Friday, November 16, 2012

Old Book

On a blustery Saturday afternoon, in an unheated flea market, I found an old book that looked promising. It was on a shelf titled "Maine Authors." The title: The Old Ashburn Place. The author: Margaret Flint. The setting: a homestead in Maine. The novel: A $10,000 prize winner.Would you buy it? Would you buy it if it were about your own locality?

I am always looking for strong and charming descriptions of home.

It really doesn't matter that this storyline is odd and awkwardly told. It is one week from Christmas on one page and on the next, it is spring. On one page a character is wailing and pacing and on the next she's been killed in a wreck. And so the reader lurches through a lifetime in a mere 299 pages.  

Sometimes this sort of writing can mean that the author is unwilling to "go there" or doesn't know how to tell the truly difficult bits — death, sorrow, even joy. So logical progression is definitely not the book's strong point. Not to mention that this novel is about a betrayal because of a love affair, yet it is not compellingly told. I do not make a habit of reading about love affairs, but really it is tame... very... and in the old manner... or perhaps the current manner... the woman is all to blame and the man is nearly blameless. (The use of ellipses often means that this writer herself doesn't know how to "go there.") 

I'm going to share a few paragraphs that I enjoyed since there were moments when I knew that Margaret was "writing Maine." That and it doesn't take too much to make me happy.

The house, as it had been developed by alterations and additions throughout the years, was typical of the Maine countryside—low-posted, with two dormer windows on the front, facing east, a broad doorway with fanlights at the sides and above, and a central chimney to serve the main part of the dwelling. On either side of the front door were two small, twelve-paned windows, and there were two more below and one above on each gabled end. You could see at a glance that the Ashburn place had good rooms upstairs, under that broad and gently sloping roof. There was a L running back at right angles to the house, and as high as the house part way, then dropping off to a low, narrow, covered passage which connected the milk room and woodshed with the barn. You could walk from the parlor clear to the cattle tie-up without going outdoors, which was a comfort in bad weather. 

It was fall again—time for getting in the corn and apples and garden truck, time for cutting the hemlock banking for the house, for putting in the storm windows, for unpacking the woolens, time for tightening up generally, anticipating the cold to come, time for fires at night.
We still see some of the old farmhouses wearing hemlock bankings or fir boughs around the foundation to keep in the heat. I usually bank my home with snow once it falls deep enough.

Dinner tasted good. It was a sort of pick-up meal, since Elsie had been baking all the morning, and scrubbing, and cleaning up generally. They had some baked potatoes, and fried salt pork, and slabs of cheese, a dish of mustard pickle, fresh apple sauce, sliced bread, and a big plate of warm, sugared doughnuts, and of course the pot of strong, bitter tea.
That storeroom was always a beautiful sight in the winter, packed full with the fruits of fields and orchard—cabbages, root-crops, apples; barrels of salt pork and of cider; crocks of pickles and mincemeat; two swing-shelves suspended from the overhead rafters and laden with glass jars and jelly tumblers, all neatly labeled and dated. 
Can't go wrong with descriptions of food! ☺

The blaze of autumn glory that had been running like fire over the hills for weeks past was now rather dimmed; its smoky richness lay smouldering, drowned in the melting frost as the sun penetrated the woods and underbrush... The horse was climbing steadily, and from the hilltop Charlie looked off toward the northwest where Mount Washington was a pale blue shape clean cut against a paler sky.
You could see clear to Mount Washington, and follow the course of the river for miles. As you got closer to Stafford's place, and turned to look back, that view would hit you right in the eye. It was almost too much to believe... "Nice view ye got here."
"Think so?" Stafford had said. "Well, folks say 'tis. Can't say I ever noticed it."
Charlie had got the onions and gone home. But he got more than onions. He had seen so plainly just how much a man depended on his own state of mind for enjoyment in life. Stafford could have had that good feeling of exaltation any day in the week by just opening his eyes to the view, but he'd never done it. And his doing it wouldn't have hurt the onion crop a bit either!
Good use of local landmarks — from my home and on a hilltop, Mount Washington lies due west. Like Stafford, can't say that I always pay notice.
One rainy day he took his tools and went down the road to mend a break in the fence. There were usually about a dozen such fiddlin' jobs waiting for a rainy day, when it was too wet to work in the fields. The softly drizzling rain was nice to be out in, and there was something different, intimate, about the chirp of the birds and the rustle of water-laden leaves. Why couldn't a man just grow roots, and so be at peace? Or like the animals, run nature's course and not keep tearing his shirt over it? Look at all the little lives and homes, all around him, beautiful, entire, and clean. It seemed to take a man, with his notions about advancement and civilization, to step in and cover things with smut. Man's dirty cities—man's dirty machinery—man's dirty morals.
At least our hero has the good sense to be ashamed.

So my dollar spent on a book published in 1935 and long fallen from favor, turned out to be a little blessing after all.

Have a lovely Friday...

Love Vee

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More About Vanilla

Two weeks ago, I discussed making vanilla *here.* There were many wonderful comments that day with lots of terrific ideas. One was the following...

Vanilla sugar! Mildred of Maple Lane mentioned it and then, when I couldn't find a link at her blog, she sent me *this one*. Yes, I am highly suggestible. Please mention nothing about jumping from a bridge. 

So now I have a batch of vanilla sugar going; I'll let you know if it's worth the bean and the effort in two weeks. My batch of vanilla is looking fantastic, getting darker every day, so I know that it will be ready in time for Christmas baking, IF I do any Christmas baking.

Another thing, I froze the leftover vanilla beans. Not good. Not good at all. Neither freeze nor refrigerate vanilla beans. Keep them in sealed glass jar in a cool, dark place. Now I need another bottle of vodka to rescue my frozen beans.

Love Vee

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Update on Sam

Thank you so very much for all your good thoughts and prayers for Sam. He spent an extra night in the hospital this time because of pain levels, though he is waking in his own bed this morning as did his mom who spent those three nights in the hospital with him.

We were there last evening when he suggested that we all play a game of Old Maid. Let's just say that he and I should never attempt Poker. He's so cute and funny: "I have a very nice card right there on the left." "No, no, not that one." "I don't have the Old Maid. Really I don't." Doesn't it just seem wrong to break a leg and then get stuck with the Old Maid, too?

Closing comments today so that you may read and scoot. You've done so much already.

A reminder to keep visiting at Sand Flat Farm to see where Vickie and Tony went after they left us. You'll love the photography and the beauty of a New England autumn.

Love Vee

Monday, November 12, 2012


That's how the weekend went...

What began in bike rides, walks, and Hide 'n Seek games all Saturday afternoon ended with my grandson's breaking his leg again Saturday evening. (You may remember that he first broke it last March.) Sometimes life is just plain hard. The very thing that was supposed to be the cure turned out to be the cause this time. One of the screws that was used to put the first break back together caused the second break — nearly all the way through the bone and just below the old break. I certainly hope that those doctors know what they're doing. (Sometimes a gal has her doubts.) This time they've used shorter screws and more of them.

For years the pastor used to preach an ongoing message about how everyone is connected in the Body of Christ. I can tell you what you already know, when one person in the family is hurting, the entire family is hurting. Poor little brother is so somber and sad. He couldn't give it words, but agreed with ours..."You are sad that Sam broke his leg" and he whispered, "again." Sigh.

So the little guy and his family start over from scratch. Did I already say that sometimes life is hard? Yes, oh yes, we appreciate any and all prayers on his behalf.

Love Vee

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Video Tribute to Veterans

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. ~John Stuart Mill

Believe it or not, this was played in church this morning. I found it a rousing tribute.

May God bless our Veterans!

Love Vee