The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Three Days Gone February 19, 2016

Dropped Elihu off at the airport just before sunrise on Thursday morning. By the time I got home, I was full-on sick. Whole body hurt, skin was hot, nose wouldn’t stop dripping and my head pounded. Really? I get a couple of days to myself and this happens? Elihu had been really walloped by something last week, and I’d been marvelling over the fact that I managed to escape the same fate. I was even bragging a bit to my young son about my robust and seasoned immune system, and how at least my advanced age had some benefits… Ha!

That’s ok. While I had originally thought I’d at the very least get an errand or two done, I have done not one thing but sleep – or sit in this chair, blow my nose and follow tangents across the virtual world. But honestly, it’s been interesting, and I’ve learned a few new things. And it’s not just sour grapes talking; the past two days have been a rare treat in some way. Last year when I got my annual cold, I’d read several books cover to cover, again not something I seem to find time for in my life as usual. So I suppose it’s all for the better. Everything in its time and place, I guess. This pounding headache is getting old, but the vast encyclopedic universe at my fingertips has helped to distract me (so too has assembling this post).

And so now let me offer a little photographic retrospective of our past week….

IMG_2500When the sun rises behind the branches of the apple tree I know we’re nearing the end of winter. In December the sun rises further to the right – almost at that clump of pine trees. The sun will end up rising at the far left side of this frame by June. Amazing. Never knew how much the sun’s rising and setting points moved throughout the year until I lived here in the country.

IMG_2556One night when Elihu was plumb sick and out cold, mom and I went to the nearby Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College to hear the Ensemble ACJW (a group from Julliard) perform some Mozart and Beethoven. I was feeling a bit guilty to be out, so we left at intermission. I feel so lucky that we have this gorgeous hall only five miles from our door. Mom had a good chuckle – and I had a revelation – when I was charged a senior admission price. !! Hey – close to home and reduced admission? I’ll take it.

IMG_2612Each year at this time some friends come to stay with us so that they can play music and dance at the Flurry – an enormous festival and gathering here in Saratoga Springs that’s now it’s 29th year. It’s a nice feeling to have guests in the house. I rarely see anyone else at my kitchen sink. And look – Sherry’s even washing the dishes!

IMG_2616Elihu and Evaline are just a few months apart in age, and have known each other since they were small. She’s as tall as me now.

IMG_2622Our friends also brought along pal Sele, who was born in Bhutan, and who now lives in Albany. Her family had to flee their country, and lived for several years in a refugee camp in Thailand. I can’t begin to imagine what she’s been through. She is a good example of why we as Americans must always accept fellow human beings of any nationality with open arms.

IMG_2640Evaline waves goodbye with her clarinet.

IMG_2560They left us with an amusing to-do list.

IMG_2565Ah, but this is what we two do best. Cozy life at home. Doesn’t happen often, but it’s heaven on earth when it does.

IMG_2587Elihu and I have been listening to A Prairie Home Companion together since he was little. Since Garrison will be retiring (who thought such news could break the heart of a twelve year-old boy?) we decided to watch the live video streaming. We both agreed. Not the same. Kinda took away from the experience. It was fun to see two old friends from Chicago who played in the band, but for the few remaining shows we’ll stick to the radio broadcast.

IMG_2579My favorite couch material – vintage, mid-century floor plans. Cannot get enough.

IMG_2691Building blocks – or more accurately, Keva planks – make for other cozy living room activities.

IMG_2801Elihu sits back and enjoys his work.

IMG_2817This structure used all 400 pieces.

IMG_2703The branches of this huge beech tree spread some 30′ out from the trunk. It’s slowly dying, and has lost most of the top branches. It so defines the space here; we’ll miss it one day. But we’re enjoying it now.

IMG_2719We got off easy this year – can you believe this is our first plow? Curious to see how March pans out…

IMG_2852Elihu continues to love his tuba lessons, although he doesn’t practice nearly as much as he should. I find that naturally talented kids often don’t work as hard as kids for whom things don’t come as easily. This is a point Mike and I both made loud and clear. It’s time for me to step up too and apply a little discipline.

IMG_2861Our friend Betty was kind to allow Elihu to sit in with her Wednesday afternoon chamber group. They’re playing much older music – from the 13th through the 17th century. (The string instruments they play here are in the viol family;¬†similar to – but not the same as – modern violins and cellos.)

IMG_2890Betty plays tenor viol here, and Elihu plays his bass recorder. He took a spin on the soprano and turns out – he doesn’t know his treble clef! Who knew? Usually kids have a hard time with the bass clef – and this kid is so adept at playing that I had no idea. Ok. “Learn notes on treble clef” on next week’s to-do list.

IMG_2931Betty gave Elihu a little help on bow technique. The bow is held and used in a different way than on the string bass or violin. Whew. So much to learn…. (Btw – can you believe this woman is going to be 91 in less than a month? I saw her last week at an evening event. She dealt with biting cold, blowing wind and two flight of stairs without missing a beat. !!)

IMG_2934He’s getting it. Betty kindly offered to loan us her other tenor viol – but I told her we’d take a raincheck. We have more than enough on our plate!

IMG_2952Elihu had an early morning flight – and the wheel on his suitcase was busted. We made a quick stop at neighbor Zac’s miracle shop where he cobbled a new one in front of our eyes. Elihu and I absolutely cracked up at Zac’s nonchalance and impeccable skills. He has no idea how simply brilliant he is.

IMG_2956Spotted this on the belt right behind us at the airport. Having recently connected with John Kay of Steppenwolf (he has Achromatopsia, went to the Waldorf School and is a musician and nature lover. See any similarities?) I shared this pic with his wife, a nature photographer and fan of things wolf-related.

IMG_2979…and then, he’s gone. I suppose if I were to get sick, now would be a good time. No one needs me right now (except the chickens). What’s a couple of days out of the game? We’ve done a lot recently, I’m making some progress with the Studio, and things are pretty much chugging along as they should. Another day’s rest and I’ll be renewed and ready to jump back in. Not sure anyone will even know I’ve been gone.

 

Deep Freeze January 24, 2013

Tonight is not a very good night to be a hen, here at the Hillhouse Coop. It’s mean cold outside, and although it might look as if our girls had it good… tonight, they just plain don’t. As I get up and look out the window toward the coop, I feel for em. Many aren’t even choosing to roost tonight, as they’re finding more warmth with their bellies against the ground (which itself has to be freezing too!)¬†Alas, one door is full of holes, and now is losing a pane of glass too – by now it lets in as much outside air as a screen. A 250 watt heat bulb has been on non stop for over a month now, but little good it does on a night like tonight. When it’s below zero. When the water freezes less than a half hour after I’ve refilled it. When the birds are covered in tiny ice crystals, and half a dozen gals can’t stop sneezing. (Yeah, chickens sneeze. It means the same thing as when you and I do.)

The structure itself looks impressive; it’s well-built, sturdy, and has been built on a human scale. Painted a nice barn red, it looks a tidy addition to our property. But on a night like this, those things don’t matter so much as they serve to make me feel a good deal of guilt. I had this small structure built so that my many hens might enjoy a comfortable hen house, one with enough room for all, yet cozy enough, well insulated enough to keep in the shared warmth of so many feathered bodies. That was the idea, but I didn’t know enough yet to execute the plan as well as I should. First off, the damn ceiling’s too high. The room is too narrow, and the doors at either end prevent us from making better use of the wall space. Roosting bars are too steeply stacked, meaning that birds are always pooping on the backs of those one rung below. If I’d been thinking less about how I wanted the henhouse to match my garage and more about the comfort of the birds who were actually going to live there, I mighta done it differently. But then again, live and learn. I’ve lived with it, and now I’ve learned what I’d do differently. But for now, it’s so bloody cold we’ll all just have to make it through as best we can. Can’t make any big changes now.

Oh, may God bless and keep my chickens safe and as warm as possible tonight. They have continued to give us eggs when so many other flocks are down. They do so well by us, I only wish I could keep them more comfortable in return. Especially right now, as I’m about to snuggle deep down into my winter bed, which is so many, many degrees warmer then theirs is on this night of the deep freeze.