Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Winter project

SFB, my sailing friend, suggested that i add sail slugs to my mainsail, as it would make it easier lowering it, and easier to furl. These are little plastic, wood (old days) or metal sliders that one attaches to the edge of the sail, and the sliders go in the slot up the mast rather than the edge of the sail. Not so much difference when raising the sail, but when lowering it, the sail edge pulls out making it a pain to try and furl, especially when there's a lot of wind and if i'm sailing solo.

He helped me, and of course the cats were on hand to inspect.

Jim chewing on the telltale. The telltale is a bit of yarn that catches the breeze, and is quite a help to the helmsman.

JoJo stayed on the cedar blanket chest, catching the sunrays on her one side while looking at me. Not a great pic lighting-wise, but it shows the sweetness in her face.

Here, we're making progress. We've measured where we want the slugs to be (using the shiny binder clips to mark the spot), have got the webbing cut, and are on our way.

This slug is attached, and the webbing is first held fast with some two-sided tape, then a palm is used to help push the needle through to sew it in place. The thread is actually waxed twine.

Phoebe prefers to be cosy warm by the woodstove, and took a nice long stretch while the rest of us were occupied with the sail.

JoJo and Jim earned a well deserved nap after all their help.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Another old salt on Fiddler's Green

I met Ruth the year that i was messmate on the schooner. The year that i met Joe.

Ruth was one of those quiet, shy, very kind people who always had something interesting to say when she spoke. Which wasn't nearly enough as far as i was concerned.

I think she went sailing at first mostly because her husband wanted to go so much, but after a bit came to enjoy it as much although differently from how he does. Like me, he wants to be part of the actual sailing crew, hauling lines, learning knots, and swabbing decks. Ruth helped out with some of this, too, but more often simply enjoyed the sailing or would help in the galley. And she always had a stack of books to read.

When she told me she had bladder cancer, i bluntly asked about the prognosis. She seemed glad that i had asked the obvious rather than shilly-shally or ignore the elephant in the room. She said the docs gave her until March of this year. When i saw her in September, she had lost weight and was quite thin. Easily tired. I offered her the use of my house if she simply wanted to lie down and be quiet for a bit before the sail, and she and her husband always came up several days before the trip to walk around, shop, or for him to help out with something at the dockhouse.

She thanked me, said she didn't want to be a bother, and i told her i wouldn't have offered if i thought she were one. They decided to do some laundry at my house just before they went aboard, and i encouraged her to take a nap if she wanted. She didn't, but sat with her feet up and a book. Her husband and i went off to the hardware store in search of a part he needed for something, giving her some quiet time. Jim was a young kitten then, quickly warmed to her, and cuddled beside her as she read.

When we got back, other sailing friends of ours were at my house, so Ruth really didn't get any rest at all. I was hoping they'd realize she simply needed some down time, but i think the desire to see her every minute they could outweighed that for them, and she, obliging as ever, didn't say anything.

I was in my walking cast and not 100% either, but i knew my condition was temporary. That this not so good day of hers would be considered a very good day a month down the road.

I've thought of her often, sent the occasional email or called to say hi and chat, mindful of keeping the call short if she sounded really tired. And so the last phone call, we chatted a few minutes. She was having problems walking and had a cane. She sounded tired but upbeat by the call. I asked her how things were going, knowing the tide was going out. The tea that i had sent along hoping to help her didn't seem to be much use, although she liked it. She said that she wondered if she just ought to give in now, because it didn't seem fair to put her husband through this and lessen the estate. I told her he'd spend all the money in the world if he thought it would make a difference, so she needn't worry about that. She knew i was right, and i asked her if she were really ready to go. She said not quite yet, and i said, "You know, no matter when it happens, we'll always miss you and love you. It will hurt. I'll be sad for me but won't be sad for you if you leave when you're ready. I will be sad if you leave earlier simply because you think you are being a burden. In fact, i'm sure it will piss me off."

And here she laughed, like the laugh she always had. Before cancer. Before when we were simply sailing, enjoying the moment. She promised me she wouldn't go until she was ready. I thanked her and told her i'd hold her to it.

We each said "I love you," and hung up the phone. I cried after that and think she was relieved to be able to talk so frankly about dying. I prayed she wouldn't have to have a lot of pain and that she'd know when it was time to go. That we could accept when that was. I wondered if i'd see her again, if she'd get to see Jim as a young cat rather than just a kitten.

The answer to that last sentence is sadly, no. Her husband called yesterday to tell me, in that break between crying jags. We didn't talk long, as he had a good many other calls to make, but he did say she didn't have much pain and how wonderful hospice had been. There'd been a huge change in the last few weeks. She couldn't stay here as she was, so she had to go.

The world is a darker place without such a kind soul, and i feel very blessed to count her as my friend. Godspeed, Ruth.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It [didn't] show signs of stopping, and I [had] some corn for popping...

We indeed got some snow. It started on Friday with about 6 to 8 inches (15-20 cm). It was the light, fluffy kind of snow, and i was glad i cleared the deck and paths when it abated a bit, as that got me a bit warmed up for Saturday and Sunday.

Himself was supposed to be here, but as he wasn't going to be on the road until late Thursday night and expecting to arrive Friday morning, i thought it best for him to stay put as the weather forecast looked just menacing enough that he could get caught in its clutches. By Thursday mid-morning he reluctantly agreed.

I had a usual grocery run to make Thursday. I had planned on making a greens soup and needed to pick up some kale. They were out at the store, and as i looked at other people's shopping carts (trolleys), i saw a good many with several gallons of bottled water, batteries, frozen pizzas, and snack foods. No feelings of bedlam or panic were present, but i could see that people were thinking in terms of being snowed in for a day or two and wanting some comforts on hand. What a change from my former location, where the mere mention of snow would send people into near hysterics. Grocery shelves were cleared of bread and milk as if we were going to be in a storm lasting 40 days. While we did get measurable snow on occasion, it didn't warrant the mad grocery store rush.

I looked at my cart. I, too, had picked up a frozen pizza, as i'd thought it'd be a nice treat. A large bag of M&Ms, chocolate candies touted as those that melt in your mouth and not in your hand. A few bottles of soda (soda pop). Not typical items for me, as i usually got pizza at the place 'round the corner, but if the storm was going to be as bad as they predicted, the roads weren't going to be fit for man nor beast, and i wouldn't blame them if they were to close early. Since i'm on town water, i don't worry so much about potable water. Should push come to shove where we can't drink it without boiling it, then i can either boil what i need, fill up with potable stuff using the 5-gallon storage units i got for the boat (2 of those), or trudge up the street a ways to the spring and get my water there. The hand dug well in the back yard still has water in it, although i haven't had it tested, so i would be inclined not to drink it, but when we first got the house and weren't here full time, any winter visits here meant we brought all the potable water we needed, and we'd draw water from the well to use for flushing the toilets or cleaning the floors.

I brought in extra kindling and wood for the wood stove. Hand-cranked radio was easily accessible, and i had a flashlight (torch) by the bed as well as one in the kitchen and one in the sunroom. i knew where candles were with matches and a lighter should the need arise, as well as the oil and oil lamps.

I cleaned the house a bit on Saturday as the wind whipped the snow furiously. It was hard to tell in the 62 mph (99 km/hr) gusts if it were snowing or just flakes blowing around. i had topped off the bird and suet feeders. In two hours, the bird feeder was absolutely empty, so i made my way outside to refill it. i was about 20 feet (6 m) from the feeder when a huge gust of wind blew, and i couldn't see the feeder. It felt as if i were inside a snow globe, and i was glad i had counted my steps once i had stepped down from the last step out to where i was. i refilled the feeder and strew some seed on the ground as well before making my way back to the house. The drifts were as low as to the top of my knee and as high as my hip. i decided to clear some paths as the back door outside had 2 feet (~61 cm) against it, and focused a bit on cleaning off the top step and by the door. i didn't work for very long, maybe
45 minutes and felt a bit like Sisyphus so came back inside. The cats were glad to see me again. Kitten/young cat Jim thought about going outside, but the wind seemed a bit daunting, and i told him i thought it best that he wait out the storm with me inside the house.

Within another 2 hours, the feeder was empty again, and nearly all my paths were completely covered. The door had only 18 inches (~46 cm) against it, and i cleared the snow from it and the top step again, but didn't bother with the rest. Waded through the drifts again with the wind howling. i understood why people who are caught in storms like that feel a great urge to lie down and just call it a day. Just standing upright and trying to walk a path i know so well was exhausting, and i was well rested, well fed, and healthy.

I had a yardstick by the deck window so i could measure. It climbed to 31.5 inches (80 cm) before i went to bed, and that wasn't the highest part of the drift, near the middle of the deck. That added at least 2 inches (5 cm) more.

The snow finally stopped falling about 8:00 p.m. By that point, i didn't feel like shovelling in the dark, so went to bed after watching a movie and awoke the next day to blazing sunshine.

The yardstick measurement was 28.5 inches (72 cm), so i knew the sun had started melting some of it. The sooner i got to shovelling, the better. After a hearty breakfast and giving thanks not only for the food, but that the power stayed on, i commenced with digging out. It was too much snow for the snowblower so i did it by hand. i started about 9:30 a.m. and ended by 3:00 p.m. as i had run out of juice by that point. i did break for about an hour to feed the kitties and myself lunch, to pay and chat with my wonderful plough man who ploughed my driveway four times to try to keep up with the snow (and worth every penny in my book), and to chat with down the street neighbours, a couple who stopped by to say hi and invite me to fundraiser for a local man we know. There was a silent auction, food, massage therapists and others who would give any monies people donated for the cause, and dancing. The wife is a Reiki practitioner and was going to be there for the whole event. The husband was going to go later in the evening and would be glad to drive me, if i wanted to go. Prior to their chat, i had visions of a date with a tub full of hot water and epsom salts where i could have a good soak, but i found myself saying, "Yes, i'd love to go."

Jim helped me with a lot of the shovelling as only a loving animal can. He'd run and divebomb my boots, walk between my feet, run up and down the cleared paths when he got bored supervising my shovelling technique, and ran into the barn when the plough guy and my neighbours showed up.

I hadn't dug a path to the wood shed, and i needed to move the mountain of snow blocking the path for the oilman to the pipe in the front of the house (we have two pipes, one in the front of the house for the new part of the house and one in the back for the old part of the house), but i had some time before his next visit.

Jim had taken a nap after lunch and was loathe to come back in the house when i told him i was done shovelling for the day. He reluctantly walked with me back to the house, and after i had peeled off my layers of outdoor clothing and boots, i sat down in a comfy chair (the chair-and-a-half, Cro), with my feet propped up and enjoyed a few sips of tea when the phone rang. It was my neighbour, he would pick me up at 6:30 rather than 6:00, okay? And, if i didn't really want to go, i didn't have to go.

I told him i wanted to go, i was just a bit low in the energy department. Just before he arrived, when i thought it was his car pulling into the driveway, i opened the back door, and Jim shot out. I didn’t want him outside for hours on end and was able to nab him pretty easily. The car wasn’t my neighbour, but someone wanted simply to turn around. My neighbour showed up, and we were on our way.

The crews had done a wonderful job at clearing the roads. Except for the huge piles of snow on each side, you’d never know that we had any flakes fall at all.

The fundraiser was well attended, and i didn’t feel much like dancing. But when the young DJ played “Shout,” i couldn’t help myself. He followed that up with “Great Balls of Fire,” and “Twist and Shout.” Yes, mostly old fogies present for the dancing part ;-) Some people danced with partners and others just moved around, so i didn’t have to feel funny, although i would have brought along a lighter pair of shoes if I’d thought i was going to cut a rug. Twisting in work boots ain’t for sissies.

The cats were glad to see me arrive back home, and we all slept soundly. Felt a bit tired on Monday and a little achy on Tuesday. Not the kind that makes you wince, just the kind that reminds you you’re alive. And that it’s been ages since you’ve been dancing.