Monday, September 28, 2015

The Magical Moon

The Moon on Sunday evening and early Monday morning allowed for a spectacular sight enjoyed by night owls all over the Northern Hemisphere. Due to the alignment of the Earth, which was directly between the sun and moon, the Moon passed into Earth’s shadow creating a total lunar eclipse. This had been highly anticipated and promoted by the media because this eclipse was the final in what is called a lunar tetrad. A tetrad is a succession of four lunar eclipses in row with six full moons between them. The first eclipse in the ongoing series of four occurred on the night of April 14-15, 2014, the second was October 7-8, 2014, the third was April 4-5, 2015. The fourth, called the ‘Blood Moon’ because it is the last in the tetrad, fell on the night of September 27-28 2015. A rather romantic explanation infers the splendid color came from the light of all the Earth’s sunrises and sunsets falling upon the face of the moon mid-eclipse.

In addition to the eclipse, stargazers were treated to the glorious show of moonlight, which occurs when the moon is at its closest point to Earth in its orbit. This position makes it appear unusually large and bright, providing light as though it were daytime. It is the full moon occurring most closely to the Autumn Equinox (September twenty third) which also makes it special on the lunar calendar.

Throughout history Moons have had names and this one is often called the ‘Hunter’s Moon‘… and it most certainly provides enough light for hunting. Traditionally, this is also called the ‘Harvest Moon’ as it provided extra light to allow farmers more time to harvest their crops.

In medieval times the Celts would use the Harvest Moon to mark the time before Samhain (Halloween) and considered it a blessing. Following crop collection ritualistic singing, dancing and drinking were performed to protect individuals from lurking evil, for this Moon is the last before Halloween. Native American tribes called it the ‘Full Corn Moon’ and the Chinese referred to it as the ‘Chrysanthemum Moon’ because of the of the change in color. In Italy it was known as the ‘Wine Moon’ for it signaled the time grapes are plump and ready for collection. The Norse considered it the most powerful moon of the year and planned expansion during this time.

Early Monday morning the Moon was so bright, so beautiful, and so magical that the wonder of it was spellbinding… one can only imagine a world before electricity when moonlight was enchanting. Go outside in the wee hours of the morning and gaze upon it before it begins to wane… it is indeed memorable.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Arrival of Autumn

As you read the paper, Autumn will have arrived gently at half past three Wednesday morning. The rains over the weekend, although accompanied by window-rattling thunder and lightning to match, were a pleasant surprise Mother Nature gave the garden this year. It is but rarely we have daytime rains which arrive intermittently in short succession.

When contemplating the morning temperatures of late, the word perfection comes to mind and Fall seems idyllically romantic when making such a fine appearance. Everything about this season is a sensual feast for the senses with the sight of changing leaves absolutely thrilling. As they complete their color change, they begin to fall, delicately swirling to the ground in a dance of drifting patterns. Finally as they accumulate in colorful heaps, they are a joy to walk through…crackling and swishing with the sudden snap of the occasional acorn hidden beneath them. For an outdoor walk, this season has no match.

As one continues cleans the garden, tidying up the confusion of overgrowth, the bones of the garden are visible once again and in viewing it, one immediately has an idea or two for next year. And as sagging summer bloomers are cut back, one may also see the tiny tips of the early spring bulbs emerging. They are early reminders the garden is perpetual and ever-evolving. They are the promise that the season may be over, but there is always another year resting beneath the ground, sleeping until spring.

The herbs may be cut back now to allow the new growth appearing at their bases to get light and air… perhaps another small harvest is possible should we have a late freeze. Collect the seeds of favorite annuals to share with gardening friends and through this gesture your garden will be present in other gardens as well. For the price of a dinner out, bulbs may be purchased and planted now to provide delightful surprises next spring. Possibly take a drive to find an orchard with apples to spare… there seems to be a bumper crop this year and often the owner is happy to allow you to ‘pick you own’ for a small price.

Some evening this week brew a cup of tea, grab a sweater, and wander outside, basking in the sweet mellow feel of the summer's end. If you listen carefully, you can hear the leaves dancing with the breezes before breaking free and slowly drifting to collect in crisp madness on the lawn. Enjoy… for Fall is a fabulous season!
*Photo By Catherine Dougherty

Friday, September 18, 2015

Kids Make Life Interesting

Since it is National Twin week, I recalled a story about my twins First Holy Communion... and yes, it really happened.
My twins Dolan and Marshall were seven at their First Holy Communion... the photo shows them as sweet baby Catholics. Of course, things did not go smoothly...
As I was trying to handle a squirming three year old and a baby, Patrick, their five year old brother had slipped out of the pew to join them at the Alter. As Michael and I looked on in horror,  he casually took Communion with them. He quietly got back in the pew and Michael hissed he wasn't allowed to have the host without taking the classes first, so he spit it out in my hand. I put it in my pocket... this is the consecrated Body of Christ and probably didn't belong there.
Michael was convinced it was some sort of sin so we told the priest after Mass what had happened. He told me the kids all looked alike to him so he was not responsible for giving Patrick the host. Then he asked 'Where is it?'. I replied 'In my pocket'. He looked horrified and snapped his fingers, 'Give it to me'. (It was damp and lint covered by now but apparently you can't just put the 'body of Christ' in your pocket.) He looked at it for a moment... then popped it in his mouth. I thought if a priest could dislike anyone it was probably us! 

The year before the twins had been in the procession at Grandpa Dougherty's funeral... carrying lit candles. Dolan was behind Marshall in the procession and was fascinated with his candle... he kept swirling and bobbing it around an inch or so from Marshall's hair! Good Lord!! I kept holding my breath with each motion of the flickering candle praying my son's hair would not ignite in front of the whole family.
**Following these events, even thinking about going to Mass gave me anxiety. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Deep Cleaning~ Preparing for Autumn

The Final Result... Ready for Winter Reading!

There is nothing quite like deep cleaning to give the house a facelift. Granted it is back-breaking work, but with the proper mindset and tools it provides and almost Zen feeling. Sunday we began the process on the porch. A bowl of sudsy soapy water with a little Ammonia, Windex, Swifter's (a whole box) and paper towels, wash rags and kitchen towels to scrub then dry most surfaces.

Windows were washed of summer wind-blown grit, furniture dusted and lemon oiled, walls were wiped free of spider webs and dust, baseboards were scrubbed, the party frig defrosted. And lastly the whole place was vacuumed three times.
It looks and feels so GOOD!!

And I made a reading nook for Julia in the laundry room. Little Evans loves looking out the window there to see what is happening on the lower level of the garden. The animal antics around the pond are always interesting.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Pack Rat, the Snake, and the Shotgun~ a true tale

The Pack Rat Saga
When we moved to the county in 1975, I had no idea of the wildlife we would soon encounter. I grew up in the city where the worst problem home owners encountered was the occasional roach infestation and possibly a mouse or two every few years. Disney had educated me and I thought Bambi and Thumper were adorable… I could hardly wait since real wildlife would be equally endearing.

Our house was an ancient 5 room cinder block relic that had no maintenance whatsoever in years so there were holes everywhere in the old place. I was soon to have an awakening, an education, and a crash course in rural living.

In late Summer of 1977 we had installed our hot water tank under the counter in the kitchen and hooking it up to the sink had left a substantial hole from hell, going God knows where deep in the darkest recesses under the house. After the installation I had noticed our dogs seemed to be consuming an unusual amount of food each week and we were finally met with an explanation. My 9 year old son casually mentioned he couldn’t put away his clothes because they wouldn’t fit in the drawers because of the dog food there. What? I asked how long the food had been there he said ‘weeks’. I ran to the drawer and yes, there was at least 20 pounds of it, and also green army men, blue string, part of a pillow, and my lost earring! I asked my neighbor about it and was told we had a pack rat.

I had never heard of one so I went to the library and looked them up… they were truly adorable with a sweet face and large brown eyes. I didn’t want to kill it so maybe we could just put the food up at night… and so we did. A week later I opened the bottom drawer of my stove and was met with three sets of adorable eyes looking up at me… pack rat babies lived in my kitchen! We scooped them up in a box and took them to the North field to release them. 

Suddenly there was no choice, something had to be done about it… and thus the war began. I overcame my emotions and put out poison and although I never saw one dead, I felt we had won.

Later in the month we picked Summer pears and put them in a large bowl in the kitchen… they began disappearing. As we were visiting with city friends who had come out to see us one evening, we saw the pack rat, balancing a pear on his head, slowly walking along the floor in front of the sink. As we sat in stunned silence, he disappeared behind the stove with it. I was mortified and explained to our friends the children’s pet had apparently gotten out of its cage. Thus war raged on... more poison was purchased

During this time frame Michael Babysat
I had scheduled a appointment to have my hair cut and decided Michael could baby sit… after all what could go wrong in an hour. The youngest children were three month old Patrick and the two and a half year old twins so I got the babies down for a nap and figured everything would be okay… Michael could just sit and ‘chill‘, which in 1977 was a fairly easy thing to do.

I got a strange anxious feeling as I drove home so I sped… as parked the pickup, I heard a horrifying gun blast from inside the house. My heart fell and I rushed to the house to find the kitchen looking like it had been ransacked… the sink cabinet door was off its hinges, the garbage can from under the sink had been dumped, garbage was all over the floor, the screen door to the back porch was held open with a brick and Michael, looking positively nuts, was holding a smoking 410 shotgun!

Apparently Michael heard horrific screaming from under the sink so he opened the door and a large bull snake rolled out, coiled around the pack rat who was shrieking in terror.

Thinking fast, (?) Michael beat the snake on the head with a rolling pin so he would drop the pack rat, which it did. The problem was solved, the rat was dead so he grabbed it, put it in a paper sack, and ran to toss it over the fence into the road. Maybe someone would run over the sack. He ran back in the house to see the snake disappearing into an open cinder block left over from where we had recently installed the screen door. He grabbed the shotgun, shoved it in the cinder block and pulled the trigger not realizing it would sound like a canon!

I felt rather bad about the strangulation death by the snake, but having the rat dead was a plus so we went to check the road to make sure. The sack had a hole eaten in the bottom of it… it was empty. Good grief! We decided surely the snake was dead and decomposing in the wall might get rather smelly so we shoved rocks in the hole and Michael tacked a board over it until we could get to town to buy a bag of cement… and a rat trap.

The rat came home and two nights later and I saw him in the hallway. He had encountered the trap and it had crushed his nose before he slipped out of it. He was stumbling towards me making muffled me-heh-me-wahne growls. I screamed and once again Michael came to the rescue. I told him to put down the gun…in no uncertain terms could he shoot it in the house again, so he hit the rat with a baseball bat rendering it unconscious. My scream and the scuffle woke all three children and the baby who began wailing. The kids got up in time to see Michael shoving something from the hallway into a sack. He went outside with the 410 and shot and shot the sack as the poor kids tried to watch from the window. I told the children there was nothing in the sack, he was just target practicing at three in the morning. *Kids will believe anything, but they probably need therapy.