the bounty of autumn leaves
Friday, October 6 2023
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, NY
This morning Gretchen and I went over to the brick mansion on Downs Street to make sure safety equipment was in good working order a little prior to the arrival of the fire safety inspector, who would be doing the inspection that Kingston requires once every two years for all rental units in the city. My first priority was to go up to the apartment on the third floor to fix a chandelier that had pulled loose from its electrical box. (Who knows how such things happen?). Fortunately it was easy to fix just by reattaching it to the existing plastic box using bigger screws (and it helped that Gretchen was there to hold the light while I reattached the wires). Next I installed a smoke detector that had gone missing in the apartment on the second floor. One of the tenants there is a cancer patient, so Gretchen and I had to wear masks. That tenant asked how things were with me, and I told him I'd been laid off. He seemed genuinely upset for me, and I felt bad that I haven't been able to muster as much evident empathy for his always-gloomy cancer prognosis. Then again, if I did, it would probably make him uncomfortable.
The inspector was a big jolly guy whom Gretchen had met before. He didn't have a mask, so when inspecting the smoke detectors in the apartment on the second floor, he just waited in the stairway as the tenant went around pushing the test buttons on the smoke detectors. Later he chatted with us out on the street for a bit longer than I would've preferred about what had gone down at the neighboring house on the corner, the one with the problematic poultry operation that ended in slaughter about a week ago. Being a building inspector, he'd heard all about it. He was also familiar with other troublesome ad hoc bird farms that pop up around Kingston, often run by people from other countries unfamiliar with the bounds of urban behavior in the United States.
Having passed the inspection at Downs Street, we were now free to get on with our weekend adventure, which meant we went back to Hurley, packed up our Chevy Bolt, and began the drive to our Adirondack cabin. For the first time ever, we decided to take the energy-efficient "scenic route" (that is, through Middleburgh) to the cabin, which meant reversing the route I'd already memorized from the cabin. Along the way, Gretchen hoped to stop at a Dunkin' Donuts in Cairo, but then it didn't appear to be along the route and, by the time we got to a visible Dunkin' Donuts (in Schoharie), Gretchen had lost her hankering. The only glitch in my navigation was when I got onto Junction Road instead of Zicha Road (which Junction turns into without fanfare when heading south) and then got to the Junction - Zicha intersection and didn't know which way to turn, thinking perhaps I'd gone the wrong way when turning onto Junction from 30A. But Gretchen brought up navigation, and I was never than several hundred feet out of my way. When we finally got to the cabin, we still had nearly 120 miles left in our car's battery, meaning we could theoretically drive to the cabin and back on a single charge using the scenic route.
Fall had definitely peaked at the cabin and now there were about as many leaves on the ground as there were in the trees. Whenever I see fallen leaves, I think of things to do with them, since they are a resource that arrives in great abundance. One thing I could do with them was to cover up the exposed soil around the cabin, thereby protecting it from erosion and providing mulch for whatever plants punch through them in the spring. Leaves would also look better on the ground than the existing strip of barren sand that had recently been a deep trench. So I raked up first armloads and then five gallon bucketloads of leaves from the driveway (where raking is easiest due to the lack of plants) and spread them out over the the ground wherever my excavation or borrow piles had left the ground without plant cover. I did this mostly along the south and west foundation wall, though I also extended this treatment as far along the north foundation wall as far as the Bilco door entrance bulkhead. This proved to be much more satisfying than expected, and eventually I posted a photo of the results on Facebook, claiming I was doing the opposite of what most suburban Americans do with leaves.
Meanwhile, Christine, my fist cousin once removed, had been planning for months to visit us with her new boyfriend Andrew. The fact that she'd already visited us a couple weeks ago (that time with her wacky mother, my cousin Carol) made her coming to visit us this weekend seem a little, well, frequent. But I understood that the intention of this visit was to be entirely different. Fortunately, though, Christine has a lot in common with her mother when it comes to sticking to a schedule, and her arrival today kept getting pushed back for reasons that were given as "traffic" being "a bag of dicks" but might've been something else, and this allowed us to have most of our Friday to ourselves. Christine and Andrew had started their drive at around 4:00pm from his place in Buffalo (the famous city at the east end of Lake Erie in New York State) and initially had expected to arrive at our cabin at around 7:00pm. By the time they actually got there, though, it was about 9:15pm. This had given Gretchen more time to do what she likes to do at the cabin (reading, mostly) and had allowed me to putter around in the basement, where I was drinking a beer while building out an electrical circuit. It had started out as a series of electrical outlets along the north wall and now I'd extended it to an outlet on the east wall.
At some point after dark I was curious whether or not the deer mice were still running around in the back of the cabin trying to find a way back in. As I was going out the front door, damn if I didn't scare away a deer mouse on the entrance deck in the front of the cabin. This was the second data point suggesting that mice had at some point developed the habit of also entering the cabin through the front door on the brief occasions when it's been left open unattended. Then when I went around behind the cabin, I found a deer mouse hanging out on the Bilco doors. I even snapped a picture. This one was mostly head, suggesting it might be an immature one. Perhaps it was one of the half-dead mice I rescued last weekend.
When Christine and Andrew arrived, we all immediately sat down for dinner (she'd left her dog Olivia back in Buffalo with Andrew's brothers). Gretchen had been heating one of her homemade vegan lasagnas and she'd even tossed a salad containing multigrain croutons. Andrew is a big teddy bear of a guy. In photographs, he'd reminded me of Eva's husband Sandor. But in person, he seemed almost like a clone of our friend Jeff E. He even had that same Great Lakes accent (one that decades of media and interacting with diverse peers had sanded smooth, making it a bit hard to place unless you know). The resemblance to Jeff E. was so close that Gretchen and I had instant familiarity with Andrew, like we hadn't just met him. It certainly helped that he had the same sense of humor, one not too different from ours. Andrew had brought a bottle of some sort of toffy-flavored whiskey that he'd already been drinking from. I poured a little in a glass and it tasted more like liquid candy than anything else.
The dinner was delicious of course, and the conversation was fun and wide-ranging. Christine likes for conversations to focus on her fraught relationship with her mother, who (as with Gretchen's mother visa vis Gretchen) doesn't seem to like adults or children, Christine especially, and it's a mystery why she ever went through the bother of having kids. When she described what she imagined her mother doing when handed Christine for the first time, I pictured her with grimace, holding baby Christine as far away from herself as possible. I then suggested that someone should make a statue of this called "the Reluctant Mother." Andrew thought this a splendid idea, and added that such statues should be erected outside the offices of Planned Parenthood.
Christine had brought some cannabis-laced cookies with her, and all of us except Gretchen ended up taking them. I only took a fraction of a single cookie for a resulting dose of 7mg, which ended up being plenty for me. We then sat in the great room talking until first Gretchen and then the guests got tired and headed off to bed. As Christine and Andrew were shuffling upstairs, I said, "If there's anything you need, look around and try to find it!"
Bumblebees on aromatic asters out in front of our house in Hurley today.
Click to enlarge.
After I piled leaves around the foundation of the cabin.
Click to enlarge.
Ramona has been moaning a lot lately. To make her happier, I put this blanket on her in the great room of the cabin before my relatives arrived this evening.
Click to enlarge.
A deer mouse on the Bilco doors this evening.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next