Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween Paper Mache

Paper Mache Halloween Spook
I've been up to my elbows in paper mache all this week. I'm trying to make some spooky Halloween paper mache goblins to hang from our new porch and I'm finishing up a new article about the same topic for my Squidoo library. Got the article published on Tuesday and the goblin heads are drying ... hoping all comes together by Friday night. If so, three spooky ghouls will be floating around the front door to greet the Trick or Treat crowd.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Mel and Sean - on Vimeo

Nearness of You is a music vid starring my talented niece Melanie Peltier and her equally talented partner Sean Hill.

These 2 will be famous ... make a note.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Good Night, Irene

Our area of south central Vermont was hit very hard by Hurricane Irene (actually, this was only Tropical Storm Irene by the time she reached Rutland county because the winds died down to below 50mph). 

Although we didn't get nailed with high winds and downed trees, the torrential rains created the worst natural disaster in Vermont since 1927. Roads and homes washed away, farmland acreage was stripped of topsoil along with crops and livestock that washed away downstream; people's lives and livelihood and history were ripped away by peaceful streams and wading creeks that became raging rivers. We were very fortunate and suffered no damage, as this video taken during the final hours of the rain demonstrates. 

Just a mile or so away from our house, on lower ground closer to Rutland, Otter Creek and the Cold River, things are still in a state of disaster and just this week our community water supply was tested and it's contaminated with e-coli so we must boil all water and cannot use it to wash or bathe until further notice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What a difference a month makes ...

Just a month ago I was lamenting the lack of red tomatoes. Today I'm struggling to stay ahead of the fast ripening harvest of tomatoes and squash from our small but productive gardens at both homes.

I've already made 2 big batches of dried tomatoes from the sweet Roma and jumbo pink cherry fruits; I've cooked lots of zucchini and tomatoes into pasta sauce for the freezer, and I whipped up some zucchini parmesan for dinner last week with enough to tuck a few meals into the freezer.

We've been eating squash and tomatoes for every dinner and sometimes for lunch, too. The cucumbers went crazy with fruit after the drought ended, so we made fresh dill pickles ... but those disappear almost as quickly as I can get them into the brine.

We harvested a giant zuke from the Vermont garden last week. It must have weighed about 20 pounds. In fact, it was so big it scared Anya ... and she loves veggies.  Last night Doug baked it into a chocolate chip zucchini cake ... to celebrate our 9th anniversary. Yummy!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Garden Goodies in 2 States

Our organic gardens are growing wonderfully this year despite some challenging weather and animal raiders. The PA veggie garden is producing lots of green and yellow squash. There are plenty of green tomatoes but no red fruits in sight yet.

That garden is totally fenced in  but it hasn't stopped groundhogs from finding their way into the veggie patch to munch down the beans. So far Doug's trapped and relocated 3 ground hogs from that fenced vegetable patch. He also captured a couple confused raccoons - on separate occasions. One didn't want to leave the trap after the door was opened up to set him free. Perhaps he thought it was his personal dining car and was waiting for more melon.

In Vermont we have a raised bed planter outside the kitchen door where we planted 3 tomato plants, 2 pepper plants, a row of carrots, one squash and one cucumber. So far the tomato plants are 7 feet tall and loaded with green fruits.

I'll be picking a yellow squash for dinner and I ate the first cucumber for lunch yesterday. I  planted a test garden in one area of the back yard where we had trees removed, and sowed a small row of pole beans along the back of the house. The test garden is doing very well; it survived a wind and hail storm last week with only a few broken leaves.

We gave the soil mounds some lime along with organic cow manure and the small garden area is  producing  green and yellow squash now. I discovered 2 small cucumber plants hidden under the foliage, so I may get more cucumbers, too.

The bean plants died or got eaten the first time I planted, so I planted beans again  in the same spot a couple weeks ago. The second sowing is up and starting grow tendrils, but there's a rabbit that sneaks in to  nibble on the plants so I don't know if I'll get anywhere with beans this year. Today I'm going to make sapling stick teepee trellises for the beans to climb up. If the roofers don't smash the plants next week I may get some fresh beans from the back yard by mid-August.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nature Girl

The wildlife count at the Vermont house is growing. This week I spotted two new visitors in the yard: a rose-breasted grosbeak landed on the front porch railing and a wild rabbit hopped across the driveway in front of my car as I returned home from a day trip to Burlington with A and B.

The established non-human residents here include several fat chipmunks, a few grey squirrels (one with a white tipped tail), a couple red squirrels, lots of salamanders, toads, spring peepers and frogs, plus all these birds: cardinals, sparrows, chickadees, crows, juncos, titmice, robins, red-winged blackbirds, finches, woodpeckers (downy and pileated) and the usual flies, mosquitoes, ants, spiders and other crawly and flying bug types that live in dirt, water, grass, and woodsy areas but love to try to live in your home.

So far none of the wild things have created  much of a nuisance except a pack of hornets who wanted to build a nest hanging off the rear soffit and that's just not gonna happen. 

The chipmunks and cardinal are quite friendly and come close even when I'm outside. They regularly show up perched on the porch railing (separately, never together) to get a snack.

We can't really feed the birds here past April (bear hazard) so when there's no sunflower seed sprinkled out on the railing my pals peek into the living room window to see if I'm home. The cardinal turns his head side to side and chirps at the window like he's requesting service, and the chipmunk whistles and chips away until the cat jumps onto the window sill for a closer look.

I think the chubby chipmunk and his/her friend live underneath the rickety front  steps (see above, photo with the flag). They're gonna have to relocate in a couple weeks when we tear it off (before it falls off) to replace it with a full-width real front porch.

No worries - they can just move to the back steps ... until we replace those next year or the year after with a mudroom.

If all goes as planned, this is how the front of the house will look by mid-summer, with a new porch that includes a roof and a Nantucket stairway off the center front.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Back to Nature in 2 States

Having 2 homes with slightly different garden environments offers us many opportunities to experience nature up close and personal. Last week I was exploring our Vermont yard to learn more about the critters and plants that live there.

So far I've discovered our small piece of the Green Mountain state is home to native wildflowers (colts foot, trout lily and a few not yet showing their identities), salamanders (LOTS) under the front walk marble stepping stones, squirrels (red and grey),  many birds (flickers, cardinals, crows, robins, chickadees, titmice, snow birds, woodpeckers - downy and pileated) and far too many pine trees (more on that in a future post).

This week we're working on garden cleanup in Pennsylvania while the birds - cardinals, robins, orioles, scarlet tanagers, sparrows, chickadees, gold finches, hummingbirds, a few starlings, doves, hawks, mallard ducks and wild turkeys (I can hear them in the woods but haven't spotted them in the garden this year ... yet) and plenty of wild critters (squirrels, chipmunks, deer, rabbits) are busily establishing their homes in and around our garden.

We were working on weeding the natural (read: somewhat overgrown and wild) borders on Sunday when Doug discovered a new creature from the reptile/amphibian clan who's moved into our wildlife habitat: a snapping turtle made a home in the brook that runs alongside our property line between our garden border and the neighboring field. It's a younger one, but it's fiesty. He's probably planning to feast on the crayfish, salamanders, toads, snakes and frogs that are already living here.

All this wildlife is food for creative expression with the result being new amphibian coloring pages. Check out my new salamander coloring page.  More are on the drawing board.

It's going to be an interesting nature photo spring and summer. Watch for more photos and more artwork!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Remembering Japan and Hope for the Future

The natural disasters in northern Japan have captured most of my attention this week. Although I could avoid watching news media on the television or bypassing stories online, I find myself drawn to the images and feeling so powerless, shocked, and very sad.

The devastation is overwhelming; I sit here watching from thousands of miles away, in the northeastern USA. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like for people who are in the midst of the situation - in shock, hungry, cold, terrified - surrounded by destruction and death.

In a former life and career more than 15 years ago I traveled to Japan twice on business as part of small e-publishing consultancy team. Our travels landed us at Narita airport where we took a train into Yokohama and then walked to our hotel. We stayed in a hotel that was not far from the sports arena and main shopping district; it was also not far from the busy Chinatown neighborhood.

All our local travel was by train, tram, subway, or on foot and I had many opportunities to see how ordinary people lived, worked, went to school and spent leisure time. On both trips I spent much of my free time (after dinner and on the weekends) exploring the busy streets of Yokohama shopping, touring the waterfront and parks, jogging and people watching. I made one trip to Tokyo with another team member where we toured the Royal Garden where we caught a glimpse of the Royal family as they passed by, and we visited the peace shrine and outdoor market in the city center. It was a beautiful place filled with history, culture and families. 

As days go by there seems to be no end to the human suffering from Friday's earthquake and tsunami and the ongoing danger this week from the damaged nuclear power stations. The Japanese were very prepared for earthquakes, but no amount of planning or preventative action could have kept the wall of water from doing its damage. It's sobering and sad; I spend time every day just thinking about Japan and saying a prayer.

I took lots of photos; I'll try to share here or on Facebook in the next few weeks.

NHK World Television (English)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just Eat Organic - A Rap With Real Information

No need to panic - just eat organic. And support your local farmer!

Cut out unnecessary chemicals - change the stuff you eat and protect your health and the health of your children, and theirs.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Mantra

I just finished this book - a gift from daughter #2 at Christmas. It's a good read, but it's more than that. The story of one family's year of eating locally and growing much of their own food is powerful. The information that's also included on just what's happening to our farms, foods, agriculture and health is even more compelling - and alarming.

I have always been a bit of a food snob, and I'm certainly aware that what I eat has a direct affect on my health. I made my own baby food and bread decades before it was trendy. I cook from scratch - no mixes for me, and I don't buy processed foods. I was a vegetarian for more than 10 years, and even now I don't eat much meat except for poultry. I garden organically. And I refuse to eat food additives, colors and flavor enhancers.

What I learned from this book is how much more is going on behind the scenes than I ever imagined. I had a good idea that agribusiness was king and putting pressure on sustainable farms and organic operations, but I learned a lot more about the "new" way of farming and the tie in to chemical companies ... and it's not pretty.

Vandana Shiva: The Future of Food-Part 1

You are what you eat ... in the case of GE foods, Frankenstein looks tame.
Who the heck gave Monsanto the right to own and control seed as a patented commodity?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Study: Reading Could Bounce Back - Regional News - Berks Story - WFMZ Allentown

This week Reading, PA made television news ... on the regional station, with this profile (including a family member who was interviewed after her appearance on a panel discussion) and by NBC News, profiled in a feature with Tom Brokaw.

Study: Reading Could Bounce Back - Regional News - Berks Story - WFMZ Allentown

M is for March, Maple, Mud Season and Musing ...

copyright lee hansen 2010 all rights reserved
So many things happening, so much to do. March always catches me a bit unprepared for the chores and changes it brings. There are taxes to finish and file, gardens to clean up and mulch,  holidays to celebrate and new art to be made before the official first day of Spring.

In Pennsylvania, the weather at the beginning of the month might still be wintry, but by St. Patrick's Day the grass is green and the snow piles are long gone. The garden is ready for the first peas to be planted, crocus flowers are blooming and daffodils are almost bursting with their welcome bright cheer.  Overwintering birds are looking for love, claiming spots to build nests and singing from the tops of the trees. The first of the returning south-migrating flocks are passing through the yard on their way to back Canada and New England.

Life's not so different at the house in Vermont, except that early March is the season of major snow and ice melt,  just before Vermont's fifth season - mud season. In Vermont if you don't drive a 4WD truck or a car with high clearance (and a come-along in the trunk) your best bet is to avoid back roads until everything dries out.  Of course if you do live on a dirt road that's prone to becoming a quagmire in early spring you probably own the right type of vehicle and you know how to drive in and out without a problem, no matter how much mud and snow might be hiding around the bend.

Today as I write it's been raining steadily in Rutland county for 12 hours. The icy driveway that trapped me at home for two days last week along with sub-zero temperatures is clear again down to the gravel. The huge snow banks along the driveway are starting to retreat and the thermometer says it's 50 degrees - nearly the same weather as at home in Pennsylvania today. As the next few weeks go by, the differences in the weather will diminish until it's tomato planting time at both houses.

For now, I can see bare ground at the base of the trees in the front yard. There's snow forecast for the north country tonight, with a mix expected here, then above freezing weather all week during the day.  Maple season is starting. No more need for my roof rake this year ... welcome Spring.

Monday, February 28, 2011

New Friends at the Alpaca Farm

Saturday's overnight snowfall ended before noon on Sunday, so we were able to get out to Brandon for Art in the Snow. We made a very special trip to the Alpaca Farm to introduce Anya to these furry cuties. She has a small alpaca finger puppet she loves to play with, so we brought him along to meet his lifesize cousins, too.

Boot Girl, Just Like Her Oma ... and Her Mama

Anya has finally outgrown the soft soled elfin shoes she's been wearing since fall. She's now walking tall in her very special Timberland boots - a gift for her birthday in November. Just perfect for Vermont hikes in winter, spring, summer or fall.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Piano Fun - Another Reason to Take the Stairs!

I almost always choose the stairs over the escalator or elevator. Here's just one more reason to use the steps.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Second Stop of Winter Dew Tour Kicks Off In Killington

Second Stop of Winter Dew Tour Kicks Off In Killington

Best boarders are in town this weekend ... tune in for the live NBC broadcast on Saturday for the freeski pipe finals from 4:30-6 p.m. ET and Sunday from 4-6 p.m. for the snowboard slope finals.

HOMEGROWN REVOLUTION - Radical Change Taking Root

Another person who advocates my mantra: rip out the lawn and plant food and flowers!

Better yet, build an Eco-Friendly Tiny Home, save $$ and keep your carbon footprint small.