Hello! And thank you for visiting this site. LifeWithTeresa is where I share my thoughts on everything from nutrition and health (my actual field) to current events (always interesting and frequently divisive) to spirituality (this one should not be divisive, but is) to entertainment and media (a lifelong love turned career) to my actual life (heavily edited because other people’s stories are not mine to tell).
Spring is coming! Soon, I hope.
The south wind is bringing a brief thaw this week. It’s still too cold overall to be getting any sap from our maples. I’m sure the commercial productions have a different story, but we tap with buckets and manual labor, so we wait and let Mother Nature do most of the work. We just ran out of our maple syrup in January, so we are hoping to get more this year than last. The bees produced enough honey that we switched from syrup to honey when we ran out. At least we have a better handle on what we (mostly John) are doing this year. Some of our taps were too high last year because we didn’t take the snowpack into account. Live and learn. Just getting out and walking through the woods is wonderful – the maple sap is a bonus at this point in time. We all have spring fever now, not just the dog.
My Dog Has Spring Fever
Our poor little guy, Sarge – we call him the Adventure Dog – is so incredibly bored and frustrated with winter and snow. He was a rescue dog from Mississippi, and this is his first real winter. He had two southern winters, but there is no comparison to our temperatures and snow. He spends most of his time curled up on my favorite glider looking sad. When I go outside, which is often, he goes outside. Frequently, he sits on the deck with one paw up and shivers long before I am ready to go back in.
This week, there has been a bit of thaw, which means that the daytime temps creep above freezing for a couple hours, and I decided to take him to his favorite park. He was turning circles in the back seat because he knew the route and wanted to run. (Chasing chickens isn’t a lot of fun in the snow.) Anyway, his worst fears were realized when he found massive snowbanks and a frozen lake. Sarge did get to run and jump and pee on a lot of new trees, but the visit was quick, and he was ready to leave. I keep telling Sarge that spring is coming. I don’t think he believes me.
Roller Coaster Weather
I have spent a lot of years in the North Country of New York, but this is one of the strangest winters I have experienced. It’s not the worst or the best, it’s just not consistent in any way. Rain, sleet, snow, sub-zero, melt, sunny, hail, constantly changing forecasts. It really makes me wonder about the Gulf Stream and what climate change and glacial melt is doing to our global currents, both water and air. With all of our technology, have we finally passed the tipping point where we are just guessing about what happens next? I wish I knew. I consider myself fortunate that we are, at least, relatively prepared for the weather, but it sure does make the growing season a crap shoot. We are debating on what animals and plants can be sustained here. We are in that zone 4-5 iffy area and I think zone 4 plants will be safe. We were hoping to add some zone 5 plantings, but that probably isn’t practical for anything that has to be left out all winter. We’ll see how things go this year. With the building projects we have planned, any plantings/garden will be a challenge. We can only expand plantings so far because we do not want to take the chance of heavy equipment destroying our efforts. When Nature destroys our efforts, we live and learn; when human activity destroys our efforts (especially activity that we initiate), it’s a little harder to be positive. Staying positive makes life better.
Cage Theory – it’s about keeping active
I recently put up an excerpt from my book Cage Theory on Medium. Here’s the link.
My grandfather was never comfortable speaking English. He was almost deported when his citizenship papers burned in a house fire. He was also white with blue eyes. How different would his – and my – life have been had he looked different? I often think about this, and about the many immigrants who were housed temporarily in my parents’ motel when I was a teenager. I wrote a short story a long time ago about one of the immigrants whose circumstances stayed in my mind and recently published it on Medium (here’s the link to read it). Maybe because I was a teenager when my parents were housing immigrants for the Crisis Center, but the encounters with those brave people who gave up everything they knew for the chance at something better has had a profound effect on the way I perceive people. I am deeply saddened by the way we, as a nation, treat anyone who is “other.” I remember the family who, while crammed into a small kitchenette waiting to be admitted to Canada, offered to help my father tear down a building on the property. He told them that he couldn’t pay them, and they replied that they didn’t care, they just needed to feel useful. I remember the South American family – I don’t even recall the country – who shared Christmas dinner with us while waiting for entry. The father was a medical whose political party was overthrown and overnight, his family was in fear of their lives. For two years, he had been bussing tables in Florida to keep his family alive. They were wonderful people, not dressed for a northern winter, and we were able to find old winter coats in the closets to fit each of them. These people are not a scourge. They are not bad. They are brave and courageous and are doing the only thing they can to better the chances for them and their families…the same way my Grandfather’s family came to the US to find work in the Depression years.
Sub-Zero Weather – Frozen Water
Thank goodness we are warm and cozy on this sub-zero morning. All of the human facilities were working fine when we woke up to 9 below; not so for the critters. The birds – quail and chickens – were a little annoyed that their waters were frozen. They, being livestock, are more equipped for the cold than us feeble humans without feathers. The cold did not suppress their appetites or their loud crows. A quail roosters doing their garbled cock-a-doodle-dos are adorable. One of these days (when it’s a little warmer), I’ll get some video of the little guys. They are close enough to be heard all day long. The chickens are much farther away, but louder, so they can usually be heard, too. Once everyone’s water was thawed, they settled into their normal routines. Amazing that the birds still lay eggs in this weather! I am thankful for them every day.
Who’s in Charge?
My husband and I frequently have spats when we try to work together because both of us want to be in charge. It’s not even a conscious thing, we are simply both of the personality type that each of us believes we should be the “leader.” This is almost comical when it comes to cooking because we are both good in the kitchen and are constantly rearranging things to suit our particular needs/convenience. For a quick visual, I am 5’3″ and right-handed and my amazing husband is 6’6″ and left-handed. So, when I can’t find something, I pull out a step-ladder and look in the absolute highest, most inconvenient spot and am sure to find it – at his eye level. Likewise, he hates having to squat down to look into cupboards that are knee level and can’t even crouch low enough to find something I have tucked in the back on the bottom shelf of the frig.
In the kitchen, this is frustrating, but comical and we can usually laugh it off. In other areas, we clash. John can wire anything, having been an electronics tech in the Navy and an electrician for many years afterward. I am a terrible helper. I know he knows what he’s doing, and I should just stand around and hand him the tools he needs and be a willing gopher for the tools inevitably left in the toolbox on the other side of the property (because it’s always on the other side of the property). That makes sense, but I have a real problem standing still when I can see 5 things that need to be done in the vicinity of my seeming idleness. Eventually – which doesn’t really take that long – I start doing small tasks that absolutely need to be done at the exact moment he needs me to hold something, or pull a wire, or exchange pliers for nippers. It’s not pretty, but – I freely admit – entirely my fault.
Carpentry is a different story, though. John can handle any tool there is and has probably logged more hours than I have with many of the power tools, but I grew up on construction sites, and he didn’t. He follows meticulous plans with step-by-step breakdowns. He loves systems and details. I like broad ideas and vague concepts, preferably with something sparkly. Not really (except for the sparkles, which I adore), but I have a more general idea of how things should be done. As a young girl, I sat on my dad’s lap when he was designing an apartment building on pieces of graph paper taped together. I grew up watching dad do math problems with his carpenter’s pencil on any wooden surface available on the construction site because his plans were incomplete, and he had to come up with an answer so he could do the next step of the project. (Dad was also a high school math teacher with electrical tape holding his glasses together when he wasn’t wearing Carharts and a toolbelt.) I learned to do one step at a time and calculate as I went. This drives John mad in the same way that standing around makes me jittery.
I have planning sessions in my head or on the back of a scrap 2″ by 4″; John has them out loud and prefers consensus. We fundamentally think differently, which is really odd because we share more of the same beliefs, values, and interests than anyone I have ever known. Anyway, this is just me rambling because we are embarking on our largest building project to date and it will involve many different aspects, some of which are my strengths, some are John’s, and some will be all new to both of us. Who will be in charge, then? Only time will tell.
Read an interesting article last night about gender in Aramaic and Hebrew. (Just a note to start: I am definitely a feminist in the sense that all genders should be entitled to equality in all areas.) I am a very spiritual person and have what I consider to be a much stronger-than-average belief and faith in God. Many people over the years have questioned my faith and sincerity because I have not embraced any particular religion. In fact, one relative was quite adamant that she was praying for me because I did not conform to her idea of “Christian.” My main struggle with organized religion is that, in my experience, any organization eventually leans toward hierarchies and elitism and exclusion. That is not my idea of Christ-centered living. Neither is the Catholic notion that women – by virtue of Eve – are the cause of the downfall of all that is wrong with the world. (I grew up in a Catholic family, and females were definitely seen as lesser than and not worthy – even when being praised, there was always a back-handed insult.) To have faith in the environment I was raised in meant that I, as a female, had to accept that I would never be equal, never get equal (or, sometimes, any) compensation, never have equal opportunity, and always receive blame. It wasn’t a very happy place to be. (Don’t even get me started on their views of the gender non-conforming; it boggles my mind that anyone can claim to be “godly” and embody such hatred and disdain for fellow humans.)
Back to the article I read. “Yah” is a feminine ending, and “Weh” is a masculine ending. The two together create the name of God, as given to Moses. Also, in Aramaic, the word to convey “holy spirit” is feminine. According to scholars, Jesus spoke Aramaic. A later translation into a different language (Greek, I think) used a masculine word, thus changing the entire connotation of “holy spirit.” To me, this suggests (aside from an extreme bias in the translation) that the ultimate evolution of the soul (expressed in this world through personality and deeds) would encompass both masculine and feminine. (It’s not like they couldn’t have invented a new word; I mean, classical Latin doesn’t have a word for “to be,” without which the Bible could not have been written and translated into Latin, so the powers that be are well able to invent words.) There is some evidence of this gender equality in Jesus’ teachings, depending on which translation you read and which passages you choose to quote. But there is also a plethora of inconsistencies and masculine-dominated rhetoric. Bottom line: I love God, the creator of all, but, until all of God’s creation is treated equally, I have to take a pass on modern Christianity as a religion.
The Simple Things
In a world in flux, I am grateful for my family and friends and the blessings of good health and a sound mind. I take comfort in the simple things in life and make efforts to positively affect the things I can, without dwelling on the things I cannot change. I took advantage of our absurdly warm December by adding more mulch to my trees and berry bushes. Nature always finds a way to create something new from something old, and I am constantly humbled by the brilliance and resilience of the natural world. My chickens spent the day scratching into a hill of dirt until they had dug down far enough to find bugs to eat. They never looked upset or in a hurry, they just did their thing and kept going. They also spread out some of the mulch I piled around tree trunks, but the wind would have done that, anyway, so I can’t be mad. And they all come running when I carry a bucket, thinking there are food scraps for them. Usually, they’re right.
I vote, but does it matter? The whole nation seems consumed by hate and contempt and divisiveness – on both sides. “Love thy neighbor” is suddenly conditional, and I can’t go there. At the end of the day, I still have to look in the mirror, and a huge part of that is treating others with basic human dignity and respect. In a social-media fueled world where the loudest, most irrational, fear-mongering people get the biggest megaphones, I choose to focus on the things close to home that I can affect in a positive way. Maybe that’s naive, or a cop-out, but it’s better than burning out on hate. In my head, I keep replaying that annoying 80’s song, “Why can’t we be friends?”
This is my first year with bees, and I thought they would be less active than they are this time of year (October). I have done the mite treatments and feeding and the parts that I can do to help the hive get through the winter. I can’t help but feel that I should be doing more. It’s like sending your first child off to college and knowing that it’s going to be rough but they have to do it on their own. There is all this second-guessing going on about coulda, woulda, shoulda, and the bees – unlike the child at college – don’t have a cell phone to cry for help.
We had a semi-successful garden this year with the basics like tomatoes and peppers doing well, and the starter patches like asparagus and rhubarb actually starting. Not bad for our first garden at the new homestead. It’s kind of sad putting the garden to bed for the winter, but we are happy with our progress so far and have learned much to move forward with. Fertilizer! We need more of it. The three sisters that John planted had a good start, but fizzled out; the berry bushes I planted lived, but didn’t grow nearly as much as hoped; and the spinach was a total dud. The raised beds and container plants did really well. Next year, we will be using our own compost (thank you, chickens) and will be looking for aged manure. There are enough farms nearby that we are hoping to find that relatively easily. All of the chicken-coop clean outs (read: chicken poop mixed with straw and wood chips) will spend the winter composting and will definitely get used next year as high-nitrogen fertilizer. We don’t have much in the way of kitchen or food scraps to compost because those are chicken treats, but we are putting as much yard debris as we can into the compost pile.
Boating on Lake Champlain
It seems like there is a never-ending list of chores and work to do, but we have had some great days out on the lake. John loves boats and sailing, and I readily admit that I love being on the lake. He still hasn’t gotten me to drive the boat, and docking/undocking isn’t always a smooth process with me helping, but I wouldn’t trade the days on the lake for anything.