Sunday, October 4, 2020
Sunday, September 27, 2020
When you think fall in Maine, you might think of apple picking. (And you wouldn't be wrong! It is a fun fall activity and fresh-fresh-fresh apples are just incredible.) Another fall harvest is just as plentiful, though. The French name translates to "apples of the earth:" potatoes.
There are no pick-your-own potato farms that I know of, it being a messier and less picturesque activity, but farm stands are full of native potatoes, and in the grocery store the prices can't be beat.
How to take advantage of all this bounty, when the two of us can only eat so many potatoes? (Especially when the apples are beckoning, as well!) In the past when I have tried to freeze stews or soups that contain potatoes, the results have been...not great. The potato chunks have a weird spongy texture. Trying to freeze raw potatoes has not gone any better - those were somehow both grainy and mushy.
I knew I must be doing something wrong, because frozen french fries and hash browns are a thing. I can't flash-freeze, but I can blanche, which, it turns out, is the secret to home freezing potatoes. Here's how:
Cut the potatoes into wedges. It doesn't have to be exactly this size and shape, but you don't want your chunks too small, because you don't want them to get too thoroughly cooked before freezing.
Put a big pot of water on the stove on high. Set a timer for 2 minutes.
While waiting for the water to boil, fill a bigger pot with cold water & ice cubes. This is the ice bath to stop the potatoes from continuing to cook after you drain them.
Once the water on the stove boils, put in the potatoes and start the timer.
When the timer goes off, drain hte potatoes in a colander and put them immediately into the ice bath. Leave them in the ice bath for a few minutes, them scoop them back into the colander with a slotted spoon. Let them drain completely, then divide them into freezer bags and pop them into the freezer.
Frozen potatoes will stay good for about a year - not that I need to worry about that, I expect we will eat these sometime in the bleak midwinter. That's the point of buying lots while they are cheap - then you save on shopping when you have less money.
Thursday, September 24, 2020
In the past I've been spotty about my annual flu vaccination. For most of my adult life I haven't had health insurance, so this is a relatively new habit for me; I think I am *finally* associating the turning of the leaves with "get a flu shot," in addition to "bring in the hose," "get sandbags for the truck," and "put away the hammock."
This year, of course, it's doubly important: the overlap of the coronavirus pandemic with the normal flu season is likely to be a bitch. The symptoms are very similar, and the last thing our healthcare system needs is twice as many coughing people running out to get tested, and the last thing anybody needs is to get both viruses at once.
More than 200,000 Americans are dead. There is nothing we can do for them, and honestly there is very little we as individuals can do to prevent the next 200,000 deaths. (The government could do a LOT, but they probably won't, not before January, anyway.) But this is one thing - one tiny thing - that could save lives.
Monday, September 7, 2020
Sunday, September 6, 2020
Sun Golds did come through in a big way. They are extra-sweet cherry tomatoes that produce continuously from early August right up until frost.
Saturday, September 5, 2020
Somehow I grew up in Maine without knowing about the Acadia Carriage Trails. I love biking so this was
an oversight of some significance! My husband mentioned them to me on our way home from a visit Downeast. I looked into it and it turns out they are a well-known hiking and especially biking destination. They are on the National Register if Historic Places, having been built by John Rockefeller in conjunction with the National Park Service, in the early to mid 20th century. 57 miles of packed crushed gravel roads wind between the ponds and mountains.
Acadia is not a compact park. It consists of several separate areas, and even the main area is an irregular lobed shape that winds in and out of the settled areas of Mount Desert Island. The town of Otter Creek is completely surrounded by parkland, for example. We entered the park at the Hull Cove Visitors Center.
We took the Witch Hole Pond Loop, and the Eagle Lake Loop on purpose...and the Paradise Hill Loop by accident. I don't know which of the ponds was Witch Hole! But they were all beautiful.
When we found ourselves at the Duck Brook Bridge we declared ourselves officially lost. This was a little alarming - you can get pretty lost in 57 miles of road, and it was getting late in the day. Luckily there was a map kiosk at the bridge, that showed us where we went wrong.
Saturday, August 29, 2020
In fact, it's a terrible time for America, and my heart goes out to those in harder-hit areas. I feel deeply lucky to have a governor who listens to the science & bases policy on that advice. As a result, Maine has very few cases of Covid, despite being a summer destination - we aren't called Vacationland for nothing. Our businesses are mostly open, our schools will have in-person classes - at least a couple days a week. Science works, and leaders should have the humility to listen to people who know more than them.
Vote for Biden. He's our only hope.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
It was a perfect day for hiking, sunny but not too warm. I almost wished it had been warmer, though, because this trails includes several swimming holes.
Friday, August 7, 2020
Sunday, July 19, 2020
Friday, April 24, 2020
Every now & then it hits me that we will never return to the before-times. Everything is different now, and nobody knows what will be on the other side of this. Four months of turbo-boosted unemployment sounds great until you remember there's a very good chance there still won't be work at the end of it.
I have time to do some home improvements now, but I am not - I am putting every spare penny into savings, because I don't know when I will be able to earn income again.
The title of the post is "Good Days and Bad" but I am not having very many good days right now. I guess the good days are the hoped-for ones, whatever they might look like, when all this is over.
Sunday, April 19, 2020
This is my job now. I get up, I do a "workout" - in quotes because all it is is pedaling the Fitdesk while I read my emails & the news. I search for good news about the pandemic but it seems it is always bad: that malaria drug isn't panning out. Covid-19 can reappear in people who have recovered. Nowhere near enough tests available and some of those that are, are bogus.
Now I am bummed out, so if the weather isn't awful I take a walk. This is safe in my neighborhood - I almost never see anyone else; if I do it's easy to keep a good 20 feet away.
When I get home, I work on some little home-improvement project. I am trying to do only those things for which I already have the materials, to avoid a trip out into the world - I take lockdown pretty seriously! So, I paint baseboards, I hung a towel loop, I spackle some damaged drywall.
I also clean a lot.
After lunch I work on Duolingo - I have been trying to learn Spanish for years, and I am finally making some progress! - or I read a book. I call my mother every day, and sometimes other friends, but all in all I am astonished how easily I have adapted to not seeing with anyone but Doug. I've always been an introvert, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised...I'm actually a little worried that, like bras and what I now call "hard pants," it will be difficult to return to wearing my public face every day.
Thursday, April 2, 2020
- The governor has decreed that no one shall ride in a vehicle with a person not in their immediate household
- All large stores, like supermarkets and big box stores, have a sign at the front saying there shall be no more than 100 people in the store at one time. How we are supposed to know how many people are already in the store, I don't know.
- At the grocery store, there are taped-off spaces leading up to the registers, to keep people spaced 6 feet apart.
- Everyone who can sew is making protective masks, to help prevent the spread of the virus
- Through most of the panic buying is over, the toilet paper aisle is still pretty sparse, and you can't get hand sanitizer.
- All professional sports are cancelled.
- Beaches, public parks, playgrounds, and trails are closed.
- Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited.
- We wash our hands many times a day, especially if we have been out of the house. We wear rubber gloves if we have to go out in public, then we wash with the gloves on before we take them off; then we wash out hands again.
- Weirdly, almost all spam phone calls have ceased.
- There are field hospitals in Central Park. There are 18-wheelers parked at New York Hospitals to take away the dead.
So, it took about three weeks for me to get past the weird zombie feeling of this confinement; three weeks to get my mind around the idea that normal life is not going to resume any time soon, and start planning what I want to use this time for.
I spend part of the day yesterday trying to help my mom figure out what she needs to do to receive the economic impact check included in the CARES act. At this time yesterday, the IRS was saying that people on Social Security or disability had to file a tax return - but they couldn't mail out a tax return, or accept a tax return with zero dollars of income electronically. This seemed crazy to me, not least because I only found out about it by accident - how are seniors supposed to navigate this, when they are not supposed to be leaving their homes? I verified that it was true with a friend who is a tax preparer, then set out finding someone who had a printer who could mail my mom a form.
All that turned out to be unnecessary, as, in response to a letter from 41 Democratic senators, treasury secretary Mnuchin changed that rule. (I have to wonder - why would anyone have put a rule like that in the first place? ) As of last night, Social Security recipients will automatically receive the CARES act money.
Oh, and: ¿Dónde está el baño? Necesito un taxi! Mi maleta esta en el hotel. I'm getting better every day!
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Anyway it doesn't matter, because this isn't normal times.
I also re-started DuoLingo. About five years ago I got my first & only smartphone. I got it so I could take use a credit card reader at art fairs, but as we all know, they can do a great deal more than that. One of the apps I got was DuoLingo. I've been pecking away at learning Spanish for years, not, honestly, making much progress - I know a lot of words, I can repeat back phrases, but I could never have a conversation. DuoLingo was great but my cellphone isn't! Being an artist, I do not have a bunch of money lying around for stuff like that, so I got a $70 Android, which serves its intended purpose well, but only has room for a couple of apps. DuoLingo was not one that I absolutely needed, so I deleted it and forgot about it. I have re-discovered it, for laptop. I should have known they would have a website! Will it stick this time? It's hard to say.
In virus news:
More than 30,000 people are expected to die from coronavirus in the US next month alone.
Before this is over we all will have lost someone we care about. I fear for my mother, her cousin, and my godmother, all ladies in their 80s, all with underlying health conditions. They are self-isolating but nobody can isolate perfectly. I fear for my husband, as men are harder hit than women, and he's never been an attention-to-detail guy, so things like "Wash your hands frequently" and "Don't touch your face unless you just washed your hands" don't make much of an impression on him. He tries! I think he's got some ADHD going on. I don't really fear for me, or maybe I just don't think about it as much.
Yesterday was not one of those days. Yesterday I did manage to do my grocery shopping, but after that was all put away (dipped everything in plastic into soapy water with a splash of bleach; wiped down everything else with same) I just plopped into a chair and stayed there. I wasn't tired, exactly, but I was exhausted. If that makes any sense.
Today is one of the former, thankfully. The latter are not good days.
Saturday, March 28, 2020
Today I am cleaning & organizing my studio. I keep seeing friends who are not artists posting "Think of all the amazing art that will come out of this period!" Yeahno.
I can't speak for everyone, but let me stomp a mudhole in the idea that hard times create better art. Artists, like everyone else, work better when they are safe, secure, and well-fed. I'm sure there are exceptions, but no more than for any other profession. We don't think scientists make more valuable discoveries if they are poor. We don't think money managers see market conditions more clearly when they are hungry. Artists are no different.
Some of this thinking is because many of us have home studios, and since we can't go anywhere else, we are probably making lots of stuff. That's not entirely untrue, but A) You need materials to make art, and art supply houses are not considered essential businesses and more importantly B) It's hard to be creative when your world is threatened. A couple of artist friends told me that just today they finally felt the cloud of fear and stress lifting enough to begin to create again. Maybe due to the passage of time, but I suspect just as much due to the passage of the relief bill - and a relief it is (even with its flaws), because if the economy collapses, the last thing people are going to spend on is art.
Which brings me full circle. The best way to save the economy is to defeat the virus. The best way to defeat the virus is to stay the fuck home.
In other news, I just read that the CDC is going to be updating its guidelines to state that people should wear masks in public spaces, after previously saying that masks wouldn't help. That was never logical to me: if a danger is inhaling droplets from someone's cough, a mask helps. If a danger is touching your face after touching an infected surface, a mask helps! If not a mask, then a scarf over your face. This is me, ready to go to the grocery store:
Friday, March 27, 2020
I want to believe that this will be over by, say, mid-May. (I can't trick even my most optimistic self into believing it could be earlier than that.) I so so want to believe that, and maybe it could be, if people could perfectly isolate; but A) People aren't perfectly isolating - some states they aren't isolating at all! and B) even if everyone were willing, it isn't possible. Doctors and nurses, for the most obvious example, must continue to go to work. Lots of less obvious cases, too: my brother works for a firm that prints the forms that hospitals use to write prescriptions and order supplies. They have to keep on going to work, too.
Only half my fear comes from the virus itself; the other is the ineptitude of the response. The president seems to be using access to resources to respond to the pandemic as a way to punish states that didn't vote for him, or whose governors have been critical of him. Just yesterday he claimed they didn't actually need 30000 ventilators in New York, which is utterly absurd. What possible benefit would come of lying about it? News out of New York is bad; they are already triage-ing who gets a ventilator. And the president of the United States is playing vindictive games about it.
If we had a competent president, this would have been nipped in the bud back in January, when they could have selectively isolated anyone who came in contact with an infected person. Now that isn't possible - there are just too many people infected. Now we all have to isolate. All because trump wanted to hide the numbers, thinking they would hurt his re-election chances. If there is any justice in the world the numbers now will DOOM his re-election chances.
But anyway. I'm not really here to be political, or anymore than I can help. I am journaling to help me keep my sense of time, and to help me make sense, in my own mind, of this strange, surreal experience.
For most of my life I had a great faith in the institutional memory of the government of the United States. It was not even a matter of who, at any one moment, was in charge. There have been presidents I admired, presidents I agreed with, mostly, and others that I didn't, but I always believed that any president would utilize the machinery of government - the expertise, the resources - to protect the country in a crisis. That this is no longer true - that this president is blatantly using the crisis to punish people who have criticized him - is frankly terrifying. It's like we don't have a leader.
That is where my fear mostly comes from. I don't know if we can recover from this in my lifetime without leadership. Try to imagine ANY recent president: Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, on down, behaving like this. Ronald Reagan, whom I despised at the time, would have worked with all his might to minimize loss of life. Bush One, who I also didn't like, would have handled this like a statesman and Comforter-in-Chief. Until the trump presidency such childish vindictiveness from the White House was unimaginable.
I fear for my country. I fear for the people I love who are more medically vulnerable. I see no leadership coming to help us, and no way out of this.
Whoops, guess I got political again. Oh well.
Thursday, March 26, 2020
My May order canceled - no surprise there. They can't buy pots they have no way to sell.
It's Thursday! A new episode of Star Trek: Picard tonight! Funny but that's a big deal, now, something I look forward to.
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Not the Arboretum, though - we guessed correctly. It was very muddy, with little rills of snowmelt over the path in places. It was just nice to see something that is not the inside of the house for a little while. It was chilly, though, and we didn't stay long.
When we returned to the entrance, there were a group of maybe 3 families - five adults, 7 kids - in the sculpture park there, playing, climbing on things, rough housing. While I have some sympathy - it must be hard to just stay home with littles for weeks - this is not social distancing. This is dangerous Please, people! Doctors & nurses are risking their lives to save people, the least you could do is not risk becoming one of the people they have to try to save.
I got a lot of housecleaning done today. Housecleaning is a thing I often can make myself do even when I am too overwhelmed to do more productive things. My productive day lasted until about 4:30 today.
For the third day in a row we were promised that a relief bill was imminent, and for the third day none materialized. The obstacle today was three Republican senators objecting to the $600/week add-on for unemployment benefits. They fear it will make people want to be laid off. I'd point out the stupidity here (firstly, workers can't *decide* to be laid off. Employers decide that) but I'm tired.
Monday, March 23, 2020
You can't tell people they can't work for weeks (or months!) and then not do anything to help them.
I did our grocery shopping this morning. I wore a bandanna over my nose & mouth, and rubber gloves. I felt like an idiot...but I didn't take them off. I know they tell us masks & scarves don't keep you from getting corona, but it did keep my from touching my face the whole time I was out in the world.
Any trip into the world that needs to be done, I do instead of my husband, because the virus is much more deadly for men than women, and Doug is a smoker. Of course if I got it he'd probably get sick too; but I don't know how we can isolate any more than we already are.
Tomorrow a trip to Portland to pick up clay. I ordered & paid by phone & they will just leave it outside for me: a no-contact transaction.
Saturday, March 21, 2020
Like I said, rat bastards. They even find a way to take advantage of a global crisis to make more money.
My mortgage company has also put out a statement suggesting they might do payment deferrals, also - whaddaya want to bet they will also continue to accrue interest? Not that it matters, if th offer is on the table i have no choice but to take it.
This morning I broke down crying for the first time, out of fear for our future. I worked so hard to get us to this point! I was having a great year, before the virus said "HA!"
Friday, March 20, 2020
Treasury Secretary Mnuchin tweeted today that the filing deadline for taxes has been pushed back to July 15th. That's good - and it's frankly the very least they could do - but it's good news for another reason, too: it's a sign that people with, presumably, all the information, think we will be able ot get taxes done by July! Maybe the outbreak has a foreseeable end.
Or, idk, maybe I am grasping at straws. Whatever, if it looks like hope I'll take it.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
Despite my best efforts to stay optimistic, I am having a hard time believing we will be able to go back to work in 15 days. I fear we are in this for months. It's useless to follow that thought but I am helpless not to.
I felt better when the relief package passed but now it is seeming hopelessly complicated & the information on it is incomplete or contradictory. It's based on 2019, so if you haven't filed your 2019 taxes as of today...do you get nothing? Nobody knows. And it's mid-March, millions and millions will not have filed their 2019 taxes yet!
My credit card company says "Contact us if you've been affected by Covid-19!" but then the function on their website crashes, and nobody answers the phone. I filed for unemployment but who knows when they will be able to talk to me. The things that are supposed to help, so far have not been helpful. I know there are good reasons for this - well, one very good reason, and that is that everyone needs help right now. But the credit card company, for example - they could have just suspended payments for 60 days, no penalties, no interest. They could have taken that worry off people's shoulders, without piling on one more call to hold on for hours, one more decision of someone else's to wait on. Don't tell me they couldn't afford it: it costs something to staff those call lines, too.
I see individuals & small businesses stepping up. I will try to focus on that.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
When I got home I discovered that the Senate passed what they are calling a stimulus package, which will help a lot, though I won't be doing any extra spending: it's less money than the amount I am losing by not working during the crisis. Still, for 2 months we won't have to worry about losing our house, so that is definitely a load off my mind. Will the crisis be over by the end of May? I hope so but the more I read, the more I doubt it.
I filled out an online form to collect unemployment. I kind of don't think I qualify, as my classes only amounted to 15 hours a week, I think I read somewhere a long time ago that you have to be coming off a full-time job to collect unemployment; but I don't know, so I applied. The office must be crazy busy, so who knows when they will get back to me.
I called an elderly friend - my godmother, actually - to see if she needed anything. Her health is frail, so I figured it would be safer for me to shop for her, but she is all set. I will call her again in a couple of days, and I call my mother a few times a day. I know they are staying safe at home but I worry about isolation.
I also created an Upworthy profile, to do proofreading or copy editing as piecework. It's not launched yet, as I am having a hard time writing an good description of my skills, and I keep thinking, why would anyone choose me for this? I think I could do it well but my education & experience are not specific to that. I'll tweak it a bit more tomorrow.
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Got some work done in the studio today - might as well put this time to good use.
I tried to apply for unemployment, too. I don't know what the requirements are, so I don't know if I will qualify, but the website kept crashing, so I couldn't get through. I will try again at like 2 am, when fewer people will be using the system.
I am somewhat less freaked out than yesterday, although a lot of the news is not great - Treasury Secretary Mnuchin reportedly told senators that we could see 20% unemployment as a result of Covid-19.
There is talk, though, of stimulus checks being sent out soon. I guess they are just arguing about how much and to whom - the most recent report I read was a thousand dollar check to every adult who makes less than 85,000 dollars a year. If this lasts a month (maybe even two, if we are ridiculously frugal) we could squeak by on that. We're artists, we are accustomed to living on little. Anyway that is a some weight off my mind.
Still sheltering in place. I had to talk my mom out of going out to lunch with her friends today. Why is anyone still doing that?!? They are all in the high risk group, just GO HOME. STAY HOME! I call her two or three times a day because it must be very hard being alone all the time.
That was my mistake.
Yesterday in a press conference, the president just casually said that this might last until JULY OR AUGUST. He didn't mention any plans to help people who simply can't not work for FOUR MONTHS. It left me feeling like we're on our own out here. I don't know how I will pay my mortgage & utilities if my classes & sales events are cancelled for four months.
For the first time I am feeling like everything will not be ok.
Sunday, March 15, 2020
I went to the grocery store today to get cat food & litter, and also a half-gallon of milk to freeze, so I won't have to go again for a long while. We have enough of everything else. I bought a loaf of bread yesterday, and the shelves were full; today there was no bread. No toilet paper or hand sanitizer, either, but that is to be expected at this point. Doug's medical marijuana provider was giving out little spritz bottles of sanitizer, so we have some; I feel silly doing it but I sprayed down the cart before shopping. Inside the store, there are sanitizer wipes; I took one and used it to wipe every item before putting it in the cart.
The thing is, if these measures work, I will look back on this and it will seem absurd; but maybe it will have been measures like this that prevent thousands of deaths.
I have clay, I have glaze. I will make stuff during our recess. I keep reading about people defying advice and going out to bars and restaurants - I hope most people are smarter than that. I'd make a joke about natural selection, but it really isn't funny, and it's mostly not themselves these dumbasses are going to get killed.
Saturday, March 14, 2020
|Day 1: March 13, 2020 - the day of the lighbulb moment|
If I dug a little deeper, though, I probably thought that someone else would handle it, someone whose job it was to understand such things. A very Smart Person would know how to keep us safe. Very Smart People kept us safe from Ebola and H1N1 and Avian Flu. Every summer we are threatened with Triple-E, passed by mosquitoes, and every year the disease is outsmarted by these clever folk.
I didn't think I had to actually change anything; surely I didn't have to rearrange my life. The Very Smart People would handle it! My faith in the Very Smart people was strong even as late as Wednesday.
Then I started reading facebook posts from a friend in Italy. The situation there kept getting worse and worse! The government suggested they avoid large gatherings, and then all non-essential public places were shut down! Only grocers and pharmacies could remain open. It sounded crazy and it happened so fast!
I still thought, Well, that's terrible for Italy! But really believed that having their example, the Very Smart People here would now know what to do to keep it away from us.
Many people I have talked to about this have what could be described as a lightbulb moment. I had sort of a lightbulb few hours. Friday morning I was all wash-your-hands-&-live-your-life. The idea that I might have to make uncomfortable changes...well, it hadn't even occurred to me that it might happen. By Friday evening all that had changed. I realized social distancing means everyone - not just kids at universities in corona-hotbed states.
Social distancing means me. It means postponing the pottery tour. It means persuading the studios I teach at to suspend classes. It's gonna suck & I'm gonna have to figure out how to live on no money for a couple of weeks. It's gonna get real uncomfortable, but I have to do it.
So do you. If you haven't had your lightbulb moment, let me push you in that direction. The Very Smart People aren't going to be able to make this pass by barely noticed, like Swine Flu. The Very Smart People are saying, Stay away from other people - that's the only way to save lives.
So I'm gonna do it, and so should you.
Friday, January 24, 2020
A little video my friend made of our adventure on Libby Hill Trail, my first time on snowshoes! You can subscribe to my friend Cheryl's (trail name Bionic Yowie) YouTube channel and get a preview of many, many trails in Maine & New Hampshire.
Sunday, January 19, 2020
It was only 19° yesterday, so I dressed carefully: tights & leggings under my jeans, a long-sleeved shirt under a thick wool sweater; hat-scarf-gloves; and a down jacket. Double socks and good boots. Between that and the exertion, I was not even a little cold on the trail.
|Yowie (foreground) and me|
My high-school best friend, trail name Bionic Yowie, is a committed hiker, and she wouldn't let a little winter stop her. Lucky for me she has extra equipment! She dug up poles & shoes, and an extra pack ( I had one but didn't know I'd need it), a fleece, and made sure we both had water. Yowie is training to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, so she is in the habit of very thorough preparation! Me, I brought...the chapstick.
Our trail was the Libby Hills Forest Trail in Poland (that would be Poland, Maine) , home of many nice hiking trails. Yowie helped me get the shoes on (the hardest part, tbh) and off we went! It was easier than I thought: I would put the effort level at Shoveling Fluffy Snow. I got winded and a little sweaty, but nothing I couldn't deal with just by stopping to rest & drinking some water, and I'm not especially athletic.
|Here's me grinning like a fool! A happy fool tho|
The trail through snow-covered woods, over a brook, and up & down a ridge, was incredibly beautiful, and silent in the way the winter woods sometimes are; not much moving, and the snow muffles sound anyway. The trickle of the stream under thin ice was musical. There is a lot to be stressed about, in the world; a snowy woods is a good place to be free of it, for a spell.