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 -

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)

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.

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.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September Farm Update

So what's new here at the farm?

1. I got chicken poop in my hair for the first time. (At least I think it was the first time.)

2. Two of the silkies are almost definitely roosters! Meaning we only have 3 potential egg layers. Also meaning that I've been forced to reconsider naming conventions at Miss Sophonsiba's Finishing School for Wicked Chicks.

Now, I give you George and Ridgely!

Wham! - reinvented, reincarnated as black silkie bantam roosters.

3. The Mayhew-Bergman raspberry patch is giving us a generous fall harvest. It's hard to come back with a basket full, though. Fray is a demanding berry eater. She attached herself to one of my legs while I was sorting through the thorny branches, demanding "More! More!" (and signing "please.")

When I didn't deliver fast enough, she ate a handful of dirt. If it tasted as horrible as it looked...

4. This came out of my mouth today: "No Frasier - do not hit the cats with salad tongs. Gentle petting. Gentle petting."

5. There is a really intimidating spider in my office window. (Cue: The Cure's Lullaby...Robert Smith is so pretty, right?)

Wham Photo Source

A Family Tri

What do Bergmans do for fun? Family Triathlons. This Sunday, we entered the Josh Billings Runaground Tri as a family team. Our family friend did the 27 mile bike, Dogtor and Dogtor Sr. (OPA) did the 5 mile canoe, and I finished out with the 6 mile run.

The morning was cold (I wore every scrap of clothing I could find in the truck before the run.) But we avoided rain.

Frasier cheered from her stroller and even caught a nap during my run, waking up to cheer me across the finish line. (I was super happy with my time - 46 minutes/7:40 pace. For me, that's a wow. I ate a big bowl of ice cream when I got home to celebrate. I was just looking for a reason, though.)

The Dogtors rocked the canoe race. It was awesome to see them cutting between kayaks to toss me the wristband.

Fray celebrated with a sip of beer at the end. Yeah. I know. We'll stay classy over here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


After a camping weekend, one craves the comforts of home. The problem begins when one arrives to find that home - and dog - utterly skunked.

We were hardly out of the car when I smelled it - the pungent, aggressive skunkiness. Occasionally a skunk is hit on the road near our house and we smell it for a few hours, but this skunk scent was in-your-face.

Sweet old Captain Nemo came jogging out of the garage - happily seeking love - only to be met with his humans coiling away from him and reaching out to grab their toddler. It had to be the sweetest, biggest, oldest dog. Sigh.

Today when I breezed in to teach my Tuesday/Thursday class, it occurred to me that I might reek of eau d'skunk. The smell is so thick in our garage and kitchen that it permeates everything. Of course I'd planned one-on-one conferences about essay topics...

I washed Nemo down after dinner tonight (he got the old man zoomies afterward!) and have the dog beds from the garage in the wash. I've heard some interesting remedies today - tomato soup baths and solutions made of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, and baking soda.

As of now, it feels hopeless, but I'm sure a little patience (and maybe a fortuitous head cold?) will get us far.

Camden, Maine

I love camping. Fray's a great sport, even if her lack of sherpa skills relegates us to car camping.

To me, campgrounds - even the most beautiful - have a sweet, vintage appeal. They're a little neglected - quiet, and simple - products of a bygone era. Rusted-out swingsets and grills, RVs with P.O.W. flags and hanging tomato baskets.

Dinner takes time, as does a simple cup of tea. (These things also involve incendiary devices, which means they are Dogtor territory.) We go to bed early after a good conversation around the campfire. (We burned what I believe was pinion pine firewood - it smelled amazing.)

We set up at a small campground on Mount Battie in Camden, Maine. I've always been drawn to Camden because Edna St. Vincent Millay grew up there - and the place exceeded my expectations. The summit of Mount Battie overlooks Penobscot Bay - a beautiful expanse of deep water, small islands and evergreen-topped mountains. One side of the campground bordered a cliff overlooking the ocean, with access to a rocky beach. (Not so toddler-friendly, but stunning.)

Camden itself is charming - full of inns, restaurants offering chowder and lobster rolls, and a gorgeous bay area -which this weekend hosted the Windjammer Festival. (I love re-enactors dressed as pirates!)

We visited Lincolnville Beach and biked around Megunticook Lake. (I did not hear any loons - but we did have a very vocal owl at our campsite the second night.) We scored with food - a standout being an unplanned stop at Dot's Market in Lincolnville for coffee - which turned into coffee, torte, muffins, and a sticky bun for le Dogteur.

Only a little scarred from yesterday's six+ hour drive with an underslept toddler, we plan to return to Camden again.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Learning the Taste of Stone

I'm very excited to announce that I'll be blogging for Ploughshares journal weekly - starting today - until December. You can read my first post, Learning the Taste of Stone, on their site.

I've had this essay in my head for a year now, and it was a beautiful, cathartic experience to translate it from thought to words.

Thanks for reading,