Tuesday, August 16 2022
Gretchen's ex-girlfriend Barbara had slept in the basement master guestroom, but the conditions had proved too moldy for her sensitivities. She'd even brought her own pillow case and sheets, and still the smell of mold overwhelmed her. Mind you, we've had a split running as a dehumidifier in that room and some months ago we had it completely repainted with mold-resisting paint. But still it's moldy. The mold had resulted in a terrible night of sleep and Barbara had gotten up early. She went on a walk in the woods out at least as far as the stone wall south of the Chamomile. She also saw Oscar the Cat at some point, but if there had been a spark between them last night, he was totally over it this morning and wanted nothing to do with her. Since Gretchen was still deep asleep and Barbara didn't want any more mold exposure, she decided to write Gretchen a note (on paper so her phone wouldn't ding) and drive off to wherever she was going next.
Barbara's visit to the wall reminded me of its existence, so at lunch today I walked out to it and made some repairs. There had been a few rock slides from the north side of the wall, which is much less even than the south side and features several integrated cairns acting as buttresses. Those tend to be well-constructed, so the slides had happened from parts that hadn't been buttressed and had probably been built hastily. The great thing about a stone wall under maintenance is that it behaves like a population governed by natural selection in its environment: it continually improves as the worst parts of it fail and then concentrated effort is applied to repair the failures.
As I worked on these things, I couldn't help but notice the toll the ongoing drought was taking on the vegetation. The main species of deciduous fern (I don't know its name) was wilting in many places, something I've never noticed before. And there was wilting on other species such as striped maple and russian olive. There's a fairly large slippery elm just north of the house, and it's wilting too. Combined with the recent gypsy moth infestation (which mainly affected oaks) there's probably going to be sharply increased tree mortality this year.
The drought had me thinking about the greenhouse basement, a huge project that, like the stone wall, I've almost forgotten about what with the distractions of the cabin and the real estate empire. So I went down there today to check out how much water was in the well. If it was empty, I was thinking I might jackhammer it a little deeper. The first thing I noticed was that the door was ajar and some electrical stuff that is supposed to be on a shelf above the door. I hadn't been down there so long that the spider plant I'd been keeping alive there was now totally dead, although in another pot a mystery plant (not a familiar weed) was still somehow alive, so I watered it. As for the well, I climbed down into it and found it still had a foot of water in it. So perhaps the present drought isn't as bad as the one that allowed me to dig that deep back in 2013.
Looking around at the greenhouse downstairs, it seemed cluttered but bursting with potential. If I didn't have a million other things to do, it would be fun to straighten it up and continue mining out the hole beneath it. In the meantime, though, there's some nice bluestone pieces forming the surfaces of shelving on the side that I thought might be better used as walkway flagstones at the cabin, so I took one of them out and put it near the Bolt, staging it for our next drive to the cabin.
I was having a fairly busy (if not especially productive) day in the remote workplace (at least by the standards of late, which are admittedly low) when I happened to notice a very large red bird had landed on one of the sunflowers in the garden. I quickly realized that it was not actually one bird but two, a male and a female cardinal, and the male seemed to be doing some sort of courtship ritual that involved periodically holding his wings at the sides and vibrating. I snapped a bunch of pictures which you can see below.
Later this evening a little after sundown, I returned to the stone wall and did some more work, fixing up the last of the rockfalls. Maintaining a stone wall doesn't require much effort, especially compared to building one. Meanwhile, Gretchen had gone to a meet & greet in Woodstock with a Democrat running to replace Anthony Delgado as respresentative for our district (NY's 19th) in the US House. Delgado recently became NY's lt. governor, so his seat will be filled by a special election that will be considered a bellweather for how Democrats are likely to perform in November (given the recent demise of Roe vs. Wade in the Supreme Court, improvements in the economy, and the tightening noose around Donald Trump's neck.
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