July Comes in with a Lion

July Comes in with a Lion


Our Common Threads Give Away is underway, and this month’s guest artist, Karen Heenan of the blog, Sewing By the Seat of My Pants, is offering a stuffed lion.  Made from recycled sweaters with a t-shirt jersey fringe you can win him.


To enter the Common Thread Give-a-way, leave a comment on her blog at  Sewing By the Seat of My Pants,and then visit each of our other artists:   Jon KatzMaria Wulf, Kim Gifford and Jane McMillan!

Shoulder Season 2.0

Shoulder Season 2.0



Most of the time living off grid here on Minister Hill is easier than being connected.  We never lose power, our wood stove heats water in winter and the sun heats it in summer.  Ironically, spring is one of the few times when we feel a bit disconnected.

Normally it’s not that big a deal – I save my showers for after a workout when I’m hot anyway (gardening, cleaning, chasing the kids).  Thing1 does his part by taking cold showers, Thing2 is more than happy to skip them altogether, and we get through shoulder season – that time of year when we get too much rain to heat the water with solar and too much heat to want a fire in the woodstove – without too much pain.

Except this year.  Our dishwasher died which meant for about six weeks during the resuscitation attempts, burial and cash-ectomy for a new one, we were back to doing dishes by hand.  The Dishwasher-less Experience during shoulder season involved an introductory week or two of choosing to use hot water for washing a pot or the crew.  Then, in an effort to preserve a few drops of luke warm water for the shower – I began heating water for dishes on the gas stove a la Little House on Minister Hill.

We adopted the dishwasher when we went off grid after learning that it actually used less water than doing dishes the old-fashioned way and deciding five years of hand washing was enough of the Little-Old-House-in-the-Big-Woods experience.  Watching the pile in the sink grow for the better part of two months, I regularly wondered if I should continue doing my part for behavioural science by seeing if our teenager (who is assigned to the emptying of the dead dishwasher) would move himself to wash a dish before we ended up using paper plates or if I should just call the experiment a washout.  Like my clutter-based child psychology experiments, the answer to the question of who will deal with the mess when it gets bad enough is ‘Mom.’


Altogether Unmentionable

Altogether Unmentionable

Katy-the-Wonder-Dog’s bladder still hasn’t learned to wake up an hour later on Saturday morning to let me sleep in one day a week, but today that was okay.  I was trying to sneak out for an early morning writing session at my favorite cafe and was running around the house like a silent thief as I popped my iPad into my purse full of glasses (a pair for reading, a pair for driving, a pair for drawing).   And there, as I as ready to sneak out, was Katy, wagging her tail, letting me know she was crossing her legs and that there were deer in the meadow across the way that needed barking at.

I set down my bag and got a good hold on her collar before opening the door and trotting out to her line.  Katy wagged her tail when she heard the  clicking sound of the clip and looked up at me for a quick neck rub.  I petted and rubbed while she wagged and slobbered for a minute, and then I remembered I needed a sketch pad.  

“I’ll be back in a few minutes,” I told her and went back into the house, wiping doggie slobber off of what I just realized was my bare leg.  

I wish I could say this was my first streaking adventure, but when we first moved to Vermont (a full decade before Google Earth came along), we quickly learned to appreciate certain aspects of country life. The solitude.  The privacy.  The freedom to make a mad dash to the laundry line for the work shirt you forgot to bring in the night before and only remembered after you were “ready” to step in the shower.  We’ve even taken advantage of a good rainstorm to get a ‘natural’ shower or two.

The proliferation of the knowledge that “we are being watched” by the tech gods in the sky – all the time – has tempered my high-velocity nudism, but sometimes it’s too easy to bask in convenience and imagined privacy.  Sometimes I just want to enjoy the privileges that come with being surrounded by acres of forest.  Even if it means risking a broken lense on a satellite camera.

 Now,two feet from the door, in the almost-altogether (I’d remembered to pull on my sweats earlier apparently), I raised my eyes to the heavens, silently imploring Google Satellite to stick to its policy of blurring details on the ground in order to spare America the image of an inadvertent exercise privacy run amok.  

A Sinner’s Tale

A Sinner’s Tale


I was already so late for the potluck that my contribution had required a stop at the grocery store for a deli-made salad (that looked better than anything I would have made) and a disposable pot-luck container to cover my tracks, so I felt more than a little guilty about even being tempted to stop.  But ye without sin can cast the first salad tong.

In my defense, there was a six foot banner hanging from the extended arm of the utility truck’s cherry picker advertising the sale, so there was no way I would be able to pass it twice without stopping. I restrained myself on the way out, but as the banner came into view on the way home, I decided it was a sign (a pretty good one too – there was no way you could miss it).  What happened next is a blur. I pulled over to park at the end of a line of cars.

The garage sale was a garage sale in name only.  In reality it was a three-barns-full-of-pretty-cool-stuff-I-aboslutely-didn’t-need-sale. My palms began to sweat as I walked up the driveway lined with furniture in reasonably good condition.

Now, our house needs more furniture like it needs a pet-door for our house-mouse population, but that didn’t keep my bargain antennae from quivering as I noticed a breakfast table and chairs for an outrageously good price (cherry or something like that, 4 chairs and pedestal table for $150 – not bad, right).   Obviously we have a perfectly good breakfast table, but I knew a reasonably-priced something-we-might-need-if-our-concrete-house was about to pop up on my radar.

And there it was – a sinful red velveteen loveseat for my studio (Virginia never mentioned how calling that room of your own a studio could cause you to go mad with power).  It had kind of a bohemian look that would completely clash with the rest of the room, and I loved it.  I began trying to figure out how to get it on top of my car without collapsing the ceiling and then I remembered help would be needed at the end and how happy the Big Guy was the last time I rolled down the driveway with a two-ton ten-dollar tag sale find that only needed a little TLC (stripping, sanding and staining) strapped to the top of my newly-dented minivan.  The couch would be as big a hit as a new puppy.

Then I remembered what I really needed was an easel – something that was clearly absent from this garage sale to end all garage sales.  And, oh yeah, I was late. Getting my heart palpitations under control, I stuffed my hands in my pockets and sauntered to the car feeling slightly less out-of-control, my rooftop clear and my conscience only slightly dented.