Tuesday, December 6, 2011

All Hail the Moccamaster!

Our local source for coffee beans is gimme! coffee. We like our coffee freshly ground and we like our coffee strong, but starting with a good coffee bean was only the beginning in our quest for the perfect cup of coffee. Our preferred method is the French press, but making 3-4 pots of French press coffee for guests in the morning was becoming too complicated. Simplicity and consistency were absolute requirements for a new drip coffee maker, but we were not ready to go for the Bunn commercial monsters which would require the removal of a kitchen cabinet.

Our biggest problem was grind overflow and mess. We tried 4 different department-store coffee makers and 3 different bean grinders. We tried using polar water and another local brand of coffee (sorry, gimme! we had to!) We tried grinding the beans the night before. Nothing worked, and we were not willing to reduce the amount of coffee we used.

Looking for sympathic ears, I put another call into our customer service friends at gimme! and after a few weeks of research they came up with a solution--The Technivorm Moccamaster. Here's the Cook's Illustrated Test Kitchen clip.

It's beautifully designed and sits on the counter top. No timers. No settings. No bells and whistles. No grind overflow and no mess. It makes coffee--perfect coffee. That's all it does. And that's all we need.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What's new at The Hayward House

1) just this week launched a new web site (many and better pics still to be added)
2) began renovations on the third guest room (opens this spring - fingers crossed)
3) lost 2 cats - R.I.P. Squatter and Joe*. Little Pip and Jake the Dog are still with us (although we think Jake losing his hearing)
4) massage therapy school is continuing to be a life changing event for Michele (more later)
5) now accept credit cards (thanks, iPhone!)
6) often ranked #1 B&B in Interlaken on Trip Advisor (alternating the #2 spot with our friends at the Black Walnut whom we frequently pelt with commercial eggs. Hey, Jack and Rich--remember all those referrals?!) 
7) ranked in the top 10% of all b&bs in the Finger Lakes
8) managed to maintain work/life/school balance, good health, and cheerful dispositions but gave up trying to blog frequently.
9) got our riding lawn mower fixed - yippee!

*Gone before I could tell you that he could climb a tree, steal an egg from a nest, carry it in his mouth down the trunk, and devour it in the yard. Cool cat trick!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Daisy, Daisy

The tenacity of wildflowers! This little daisy, a variety that grows in the dry fields and culverts along the road, took root in a crack of our old stone sidewalk while blue chicory peeks through the dry grass.

I appreciate Mother Nature's eye for garden design. This year she clumped feverfew, anise hyssop, and black-eyed Susans into a lovely summer bouquet border along the side walk, with the thyme and parsley providing ground cover.

Being such a dry summer, I'm surprised we had any flowers at all. My rule of (green) thumb: If it's got a flower on it, it stays right where it is. Any color is a bonus.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Derby Girl

What pollutes the air and the ground, exceeds the safe decibel limit and wastes gasoline but is fun, exciting, and REALLY BIG here in the Finger Lakes? The Demolition Derby, that's what!  

Drawing crowds of people and contestants from all around the area, the Trumansburg Fair's Demolition Derby is the qualifier for the NYState championships.  As I walked through the fairgrounds, I notice few people playing games, or riding rides and the carnival people all looked bored and tired. The ticket takers at the Grandstand are working up a sweat, though, because The Derby is by far the biggest draw.

When we were little, my dad took my sister and I to the Allegheny County Fair for the Demolition Derby. I can't remember if it was every year or just once, but the memory of it is burned into my brain. Seeing the cars line up, and hearing revving of the engines and the "10 to go" count, I am a little girl again, cheering, clapping, laughing, and making a fool of myself.

This year's Derby is special: I know some of the drivers. They are our neighbors from up the street, a dad and his sons. And one of them, Shawn, was driving our '93 Mercury Sable Wagon. "Be sure to tell us if you drive it in the derby next year" we said when we watched him drive it away, the transmission slipping and the back end sinking low over the wheel.  All winter, the car sat in the field with others awaiting its final fate until last week, when it appeared in front of his garage. Passing it every day I watched it become less of itself, stripped of glass, eviscerated, wire entrails leading from headlight sockets, hatch and seats removed and doors chained shut. 

A few days ago, Shawn flagged me down and pointed into the garage where it sat, reborn in a glory of blue and white zebra stripes and ready for the Derby. I got the giggles.

Back at the fair, and sitting in the third row, I watched as the old wagon fared well in competition and Shawn took a second place trophy.  The car was driven off the track (not towed as most others were) and maybe still has some life left in it. 

As I cheered for Shawn, conflicting thoughts were jostling around in my head: Who knew that car was such a tank?...OMG--this sport is so wrong on so many levels....We should never have sold that car....oh, yeah--I'm coming back next year!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Team Pride

Kevin took this picture of our neighbor's draft horses. A clear, blue Finger Lakes sky; a proud team at the end of their work day. Perfection. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Feeding Frenzy

Since early July we have a feeding frenzy in our yard. Most of the resident birds--chipping and house sparrows, baltimore orioles, barn swallows, blue birds, mockingbirds, house finches, starlings, robins, grackles and red-winged blackbirds-- are protecting and feeding their young. I could spend hours watching them. 

The fledglings, who can fly only short distances, can't yet feed themselves even though they are out of the nest. Each species has a different method. Some are ground feeders, while some feed on the wires or in the trees.  But all of the fledglings, who chirp for their parents and flutter their wings, have one thing in common:  They are hungry! And the feeding is a non-stop activity for the parents.

They are an awkward bunch, with tufts of down on their heads and yellow, lipstick-like lined mouths, as they vie for their parents' attention. Watching the young barn swallows at eye-level from the upstairs hall window, feeding happens in a flash of wing and a blink of an eye, their parents arriving swiftly like Jedi fighters from the fields beyond.

Our two curious kittens - Joe (aka Secret Agent Man) and Pip are working non-stop climbing trees, hiding in bushes, and crouching under the cars, preying on the weakest and slowest. Unfortunately, they are often successful even as they duck and flinch in defense of the barn swallows who dive-bomb them while they walk in the open.

Last year while sweeping the front porch, I accidentally bumped a robin's nest. Startled, a small robin flapped and flapped in a weak effort to fly only to fall to the porch with a thump. He hopped into the shrubs. I managed to catch him and place him high in a denser shrub, only to watch him tumble to the ground several times. By this time I've got our big cat's attention. Shoot. I tucked him tightly between some branches and went back to my work. It happened again (where is my brain?). Sweep. ACK! Flap. Thump. Hop. This one I couldn't find and I felt terrible. About an hour later I see the cat chasing the small fledgling in the yard. Broom in hand, I swatted at the cat while trying to grab the bird, its parents squawking and diving at me all the while. It was sad and comical at the same time, and I never did know what finally happened to the two small birds. 

The female returned this year and built a nest in the exact same spot again and had two broods. Can you believe I almost did the same thing with the broom again? Twice?

Never a dull moment here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Healthy Habitat

This spring we added 5 new "yard birds" to our list:  Gray Catbird, Pileated Woodpecker, Yellow Warbler, Eastern Towhee, and the Bobolink. To qualify as a yard bird, the bird must be seen or heard by you from your yard. Some people extend that definition to include "whatever you can see with a scope from your roof" as a yard bird too! No matter--the fun is seeing the birds and keeping the list. Our list has about 55 birds.  While none of these new birds are uncommon for the general area (except the Bobolink which is terribly exciting since its habitat is dwindling) their appearance in our yard gets me wondering. What is different this year? Is it the weather? Did our yard habitat change enough to be inviting to that species? Am I paying more attention and/or getting better at identification? Have they been here all along and I'm just at the right place at the right time? I suspect it is all of the above.

The Pileated Woodpecker sighting was a 5 second stint. From my seat in the kitchen I heard its earnest squawk, which increased in volume as it ascended slightly in pitch. My brain said blue jay?... squawk.... Northern Flicker? ...squawk..... Pheasant?.... squawk!!.... WOODPECKER!!! run! ....SQUAWK!.....I caught a glimpse of it on the side of the pear tree YES!!! and then it was gone in a flash of black, red, and white. DARN!  I saw him a few days later in a tree across the road, and my neighbor has seen him too. Maybe he'll be a regular - that would be really cool.

Another surprise was this guy in the picture - the polythemus moth. It arrived (hatched?) yesterday and hung out on the kitchen door until sometime overnight when I suspect he found a mate, did his thing and passed on to the netherworld.  That's its sole purpose in this ethereal form.  He was a beautiful specimen, about 5 inches across, with fern-like antennae, and translucent spots. I was disappointed to find him gone this morning, even though I knew I would jumped out of my skin if he landed on me.

With birds, toads, dragonflies, fireflies, moths, butterflies, bunnies, and bees, there is never a dull moment in our cottage garden (read: we let some weeds grow). We happily create a healthy habitat for all of us.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Much Wood SHOULD a Woodchuck Chuck? or
Can you say VEGETARIAN?

A common and abundant marmot here in the Finger Lakes is the woodchuck, a.k.a. the groundhog.  You see them burrowing under sheds and barns, poking around in the parks, and smashed beyond recognition on the highways. (How unfortunate when that happens on the first day out from hibernation!) They also like to live under big, old, front porches.

Our first year in the house, we gave permission to an Amish boy down the road to rid our property of the pests, and for a few weeks we would see him hanging around after chores. It was a rather surprising event when my in-laws were visiting. When my brother-in-law looked up from his dinner and said, "Uh, there's a guy in your front yard with a straw hat and he's carrying a gun?" and my response was "Oh, that's just Henry!" I realized how much our lives have been changed. I was willing to have someone do the dirty deed for me, and I wanted to feel okay about it. Us or them, right? I live in the country, and this is what we do. Top of the food chain, and all that?

Prolific breeders, no matter how heavily they are hunted, their numbers sustain. For the farmers who still plow with draft horses, the risk of broken legs or ankles is not acceptable, and I respect that. I've seen Elam become so frustrated that he filled one of the holes with manure. Not effective management, mind you, but satisfying nonetheless.

Our second summer in the house, Kevin started rebuilding the porch. The mama-chuck who lived under it delivered a litter of 6 babies and the barn-dwelling mama had 5. We were overrun. If you have never seen a baby woodchuck, know that baby woodchucks are cute.  I mean, really cute in a kitten kind of way. Jake the dog managed to grab 2--and I felt awful about it--but the rest were free to roam the property, even running in very close to Kevin, who was under the porch with saws, hammers, and drills. Each day these babies would venture a few feet further out into the front yard. They feared nothing. 

Lately, I've had a front and center view of the critter through my kitchen window while washing dishes. Sitting up on its hind legs, it will nimbly pull the young plants and shrubs to mouth level and munch. This year they seem to like the "chicks & hens," pulling them out by the root, holding the dirt ball and eating. They also love tulip bulbs. First they eat the green leaves, then they come back and dig up the bulb. They decimated a small patch of crocuses which were just starting to show some color. The nerve. What a nuisance. We've got to do something!

No more hired guns, though, just humane traps set by our local pest-management service. Seeing the little furry red-bellied beasts up close, feeding from the tenderest spring growth, their black noses touching in groundhog greeting, we honor their over-breeding, their insatiable but gastronomically upperclass appetites, and their spunk. Once again, I'm conflicted. So I'll save a woodchuck. But just one.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wave, Everyone!

wave |wāv| verb : move one's hand to and fro in greeting or as a signal

Anyone who has spent time on our porch notices the same thing about the people who pass by: Everyone waves. It's a simple gesture, warm and comforting, and an affirmation of presence that deeply touches me and those who tell me about it. It says "Hey, I see you there and I'm happy about it." Or, "Sorry I can't stop and talk, but hello nonetheless!" Or, "Hi, neighbor!" 

Horseback riders, walkers, truck drivers, Amish, and children all have their own style of wave. From a small, almost unnoticeable tip of the hat to a great wide arm flailing motion. From a buggy comes a tilt forward and a couple of fingers up, with maybe a slight side to side action, or a vigorous, shaky full hand. From behind the wheel of a large farm combine, it may be just a couple fingers raised off the steering wheel, or a salute to the brim of a hat, or a lift of the arm from the elbow. Sometimes it's a raised arm and a shake! 
What confounds me is that a wave always prompts me to stop what I am doing and wave back, without even thinking about it. You may be a stranger, but you are now part of my day, and I yours. Isn't that a lovely thought? Wave, everyone!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ice Blues

One morning last month, just before sunrise, the temperature plunged to -2 degrees. That's not so unusual for this time of year, but this particular morning brought with it one of my favorite winter phenomena:  rime ice (also known as hoarfrost, ice fog, and rime frost). Every inch of every branch, stem and tree trunk, shimmered and glistened with a soft coating of white jagged ice. 

It was a spectacular, foggy, winter wonderland against crisp blue skies. On some surfaces it was thick as snow while on others it appeared to be growing in sharp spikes.

Winter birding was a challenge.  However, a family of seven lovely, little bluebirds have been with us all winter, feeding on berries in the garden and singing from the trees. Brilliant blue against the white snow and the red berries of the winterberry bush, they flit away from the stingy starlings and manage to out-wit the sneaky cats. At night, I find them huddled in the eaves outside our bedroom window and checking on them has become my bedtime ritual. 

Usually all I can see is a tail or two high up in the corner, but many nights one adult is sleeping separately from the group, alone on a ledge but tucked in against the weather. About two weeks ago, however, they stopped coming in to roost even though it is still windy and cold. Are these bluebirds winter birds who have since started their way north? Or are these the same bluebirds we have here in the summer? (will there be seven?) And if so, where ARE they right now? I miss their cheery songs and the promise of spring!

Monday, March 21, 2011

I'll take the B

As my 12 followers have probably noticed (and those of you who read my blog but don't publicly follow) I've been silent since the New Year. No reason, really. Not bored with writing but I am bored with winter. Seems like it has been a hard one this year. Windy. Cold. Lots of ice. I'm not certain that the weather map data will confirm those facts. It's more of a feeling, I guess.

Life has picked up a few paces with me being in school. Weekend classes began at the end of January, and I feel like I've been playing catch-up with my time ever since. I don't feel overwhelmed, but my brain cells are otherwise entranced in Swedish massage, body mechanics, kinesiology, muscles and bones. I'm feeling exhausted and exhilarated, absent-minded yet organized, buried under chores but ready to open for business. How I can feel all of this all at the same time? 

I'm amazed at how quickly I learn some things, yet how slowly I'm catching on to others. I'm learning how I learn. Visually? Kinesthetically? Auditorialy? A combination of all three? I'm reminded by my instructors to be patient. Confusion is good - it means that our brain is processing the new material, and it will arrive comfortably in the land of knowledge in due time. We had our first quiz in kinesiology over the weekend and I missed 3 out of 20. That's a B in the grade book and I'll take it.

PS:  Here's a picture of Pip hiding under a hosta last fall. She's our little outcast. Squeemish, timid, and lovely.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Riding in the New Year

Our traditional New Year's Eve celebration is watching a bunch of movies, creating and enjoying a fabulous multi-course meal, and drinking lots of wine. Just the two of us. Well, three if you include our warm and comfort-seeking dog named Jake. Temperatures were mild enough to start the evening on the porch stoop and drink a cocktail, the barn and shrubs ablaze in sunset.  Most of the meal was sourced locally: a standing roast from High Point Farms, a creamy soup of leek and rutabagas from Country Side Produce, chocolate ice cream from Cayuga Lake Creamery, wine from J. R. Dill and bubbly from Lucas Vineyards. It was another perfect evening.

Early in December we made reservations for a New Year's Day trail ride at Painted Bar Stables in Burdette. Neither of us having ever been on a horse, we nervously made our way into the stables, all the while getting safety tips and riding instructions from Erika, the owner. I was to ride Dozer, a sharp looking chestnut gelding. Duchess, a solid paint palomino mare, was saddled for Kevin. We mounted, and with my stomach in my throat, I gingerly directed Dozer to the trail head and I stopped. I can't do it, I thought I said to myself, but Erika--ever present and alert--heard me, and made a suggestion. "Hum a tune, and you'll get over your fear. And don't forget to breathe. The horse will sense that you are nervous, then he'll get nervous. Oh, and don't micro-manage the horse. He knows how to walk through the mud and ice. Just gently suggest what you want him to do." I did, and he did, and all was well.

Creekside, my fear took over again, but with kind encouragement from Erika and the other riders, I kept calm, leaned back and let sure-footed Dozer manage the slope into the water. Slow and steady. That wasn't so bad. All in all, it was lovely ride on a mild winter day through corn fields and meadows, and I can't wait to go horseback riding again. Perhaps this will be a new tradition for us--riding into a Happy New Year.