Daylight Savings. Ugh.

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I don’t really like to complain. It doesn’t help. It doesn’t make me feel better. It makes me feel worse, in fact. It is petty and a waste of time. Who doesn’t know this? But we all do it anyway. No matter how privileged or lucky we are, we all have something worthy of our complaining. My most recent beef is with daylight savings time.

Twice each year it makes me grumpy. Frankly, I don’t see the point. Over a decade ago the dates were pushed around, the idea being to save more energy by introducing more daylight into the workday. That didn’t work out so well. No one later demonstrated that any energy was really saved. I’ve heard the other reasons as well. Farmers benefit from more light early in the morning, or later in the morning. It isn’t as dark in the morning when children wait for the bus. But really?

Here is what happens for me in the spring. The days slowly get a little longer starting in December. I wait until March for the light to finally drop over the mountains at a reasonable hour. I can get up and go for a run at 6:00 a.m. and not need a headlamp or a reflector vest. I can rise before work and see the day. I go outside in the light before I get ready to head to work. It is a fine thing. And then daylight savings comes along and throws that all off. I hate that crap.

Now, I have to wait many days before the day is light enough at 6:00 am to go for a run. And for what? I just don’t get it. Why can’t we just pick one way for the clocks to be and stick to it? This is the 21st century. Artificial light has made daylight savings obsolete. It is bogus.

Here is something else, from today. I went in early to work with a group of high school students. At this particular school I don’t usually get there until 8:00 at the earliest. I am lucky to have that flexibility. But today I agreed to work with a first period class. So imagine working with a group of teenagers starting at 7:30 a.m. on a Monday. They are sleepy and not at their best. They are sluggish and mentally less sharp than later in the day or later in the week. And then imagine you are starting at 6:30 instead of 7:30. I tried to be lively, but the day was off to a slow start.

I will get used to it. Complaining does not help. I need to adjust. There are many things worse in the world right now (Um, “microwaves that turn into cameras?” Who knew?) I know all that crap. I still hate it. And I will get used to it. I will get used to it and then the clocks will need to be turned back again in the fall. And I will hate it all over again.

Tires

I added air to my tires this afternoon. The front ones were low enough to furrow my brow with concern. I need to do some driving tomorrow and I did not want to do it on low tires. Way low. Can you say blow out potential?  Not what I’m talking about.

The thing is, I added air just a short while ago, maybe two weeks. I’m not talking a tad air loss here but lots of air loss. Danger danger.  So I blasted in some free air from the Mobil station and off I went. I noticed a difference right away, as I always do when I add air to my tires. Adding air gives better gas mileage yet I add air only rarely. I should do it every couple of weeks but that doesn’t happen. Too lazy. Me, not the tires.

I plan to get new tires this week. These have been good to me. They have lasted a long time. They have taken me far. But the time has come to play it safe. I hate to ditch the old ones. They create some serious waste. But safety first, eh? Ain’t that America?

What I need to do is pay more attention to my tire pressure. I know I need to pay attention especially depending on the time of year. In summer, I have plenty of pressure. In winter, maybe not so much. Cold air, you know? Add air, rotate, balance. I need to do all that stuff more than I do, likely. Today was a good start. It didn’t take all that long. Once these new tires are in place, I pledge to keep my tire pressure up to snuff.

Firm tires are where it’s at. I mean, who wants flabby tires?

Up There Early

I have to complete my surveys for the Vermont Center for Ecostudies‘s Mountain Birdwatch program in the first three weeks of June. Today is June 15 and I hadn’t gotten out there yet. The days when I could have done it we had rain. Birds don’t sing much in the rain, and I wouldn’t hear them anyway, so today I finally got one in. I had to work today but I’m down to one week left, so I didn’t want to take any chances that the weather would turn again. It will rain more soon and I have two surveys to do.

The survey consists of observing for five key species of birds at high elevations in the northeast. The route I did today is the one I have done for 11 years now, since the first year of the program.  The deal is to observe them between 4:00 AM and 6:00 AM as they tend to be most active during this “dawn chorus” time. That means getting to the first of my five survey points by 4:00, which means hiking by 3:15 if I hoof it, which means hitting the road to the trailhead by 2:30, which means getting up at 2:15, assuming I have everything ready the night before, which I did.

I made it up there in time and sat in the dark for about 15 minutes before any birds sang. I heard a White-throated Sparrow first, as I typically do. I also recorded Swainson’s Thrush, Blackpol Warbler and Winter Wren. The most important species, Bicknell’s Thrush, was silent. I got to the end of my muddy and wet one-mile route, sat at the last survey point, and got nothin’. This is terribly disappointing, of course. Hearing that they are still up there gives me hope. So I went to Plan B.

Plan B is to offer an audio playback of Bicknell’s Thrush calls and songs, in hopes of attracting them, to see if they really are out there. This did the trick. A little brown thrush did come in at the first point I tried the playback, but I couldn’t tell for sure that it was a Bicknell’s, so I tried again. This time I heard the distinctive buzzy call and, to borrow from Wordsworth, my heart leapt up. Satisfied, with some data that will hopefully be enough for now, I headed back down. It was 6:15 and the sun was up.

I hiked past Bolton Valley Resort to get to the survey route and got to see the wind turbine they put up in the last year for a new angle. I got some first had experience with how a large turbine sounds. It did make some noise. Not so much that it would be a nuisance in a city with lots of noise anyway, but some. It was good to see it up there, presumably creating electricity while its blades spun.

So I was successful. I am now tired. When I do this thing on a weekend, I take a nap at some point. I’ll have to head to bed early tonight. Hopefully my children will do the same.

Muddy Trail

Morning Fog in Waterbury

Bolton Valley Wind Turbine

Turbine Up Close

Florida Pretty Much Screwed

Lego Tourists: The Only Ones in Florida Soon?

Florida is pretty much screwed. The Gulf coast is going to be covered in oil. All those hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil spilling into the Gulf since April 20 are going to start sifting onto the sandy beaches before long. It is only a matter of time. I was on that coast in March and it was lovely. We have planned to return, to visit family again, this fall. Maybe so. Maybe not.

I once took a charter boat out to fish off the reefs in the keys. It was a good time. We caught barracuda, among other fish. I can’t imagine that industry will not be hit. All those condominiums and hotels won’t be full. All those flights to Sarasota will have spare seats. Those beaches will have plenty of space to spread a blanket.

The New York Times reports today that tourism is already taking a hit, with reservations at a serious low for sport fishing and other pursuits. The article quotes a fisherman who see the Florida keys “emptying out like an abandoned mining town.” Oil towns have booms and busts, such as is happening in North Dakota right now. Florida may have its own bust cycle due to oil–not because the state decided to allow drilling but despite it. The state could be slammed and not rebound for decades.

Granted, Louisiana and other Gulf coast states are getting hit harder by this disaster, but Louisiana chose to drill for oil. Florida chose not to. The whole situation is insane. If we have to seek oil a mile below the surface of the ocean, doesn’t that say something about our addiction? I am as complicit as the next United States citizen, so I am part of the problem, yes. I am lucky not to live where this will affect me so directly. It will, I am sure, effect all of us in ways we cannot anticipate, however.

Eventually, unless we face up to our addiction, we might all be screwed.

Eating Around Here

I made dinner tonight and let me tell you it was good stuff.  It was simple, really, but a simple pleasure.  I scrambled up eggs and cheese and we ate it with greens. The greens were as simple as the eggs–leeks, garlic, peppers and kale with some salt and butter.  The combination was tasty, tastier than I thought it would be.  It felt good to eat food so wholesome and healthy.  And it felt good to know that almost everything came from right around here.

The leeks and kale came from our farm share. Our last pick up was Tuesday and we got a lot. We used some of it tonight. The peppers came from our garden–the last of them to be picked. The butter was Cabot butter, so also fairly local. The cheese in the eggs was also Cabot, and the eggs came from Maple Meadow Farm in Salisbury (the eggs could be more local, I admit, but this wasn’t bad). The olive oil traveled far to get to us, as did the salt, but those are hard to get from local sources.

The one thing that was questionable was garlic. That came from a farm somewhere, but that’s all I know. Our farm share did not include garlic several times in a row–they didn’t have a great year. I missed the farmer’s market last Saturday–I couldn’t get there until too late. And our local market, which often has good local produce, didn’t have any local garlic, so I bought what was there, even though I hate not to know the source of my food. Part of the reason we had no garlic was that the garlic I bought at the farmer’s market a couple weeks ago I planted in the ground. I want to make sure I have plenty next year, so I planted all the cloves and hope for them to burst out of the ground in spring. That would make things local, eh?

So our meal had only a few food miles. It is simply crazy that our food system means we can get cheap food that is transported hundreds or thousands or miles. How is it that we can spend 87 calories to get one calorie and not pay more for that one calorie than we do? How is it that we are OK with the poor quality of those strawberries or winter tomatoes when we buy them, out of season? We ship food all over the place so we can eat whatever we want whenever we want it. So we get poor quality food and we burn up all kinds of oil to get it and we pump CO2 into the atmosphere like mad (literally) when we could could have better food at less real cost if we ate locally. So I try to do that.

Having a garden helps. Taking part in a community supported agriculture program helps. Living in Vermont helps, as local food is available much of the year because people care about it. And canning and freezing helps, too, as that means we can spread the harvest out over the cold months. I am new to canning but thanks to my parents giving me a tutorial, I have canned my second batch of jam. I have pesto and pumpkin and soup in the freezer and will freeze more. I could do better and, with some experience and over time, I will. Pulling pesto out of the freezer in January is just about the best thing ever.

Keeping my food miles down is important. I don’t want my food traveling more in a year than I do. It is one thing I, and collectively we, can do to make a difference to abate global warming. Eating locally can make a big difference in limiting carbon emissions, since we all need to eat. One day we will be forced to eat more locally, since oil will get expensive and raspberries from temperate climes won’t be cheap to ship in the winter. Plus, food usually tastes better if it hasn’t traveled half way around the world. And it has more in it, so it is healthier. Sure, if we eat locally we don’t get to have anything we want whenever we want it, but waiting for things makes them sweeter, sometimes literally. And I can wait for a little sweetness.

(This post is part of Blog Action Day).

Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival Entrance

Harvest Festival Entrance

We took a trip across the town line to visit Shelburne Farms today.  They were hosting their annual harvest festival.  It was fun, literally, for the whole family.  I took the two kids last year and we spent most of the day there.  They were excited to visit again and this time Mom came along as well.  I was expecting many people to be there.  The place was packed when we arrived:

Full Parking Lot for the Harvest Festival

Full Parking Lot for the Harvest Festival

You can see the farm barn in the distance.  There were lots of cars.  Maybe that speaks to our car culture.  It also says something about how many people were there.  My guess is that few of those cars carried only one person.  There were families galore there.  This was because Jon Gailmor sang and there was a play (a musical version of Romeo and Juliet) put on by the teens of Very Merry Theater and there were all kinds of fun activities for kids of all ages.  The animals were all out and one could spin yarn and pet a llama and do a leaf rubbing.

Llama Ready for Petting

Llama Ready for Petting

And there was food, too.  Maple Wind Farm of Huntington was there, serving grassfed beef and pork kebabs and hot sausages.  Island Ice Cream offered seven different ice cream pops.  And the corn line was, as last year, worth waiting in.  They had a pick up set up just to toss in corn cobs for composting.  They dished out hundreds of fire roasted ears of corn.  The one I had was, no kidding, the best I had had all summer.  Damn tasty.

Roasting Corn

Roasting Corn

A Full Grill

A Full Grill

The Harvest Festival, for the second year, coincided with Green Mountain Power’s Energy Fair.  They had a tent set up where anyone present might learn about solar photovoltaics or wind power or solar hot water or LED light bulbs or energy efficiency of all stripes.  I love that fair.  Every year it convinces me that we should heat our water with solar energy and generate our electricity from the sun or wind.  If only it didn’t cost so much to install.  I did learn that we might expect to make money if we used solar for electricity.  We really don’t use that much compared to most homes.  But still, it is a big investment…

Energy Fair Tent

Energy Fair Tent

All in all we had a great time.  Corn, ice cream, caramel apples, a fine sunny day, lots of encounters with friends and neighbors, and a good feeling about where we live and the people who live here.  I hope Shelburne Farms keep doing it. Judging by the number of people there, my guess is that it was popular enough to repeat.  Count us in next time.  At this point, we’ll stay members, and we wouldn’t miss it next year.

Slaving Away Over a Hot Desk

Diskobolos

It’s back to work time for this boy.  No more lounging away the summer days on a ladder with a paint can in one hand and a brush in the other and beads of sweat dripping into the eyes one can’t wipe clear because of the protective rubber gloves.  No more happy encounters with cucumber beetles who wish to share their produce with those who live inside the house.  Alas, it is back to Excel spreadsheets and phone calls and eventually, talking with students about their promising futures.  Starting yesterday, my brain had to rev up like a DVD just inserted into its cozy drive.  I think it is still spinning.

I did not break a sweat as I prepared for the upcoming academic year.  I went to meetings.  Sometimes I break a sweat at meetings because I have to present or I have to be responsible for enough that my armpits drip.  Nervousness they tell me.  My friend Spike refers to that as squirreling.  No squirreling today.  I didn’t even break a sweat when I blasted out the house for a quick bike ride before prepping dinner.  It was raining.

Did I mention dinner?  I baked up a summer vegetable gratin again.  I had to wait a couple of days from gathering all the ingredients as we had family engagements the past two evenings (last night we posed for family photos–it’s nice to have someone just tell me where to stand once in a while).  Think fresh tomatoes, three kinds of summer squash, potatoes dug up just two days ago, parmesan cheese and fresh herbs.  All baked together into a bubbling and steaming delight.  Two words:  Ooh baby.  My daughter ate it.  My son would not.  We fed him oatmeal.

This job I’ve got means working at home, often evenings, sometimes weekends.  Already I am thinking about what I might get done as my spouse tucks the children into bed.  I resisted actually doing anything so foolhardy this evening, however.  Instead I read about ten interesting deserts (one in Brazil is littered with lagoons when it rains) and a list of weird allergies (people really can be allergic to water, apparently.  And sex.).  Then I decided to bust out the old blog and get cracking.

I hung out with a friend recently who said that she never reads blogs because all they are is a bunch of people boring anyone who happens to stumble across them with repeated fannings over their boyfriends or overly detailed descriptions of their new puppies foibles.  I tried to tell her she might be able to find something that caters to her sense of humor or to her modern and refined wit, but she was skeptical.   Certainly I wasn’t going to point her here.

Did I tell you about my new puppy?  My sister-in-law’s kids are so in love with it.  And the way it wiggles its little hiney.  SO cute!

Anyway, summer is still here.  It is in the 80’s for Christopher’s sake.  Two days ago it was 91 degrees and the air was pretty much saturated.  It felt like Florida, where my electric bill would be like ten times what it is here in Vermont since I would pretty much be required to have an air conditioner running at all times.  I did wish we had an extra fan the other night.  We let the children use them and just sweated into the sheets.  Now I have to wear pants in this heat.  I just can’t bring myself to wear shorts at a school.  Maybe I should when it gets this hot, however.  But what difference would it make?  I will either distract students with my balding pate glistening with rills of sweat, or I will distract them with my Discobolos-like calves.

I can’t win.  Not in this heat.