, our first dog, he of unknown age and sweet disposition
  • Greta, our first cat, and the reason I'm a crazy cat lady. She's so damn mean that every cat I've meant since seems phenomenal. And I love her anyway, even when she's off her meds and growling at herself in a dark corner.
  • Pippa. Energizer corgi. Herds babies, chickens, goats, old horses, adults, and other dogs.
Our first winter storm is expected to bear down this weekend. This is when running gets interesting.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

From Apples to Cider


A week ago, we picked all the apples worth picking in the backyard. After climbing the gnarled trees and squeezing underneath the branches, we emerged a little scraped, but fairly happy with our harvest (though it was small).

Yesterday, the Dogtor picked more apples from an orchard near a friend's house, and soon we had multiple couples out by the barn, churning the press. Babies of all ages were everywhere, as were dogs and cats. The goats and horse fared well, too - each received a good share of bad apples.

Apples included in the cider: McIntosh, McGowan (Macoun), Empire, Granny Smith, and, thanks to our friends, the Northern Spy.

Sadly, our cider yield was low compared to years before. Each half gallon is that much more precious....although we have one more enthusiastic cider drinker among us than we used to (Fray-monster loves the stuff. More a-ppuhl!)

We remain grateful for the free labor - cranking that press is tough!

Breakfast at the Mayhew-Bergman's



I took this video the other week. It was one of the first cool mornings. The Dogtor was making pancakes; I was folding laundry. A handful (not all, mind you) of our animals were inside. Looking around, I was struck by what a strange pack we are.

It may get a little crowded in the kitchen...but boy do we have a good baby clean-up team.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Your Moment of Fray-Zen



Swinging in the backyard on a perfect Vermont fall day.

As you can tell, Fray is serious about her swinging.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The First Egg


One of the ladies in Miss Sophonsiba's School for Wicked Chicks (and there are only 3 ladies) deposited her FIRST EGG in the coop!

It was certainly one of the big old friendly barred rocks. I'm putting money on Sssudio.

The Dogtor is building some nesting boxes as we speak, and soon we'll rig the heat lamp so that the ladies can be toasty and productive.

(apologies for the blurry cell phone photo.)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rainbows Will Never Be the Same Again



Last weekend the Dogtor snapped a pic of Fray in front of a double rainbow. (The second one is so faint it didn't come across in the photo.) I wonder how many years it will take before we ever look at a rainbow and don't say: All the way!

Other weekend activities included a pumpkin patch visit and walk around Mile 'Round Woods.

We're expecting a couple of inches of rain today. The leaves are coming down. The cats are hunkering. The chickens are in. The dogs are curled up in the garage. It's the kind of weather that makes you think about hot soup.

This part of fall is winter's red carpet. I heard someone say last week that when you see a bunch of fuzzy caterpillars (very scientific), a hard winter is ahead. I always think of these caterpillars - and they are everywhere this year - as Atilla the Hun. They have all these serious looking pipecleaner projectiles...

Needless to say, the houselions aren't fazed. Dietary indiscretion abounds.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall and Things That Go Bump



Fall has been hovering over Vermont for a while, but this week, despite warmer than usual temperatures, it stuck. The leaves began to fall and the foliage became consistently varied. The Leaf Peepers began pausing in the Mayhew-Bergman driveway to take pictures and infuriate the dogs.

Fall also means things in the walls - scampering, twittering, nocturnal things. After losing a bit of sleep the last few nights, the Dogtor put a "Have A Heart Trap" in the attic. With the magnitude of the ruckus in the walls, I was anticipating that we might trap a raccoon...or an elephant.

Nope - just a small (but fierce!) flying squirrel. He was mad, and mad cute. This morning, the Dogtor and Frasier drove up the mountain to release him far, far away from the house. Bon voyage, little glider.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ploughshares Essays


In case you want to keep up with some of the Ploughshares work - I've had a few new essays post:

Enjoy, and thanks for reading -
MMB

Photo Credit

Rose Hips


My sister and I share a passion for Angela Lansbury - particularly her work in Murder She Wrote and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In the eighties, she seemed to be attached to mystery - benign, easy-to-swallow mystery.

Often, I'll come across a description of life in London or the British countryside during the war, and I'll nod my head, like, yeah, I'm totally familiar with that - I probably read it in a serious book. And then I realize that the only reason I know about toad-in-the-holes or Dover is a Bed Knobs and Broomsticks reference.

Same goes for rose hips.

When we first spotted these growing in the garden, we thought: what kind of weird tomatoes are those?

When I saw they were on our rose bushes, I instantly heard Angela in my head: "there are no fried foods served in this house - only cabbage buds, rose hips, glyssop seed, elm bark, whortle yeast, and stewed nettles."

Turns out rose hips are a sign of lazy gardening. A pro says, "We don’t often see them anymore, because we tend to prune the faded rose blossoms to encourage more flowers."

If only encouraging more flowers was a top concern in my life...

Perhaps I will make tea from the pods and think fondly of Angela...and then bring a museum of vintage armor to life.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shiny Cars/Big Person Toys





I drug my parents to the Bennington Car Show in Pownal this weekend while they were in visiting us in Vermont. Like a fool, I forgot the stroller - so Pop Pop gets props for being an excellent Fray-sherpa. (Fray found a red Chevy with Elmo lounging in the rear window, but soon became distracted and started throwing gravel. Not a car-show-friendly activity.)

I stayed away from anyone dressed in period clothing, oohed and ahhed over insanely rich paint jobs, and dreamed of one day owning something rad like a brightly-colored 1957 Pontiac Safari Station Wagon.

The Dogtor still says I have to take a car shop class first. Putting it on the to do list.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Managing Overabundance


Here, at the Mayhew-Bergman homestead, we have an abundance of animals. We have an abundance of tomatoes, basil, kale, oregano, and carrots. Thanks to the houselions, we also have an abundance of dead mice in the driveway.

Our friend has an overabundance of pears - her pear tree is on overdrive. Our pear tree produced 1 edible fruit this season - which we sliced and ate with much pomp and circumstance over breakfast last weekend. But yesterday, thanks to our friend, we had a plastic bag full of ripe pears.

Pears go fast, and nothing breaks Bergman hearts like wasted food. So despite projects, deadlines, animals, toddler needs and jobs out the proverbial wazoo, I decided on one way to use up a giant bag of pears all in one go: Pear Crisp. (*I added ginger.)

All I needed to do: chop the pears before it was time to pick up Fray.

But the pears refused to go down easily! They were gnarled and knotted and their cores were of uneven sizes. Their feminine bodies were difficult to peel. What was supposed to be a flippant task turned into a time-consuming physical challenge.

Other busy people who cook know the gig - prep something while you can, cram it into the fridge, run an errand, then finish it up while holding your toddler, feeding the dogs, shooing the cats from the counter, wiping your toddler's nose...and conducting a tractor survey.

Yes, folks, the UVM tractor survey got me AGAIN last night.

Me: I don't want to be rude, but I think I've already taken this survey, and I still don't know much about tractors.

Surveyor: We call three times.

Me: ?!@#$ (cuts three tablespoons of cold butter with one hand, toddler on hip, phone in neck)

Surveyor:
It will only take two minutes. Have you seen an advertisement for retro-fitting your tractor with a safety roll bar in the last six months?

Me: Let me think - no. (wonders if she would ever notice such an advertisement.)

Surveyor: How many acres do you farm?

Me: We don't really farm. We have two gardens and a small orchard. (throws oats and walnuts into the topping mix)

Surveyor: I'll put you down for a coupla acres.

Me: Cool.

Surveyor:
How much do you agree or disagree with this statement: I have the authority to retrofit my tractor with a safety roll bar.

Me: Ma'am, I don't even drive the tractor. (wipes toddler's nose and wonders where the tractor even is this time of year)

Surveyor: Strongly disagree, then. Would retrofitting your tractor be a cost-effective option for you?

Me: Strongly disagree. (thinks about all the other things she wants other than a tractor roll bar. Like a 1967 Morris Minor Traveller Woody Wagon.)

Surveyor: Do you understand the repercussions of not retrofitting your tractor with a safety roll bar?

Me: Again - I don't even drive it, but yeah. (thinks to self: I don't ever want to drive a tractor without a roll bar.) Agree?

Surveyor: You've been a big help.

Me: Okay. Talk to you in a few weeks!

Forty minutes later, the pear crisp emerged from the oven, and in less than 24 hours, the leftovers were gone - not a pear wasted.