Me and the fairies, what a team!

Here’s the second part of the updates since May 28!

Dad’s Townsend Military Band season kicks off with Memorial Day, so I observe Memorial Day rather thoroughly. This year, I got up early and went to the traditional joint service held by the Ashby First Parish UU and the Congregational church next door in Ashby on Sunday morning, May 29. Then I went up to Townsend for the entire afternoon. Townsend takes Memorial Day very seriously. They hold three different parades and multiple ceremonies, and conclude with a band concert on the Common, usually on Sunday.

Dad doesn’t march with the band, but I arrived in Townsend for the start of the last parade. The concert doesn’t have a definite start time, it’s simply, “15 minutes after the parade,” and the parade ends with a bunch of ceremonies. I wanted to get to Townsend before the parade because the roads usually are blocked off. When I arrived, I was too tired to sit and read, so I decided to walk up to the parade’s start point and then follow it along its route. (I know that may not make sense, but I was so tired, it was easier to keep moving!)

So I “stalked” the parade. :-) I saw the Minutemen fire their fusillade, then we all marched to the bridge where a local minister did a really nice speech and some wreaths and flowers were tossed into the water, then we marched to Memorial Hall and did stuff, and all the way down to the cemetery and did stuff, and finally back to the Common. I heard rifle fusillades and taps played at least four times, and at the Common people read the Gettysburg address and “In Flanders Fields” (horribly badly. I’m sorry, but, gods…). One of our local state legislators showed up and insisted on giving a speech, and I finally tossed it in at that point and went back to the bandstand to find Dad. Then I stayed for the concert. It was hot and sunny but certainly gorgeous weather for all these events.

Pepperell’s Memorial Day parade and commemoration were Monday morning and I slept through it all, heh. But hey, my flag was out, and I had thought many deep and sober thoughts about our servicemen and servicewomen and veterans.

I got my garden entirely planted on Saturday June 4, under the waxing Moon in Cancer. I planted sugar pumpkins, zucchini, sunflowers, and a New England Boiled Dinner–potatoes, carrots and onions. :-) I put in the tomatoes, basil and pepper seedlings that I started, and planted some gladiola bulbs I saved from last year in a rather rough patch in the newly de-ivied flower beds in the back yard. I gave up on the Brussels sprouts seedlings, they were just too poor to put in. I have the worst time growing crucifers–cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts–and I love to eat them, so it’s frustrating. The dill seeds I got as freebies from the Triscuit box didn’t make it, either.

I’d saved some tomato plants for Dad, who likes to put them in up at the lake. I’ll get to that later, but the garden status so far is: everything is coming up in the front garden, and I haven’t lost one single transplant there, not even the teeny tiny ones that I stuck in the ground because what the heck, they survived hardening off (and I’d already lost some of the pepper seedlings: while I was off at all the Memorial Day events, something ate them! :-( ). The spinach in back never happened, too much rain and not enough sun, and I should have weeded it more. The peas have a couple of blossoms, and I need to tie them up to the netting and see if that helps, but they’re not doing much either. I dug an extra patch in the sunniest spot in back for four extra tomato plants I wasn’t counting on–and something ate them all, right down to the ground. My chief suspect is the groundhog and I’m very annoyed. They were some of the best ones because they were the ones I’d saved for Dad. Still, if all the tomato plants in front do well, I’ll be buried in tomatoes. I wasn’t sure any of the glads were viable, but it looks like at least a couple of them are coming up. The blackberries and black raspberries blossomed so we’ll see what happens there, and I have tons of wild strawberries to keep an eye on.

My sister was out here visiting from June 4 through June 12, with my nephew and a friend of his. I spent three days up at the lake doing stuff, and other time doing shopping, cooking and prep work because my sister’s birthday is June 10. I figured that as long as she was here for her birthday, I’d pull out all the stops. I ordered gifts for her from both me and Dad, wrapped them, and made her a custom birthday card (I make all my own cards). She’d just told me a whole story about the Great Horned Owls in her neighborhood in Illinois, so her card had a Great Horned Owl. :-) I baked an absolutely decadent four-layer chocolate cake: dark chocolate pound cake made with fresh blueberry puree, chocolate ganache between the layers (made with Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate) and chocolate buttercream icing. And we had home-made ice cream, because I have an ice cream maker now: French vanilla with Heath Bar crumbs, chopped pecans and chocolate chips as mix-ins.

For dinner, I planned a lobster boil. My sister loves seafood and it’s not the strongest feature of Chicago cuisine. I bought live lobsters, early corn on the cob, white asparagus (because my sister had just been on a business trip to Germany and was raving about the white asparagus there), a couple of loaves of fancy French bread (my nephew and his friend are bread fiends) and sea scallops for Dad who isn’t a big lobster fan.

I got up to the lake with all this, and Dad started to ask if I could cook the lobsters outside on the grill, because of all the steam and smell it makes in the house. He has a monster gas grill with electric ignition. Now, I’m a cook. I can cook on anything. But a few years back, one of our visiting relatives had tried to cook lobster on the grill and had a lot of problems with it, couldn’t get the pot to come to a boil and so on. I never was sure what the issues were because it was one of those situations where everyone was running around fussing and if you tried to be helpful you just got snapped at. But I went out and looked at the grill, and it’s basically a big open gas range. It seemed doable to me.

So, I started the huge lobster pot and a pot for the corn on the grill, two hours ahead of dinner time to allow plenty of leeway…and it all worked perfectly. The pots came to a full rolling boil, everything cooked beautifully, I was running back and forth between the kitchen and the driveway making Dad’s pan-seared sea scallops (which he really liked) and the steamed asparagus, and then doing the lobster boil and corn. I agreed with my sister that we’d “aim for” 7:00 p.m. for dinner. The food was on the table at 7:00 on the dot.

Proud of myself? Well…yeah! :-) My sister did indeed have a very nice birthday. On my visits up there, we also did a lot of walking and cruising around in the paddleboat chatting–no one else will do those things with my sister now!–and I got in several long, lovely swims in the lake, the first swims of the summer. We had some problems with the power boat which I won’t go into, but we now definitely know what’s causing them: ethanol gasoline. Long story (but feel free to ask me about it). So the boys didn’t get to waterski, but my nephew’s friend is quite an accomplished angler and they had a lot of fun fishing. They caught things I didn’t even know lived in that lake! And threw it all back, because no one was going to clean the fish (only I am good at it, but my sister said the boys would have to kill ‘em, and that was a deal-breaker, heh. I can prepare food starting when it’s still breathing; I don’t like to, though. :-( Except lobsters.). I played a couple of games of Settlers of Catan and one of Scrabble, all of which I lost.

My nephew was going to sit in with the Townsend band on Thursday, June 9, supposedly the first regular concert of the season. But of course, the concert was rained out. “Isolated thunderstorms” turned into one of the biggest, nastiest squall lines I’ve seen in a long time–usually they deteriorate as they move east. No tornadoes in this one (and we were spared the extremes of the June 1 storms here in the Merrimack/Monadnock regions). But the storms came through at precisely the worst time of day, late afternoon, and they were whoppers, and the concert was cancelled.

The storms came in with a roaring blast of very strong wind–that was unusual, too, and a bit scary–and I could hear wood cracking and breaking but couldn’t see where the sound was coming from. It turned out to be half of a huge tree that came down in my neighbors’ front yard–and very tidily, too. It could easily have taken out their screen porch, roof or all the electric wires in the street if it had gone in a different direction, but it laid itself down right across their front yard. They’ve just had a tree service here cutting down the rest of the tree and another tree in their yard.

But my biggest coup during my sister’s visit was finding Dad’s lost wedding ring, and here I will, again, publicly thank the fairies for their kind assistance!

Just about one year ago, Dad lost his wedding ring while he was planting the long raised beds he and Mom put in for vegetables. I guess he talked about it to my sister more than to me. But he hunted and hunted for the ring, searched through the dirt with his hands–he said, he doesn’t really like getting into the dirt like I do, heh–and actually rented a metal detector to try and find the ring that way. The metal detector either wasn’t calibrated correctly or the soil by the lake is very metallic (I know the water is very hard, I’m not sure what’s in the soil). By the time I heard much about this, it was autumn, and I offered several times to come up and help Dad look for the ring but he said it was too cold. Then we had the winter from hell, and a long cold rainy spring, and there hadn’t been an opportunity to offer again.

When my sister comes out here, she likes to help Dad do work outside, and had all these plans to plant the vegetable beds, flower beds and planting boxes down by the water. But this issue immediately came up: Dad wanted to look for his ring before we actually planted anything. He was talking about “making some kind of sifter.” As it happens, I have a piece of 1/4″ wire mesh screen that I use for exactly that purpose, along with other gardening tasks. But I just had this…feeling…that I could find this darned ring if I had a chance to really try. I’d felt that all along.

When I got to the lake that first day, Dad and my sister had gone to a local nursery and bought all these plants and seeds, and to my great annoyance, bought tomato plants, when I had told my sister that I had extra tomato plants for Dad. Maybe that gave my assertiveness a little edge. But I said flat out, “I can find the ring, let me go at it,” and my sister, along with a friend of hers who was there for the weekend, tiptoed off without a word of argument and left me entirely alone to start digging in the first of several possible locations. Maybe I was more annoyed about Dad’s tomatoes than I thought…or it might have been the way I was holding Dad’s big 20-pound mattock. *wry grin*

In any event, I carefully cleared and dug two of the raised beds, and rubbed every inch of the soil between my hands, but found no ring. I raked and cleared and searched the ground around them, too. But Dad had also said that he might have lost them in one of the small planting boxes down by the water. He’d looked in them, but he said maybe he needed to “dump them out on newspaper” and go through the soil that way. The two raised beds were certainly ready to plant, at least, and that was no small amount of work. I decided to go down and clean and dig out all the planters.

Now see, while I was doing this, I had this funny little thought in my mind. I was addressing the fairies–half jokingly and half seriously, which is exactly how you talk to the fairies. “Hey, give Dad’s ring back, or help me find it, ‘kay? Because that would really be a nice thing to do,” and that sort of thing. I went down to the deck, got a bucket, and dug most of the soil out of a large square planter–nope. There were two long narrow windowbox-like planters lying on their sides, where they’d been left for the winter. I turned one of those upright, cleared off the surface and dug through all the soil with my hands. Nope. I then turned up the second one.

And there was the ring. Just sitting right there, on top of the soil, in plain sight, not even any dirt on it.

When I caught my breath again, I went bouncing up to the house in a cloud of victory. Dad was totally overwhelmed; my sister and her friend were gobsmacked. I told Dad flat out that it was the fairies, and he, a confirmed skeptic, was saying things like, “It’s magic,” and “well, you’ve made a believer out of me.” I went back down to the deck and thanked the fairies copiously and out loud, and finished clearing and digging all the planters because my sister was going to be planting stuff in all of them. In fact, I brought a whole tray of marigolds up on my next visit because they were perfect for those windowbox planters (and that was a gift for the fairies, too).

Oh, and I also got my sister’s new Blackberry working: she hadn’t been able to turn it on for a couple of days, she said. But I can’t really brag about that because all I did was take the battery out and reseat it, and bing! Back from the dead! Never panic before you try reseating the battery. :-)

Along with all this during the last couple of weeks, I’m taking a 4-part webinar on metadata through the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). I’ve figured out how to manually add code to epub files and all of BLUM’s epub books now pass epubcheck, so we’ll be directly supplying Kobo and Apple. To get epubcheck to run I had to find where java is installed on my computer, and now that I’ve found it, I can go back to learning javascript for real instead of swiping other people’s applets and parsing them out on the sly. I did Full Moon ritual this past Wednesday and I’ll be observing the Solstice Monday night and Tuesday. The band concert was not cancelled this week and I attended, although it’s already looking dicey for next Thursday (poop).

And Monday, June 20, is my 55th birthday. Yes, Edward Cullen has the same birthday as me. I can forgive Stephenie Meyer for the sparkles but I am never going to forgive her for stealing my birthday. *grump* Edward is 110 this year, and I am 55. Too bad we can’t celebrate together! My birthdays tend to be…well, kind of disappointing. Birthday wishes and even prezzies will be very welcome! :-) Looks like Dad and I will be getting together and trying out a new restaurant here in Pepperell.

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