Sunday Almanac: We March Inevitably Towards Winter

It is always a little sad to me when the snowplow rig assemblies start showing up on pickup trucks around town; it’s inevitable, but cold weather comes a little too soon on the heels of summer (to say nothing of ephemeral fall) in these parts, and wears out its welcome along about April, when everybody else in the Lower 48 seems positively giddy about their colorful gardens beginning to bloom, and when we’re still shoveling ice off the back deck, another patch of deck stain going with it on each pass of the blade, wondering what on earth is taking the planet so dang long to finally relent and hand us some pretty weather.

A reasoned observation might go, What did you expect when you moved to Vermont in the first place?

Still, the changing conditions seem to come on all of a sudden instead of gradually, the way a self-respecting season should arrive; winter melts into summer, which freezes right on into winter. Or at least that’s how it feels to me.

Last week we had our first snowfall, but I didn’t make any photos, though I considered it, standing in front of a large plate glass window at the marketing agency where I work, waiting for my soup to warm in the microwave, and gazing out upon an utterly flocked landscape: the airport runway and surrounding meadows, the tree line on the other side of the property, and then the majestic Taconics with Mt. Equinox looming in the distance. The scene almost looked edible, like someone had tapped confectioner’s sugar expertly and evenly through a strainer over the entire business. All that remained bare were the runway itself and the surrounding roads, which as yet are too warm to ice over down here in the valleys; not for much longer.

This will be my eighth winter in Vermont, unbelievably.

I Bought an Apple Watch

I had been thinking about it for a while and finally relented. Growing weary of using multiple apps to try to track calories burned for various types of workouts, I was drawn to this little device which can measure physical exertion across a broad spectrum of exercise types, and hands all kinds of metrics back to you, should you want them. I’m finding I do, although I wouldn’t have guessed that in the beginning.

It certainly has its faults. For example, the watch lets you know when it’s time to stand up and move around. This is a nice feature if your bum has been seated at a desk and your head has been in a project for too many hours at a stretch. But at the office I have a stand-up desk, which I try to use roughly two hours at a time; the balance of the time I have it lowered and I’m seated on a bosu ball stool.

I love how Scout needs always to be touching some part of me in the office at work

Anyway. I had been standing at my desk for well over an hour the first day I wore the watch, when I felt it vibrate on my wrist, glanced down, and saw to my dismay a suggestion it was time to stand up and move. Seems like the developers would have figured out a way to adjust for this. Also, some of the exercise categories are way too general. ‘Dance,’ for example, is just a single generic category; still, I plan to give myself a ballet barre roughly 45 minutes long sometime soon and see what the watch thinks about that.

Overall, I like my new watch and recommend it to anybody who’s serious about fitness. I think I’m probably getting a way more realistic accounting of actual exertion and calories burned with this device than I would through an app (or a collection of apps). And it’s completely waterproof, so when it’s, you know, safe to go back into the water, you can bet I’ll be wearing it for lap swimming.

Dogs Can Be Complicated

Scoutie tweaked his wrist sometime between Monday evening and Tuesday morning. He typically starts his nights up in the bed with us, and then grows too warm and so hops down and trots off down the hallway and into our home office, where a delicious memory foam dog bed awaits him right under my desk. Then usually around 4:00 or so in the morning, he rejoins us.

On Tuesday morning when he hopped up onto our high, high bed, he began crying like a baby. He’s done this before, where he’s possibly overstretched a muscle. Once it was his hip/quadricep—I know this, because I got a reaction out of him when I palpated it. It always goes away soon enough. But on Tuesday, I decided to work from home where I could keep an eye on him, and sure enough, the problem seemed to worsen throughout the morning. Climbing and descending stairs in particular made him howl, and at one point he lifted his left paw pitifully. So I made an appointment and schlepped him over to the vet.

Vexingly, when we arrived, he seemed miraculously better, of course. Because of the pandemic, veterinary care is by concierge, where you pull into a slot, ring the number on the sign, and then a tech comes out to take preliminary notes and then to walk your dog into the clinic. I had warned them Scout might need extra help getting out of the car, but nope, he hopped right down and trotted off with the tech, his tail all awag, happy for the attention.

these cows are often hanging out in the pasture right next to the parking lot at the veterinary clinic

The vet really couldn’t find much wrong with him, except he did pull his left front paw away from her, and so she sent us packing with a bottle of doggie pain meds and orders for Scout to take it easy for a while. Rascal.

He seems right as rain now.

The Garden Is Finished ‘til Next Summer

But look what Chef David harvested on Saturday:

Yep, that’s the sum total of our carrot crop. But they sautéed up beautifully with Brussels sprouts and a maple glaze with sesame seeds, a tender and sweet accompaniment to our supper of salmon and fancy homemade hash brown potatoes.

some forbidden fruit made it into the house

Sometimes all I want for the work week ahead is a brothy, noodle-y soup, but right now I’ve been yearning for something that sticks to my ribs a little more, with some substance to it. Today I made coconut curry pumpkin soup, and it turned out beautifully. It breaks my fat calories rules, a little, but I’ve been exercising more than usual lately (did I mention I bought a new Apple Watch?) and so decided to allow this bit of indulgence. Forgive the out-of-focus image.

Also, last week I ordered egg cups, because I’ve never had a soft-boiled egg served in an elegant porcelain cup and decided it was high time I did. (The Chef just shakes his head when I get these kinds of hankerins for things.) In the end, he rose to the occasion and showed me how to perfectly soft boil an egg (go on and roll your eyes), and how to saw off its lid and dip into the gooey center with a spoon. Now I need proper spoons, as the only ones we have that will fit inside an egg are our grapefruit spoons, and that will not do at all.

Elsewhere Around the Homestead and Beyond

Halloween, pandemic edition

Halloween was weird, wasn’t it? Like everything else in 2020. We talked about whether/how we would deal with the typically large numbers of kids who come knocking on our door, and finally settled on treat bags in a galvanized tub. We set it outside in the driveway in front of our closed driveway gate with a lantern to light the way, and then waited. Our street seemed positively deserted, so around 8:00 we finally brought in the tub, and were delighted to see only about half its contents remained. So somebody enjoyed trick-or-treating at Deb and David’s in spite of everything.

I went on a longish walk this afternoon with a pair of friends, which is always fun, and we came across this red fox hanging out in the Christmas tree farm where we get our tree every year. It seemed unimpressed by us, and sat there on its rump furiously scratching one ear. Fleas, one of my friends observed. Sorry for the low resolution—I promise it’s a red fox, and its tail was absolutely glorious, fleas notwithstanding.

You really don’t have to venture far in these parts to rub shoulders with nature and wildlife. It was a blustery, chilly damp outing, but the kind of day that makes one happy to be alive. This morning I sewed a trio of buttons back onto my heavy, full-length ‘bench warmer’-style wool coat; it’s needed my attention for years and now has finally gotten it. This is one serious coat, the kind that lasts a lifetime and never goes out of style, that kind of thing. It has a heavy hood that zips off if you don’t want it, and the buttons are pretty—leather buttons that sort of resemble croissants and slip into loops to fasten; I’ll be happy to finally press it back into service after all these years, instead of simply defaulting to my boring old down coat.

So I s’pose I’ll square my shoulders now and march, properly outfitted, right on into another Vermontish winter.

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