Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Rare Way of Life

Last night I had the pleasure of performing with the Pamlico Community Band.
We live in Pamlico County, NC. It's a small county, and a poor county. Its population is about 13,000. A few wealthy retirement communities with sailboats and big houses snuggle along its watery edges, but otherwise it's rural and rather poor. Surprisingly though, the county has a community band!
I sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. It was fun, and I'm so glad they asked me to do it. The song is set extremely low  for a soprano (singers, I had to do a G-flat below middle C), and I'm not used to being accompanied by a 50-piece band, but it went well.
Oriental's Old Theater is a rare place -- an old building rescued by a few devoted people in the community and faithfully used for all manner of artistic events. Seating allows only about 250 people. It's a small, intimate venue.
But Oriental (and Pamlico County) is a small intimate place.
I was struck last night by the people around me. The place was packed, with standing room in the back. I'd guess that I knew about 75% of them, just to look at their faces -- people I see regularly at the local grocery, or at the farmers' market, or the Bean, or at other local events, or church gatherings, or just walking or biking around town. Quite a few, of course, were personal friends. But all the dozens of others are that rare group these days: neighbors.
I live in a place where neighbors know each other. Not by name. Not by which house we own. We recognize each other around town. We acknowledge that we share the same streets, the same stores, watering holes, parks. We nod in familiarity. But included in being neighbors is an element of trust. I know you, we think, as we see each other. I trust you. In other words, You are not a stranger.
I live in a place where I can go to a concert three doors down from my house, look out from the stage, and know that 75% of the people there are not strangers. I've seen them dozens of times before. Although we may never be on a first-name basis, we're friendly and greet each other. I ask about their dog. They ask how Adam's boat-work is going. I love being surrounded by people who are not strangers. It feels a little closer to the New Earth.
Small town life like this is the stuff of a 1950's movie, but in reality it's rare in American life today. If you live in a town of 1000 people or fewer, you probably are experiencing it. If you live in a town or city of 5000 or more, you may think you have a sense of "small community," but it's really just a fragment of your community -- a wedge, if you like, of people like you.
Small-town life is a treasure, and one I don't take lightly. I'm so thankful for the simple friendliness of it. I don't have Trader Joe's, World Market, Whole Foods, or Starbucks. It's a trade-off. But I think I am richer for possessing a kind of life that urban existence, with all its glitz and variety, cannot touch.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Aboard the Anne

You never know what you'll come upon while biking in Oriental. Today I found the Anne, hailing from Mystic, Connecticut.
She's an oyster boat. When I just typed her name into Google, I found quite a lot about her! You can read here, here, and here. In Mystic they have a boat parade! What a grand idea!
Well, today Miss Anne (pronounced "Annie") was visiting the town dock in Oriental.
Her skipper graciously gave me permission to take photos and to climb aboard, so I did.
She's bedecked with flags.
What a pretty pilot house ~
A sign on either side of the pilot house gives information about the old girl, built in 1884. She's looking great for a woman of such an age.
On the deck is a friendly picnic table.
Like any really good boat, she has a resident doggie. I think his name is Reeve. He's a gorgeous Golden with massive paws and a friendly bark. Reminded me of Billie the Sailor dog :)
The owner was giving a tour to a couple. I didn't want to stick around that long or invade their conversation.

I took a quick photo of the cool cabin. There's also a very comfy bunk up in the pilot house.
Don't know her destination, but glad she stopped by! Happy sailing, Anne!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

When You Live By Water ..

Sails float past unexpectedly.
Roads stick up in the air so masts can pass under.
One sign of spring here is when the sailboats -- the "cruisers" -- return in the spring. They've spent the cold winter in the Caribbean or the Keys. Now they're back, on their way north to the Chesapeake or the Cape.
So we have a boat in the anchorage, the first in months.
I stood on the end of the dinghy dock to photograph that boat out there. Then I turned to walk back to the road. And as I came to the end of the dinghy dock, I noticed this: a sandal, pegged to the dock with a big nail. What in the world?!
So ... I turned to keep walking, but then my brain, being a rather weird brain, wondered this: if one sandal was nailed on one side of the dock, then maybe ...?
Oh yes. On the other side was its mate. And in a bizarre way, it was comforting to know that some other brain in the world is as nutty as mine.
And there are boats in the harbor, sailboats, powerboats.
His and Her powerboats? That doesn't quite seem like it would work. Two couples with twin boats? I guess some people get along well enough to travel that way!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Comfortable Shape

If you put 20 people into a room with 20 folding chairs stacked, leaning against one wall, and you ask the people to sit down, what will they do?

They'll form a circle. You won't find them lining the chairs against the flat walls, sitting in a square. People don't do that unless forced to. As a matter of fact, if a group of people entered a room and found all the seating was against the 4 walls (picture an awkward wedding reception type situation), they would move the chairs away from the walls. They'd likely make a circle. At the very least, they will soften the angular shape of the room, placing the chairs in a curve.

People like circles for living. They don't like squares and hard angles. Think of your own house -- do you place furniture into the middle of the corners to soften them? Have you ever put a bed, couch, chair, or "corner" hutch into a corner, to soften the harsh angle and make the room more of a ... circle?

Why do we have square rooms? Because we have square houses. Why do we have square houses? Because we plane lumber to flat boards with blunt ends. Wood works well that way -- it's hard to form wooden boards into curved structures.

So, we humans live in houses shaped uncomfortably for us, because we build with wood.

Enter:  The Cob House!

Building with cob is less like building, and more like sculpting. You sculpt your house from the ground up. Because it's sculpting, it's creative; it's fun. (Said from somebody who hasn't done it yet! But so I've heard cob home owners say.) Cob can be shaped any way you want it. There are thousands of square cob houses. You can do square if you like.

But a round cob house has a special attraction to me. I can't wait to live in a round cob house. I've read that without the wasted corner spaces, round cob actually feels larger. Round cob is a warm, welcoming, peaceful space.
Cob builders are interested in community; they're more interested in what happens in the house, than the house itself. They build a space to accommodate what will happen there.
Cob interiors often have more than round walls. They have round built-in seating, sculpted during construction, round windows, gentle archways.
Sculpted ovens are common, and lots of windows, which are easily sculpted into the cob walls as construction goes up -- put the piece of glass in, and form the cob around it!
Here's a cob kitchen with fabulous views. Shelving can also be built into the cob as you go along -- all the shelving you want! Book shelves, kitchen shelves, niches. You can even put a vase directly into your cob (at an angle) for a spot on your wall to insert flowers! Gone are expensive, space-wasting cabinets.
Soft, round shapes abound in cob.
I say all this for various reasons -- some of you simply haven't heard of cob before, and these thoughts about comfortable shapes for living are new to you.
But there might be others who don't have a home. Perhaps you think you can never own a home -- a mortgage is too overwhelming. You're too old to begin home ownership. You can't afford to build a conventional home.
Look into cob. Go online and watch videos. Granted, many of the folks 'into" cob building are kind of wacko, greenie, new-agey people, but they are sincere, hard-working, and have some great ideas. And if you can buy or borrow a little piece of land, you can build your own house (yes ... you!) for only a few thousand dollars. Paid for. Made to order for you. Creative and beautiful. Comfortable and amazingly energy efficient. The clay walls hold solar heat collected during the day and release it at night, keeping temperatures more constant.
A cob house is our dream. Whether that dream will ever become reality in this life remains to be seen. But it's a lovely dream, and I'm enjoying it! What do you think of cob?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Signs of Spring

When the trees begin doing this, I feel safe to commit my heart to springtime.
My neighbor has a lovely patch of pansies planted where some old pine trunks were removed.

This very moment, the ornamental pear trees are bursting in clouds of white.

The prettiest place by far for pear trees is Fulcher's Horse Farm, near Oriental.
Isn't it stunning?
It really looks like something from a movie set. Tara? The Ponderosa?

I've shared these trees before in the autumn when they turn vibrant purple/red.
And here's a slice of Neuse sky for you ~

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Bee Box Conversion

I came home from the farmer's market around noon to find Adam deep into serious bee work.
After years of having two shapes of bee boxes, he's decided to convert all his Warre hives (the skinny ones with the little roofs) into Langstroth hives (the others).
He also decided to paint the hives boxes, for which effort he enlisted the help of the resident artist. Julia wasn't very enthusiastic, but she did help. They chose red. Adam built these new Langstroth boxes this morning.
This will be his new standard size bee box -- not a square, like the Warre, and not 10 frames wide like the big Langstroth. These have 8 frames across.
He also made another Nuc box. It's always useful to have Nuc boxes in case you need/want to start a new hive.
Adam's goal is not to sell honey. Lots of people do that. He wants to sell bees and queens, so he must become good at splitting hives, manipulating frames of bees, spotting queen cells, forcing queen cells, etc. There's an increasing demand for bees, and the genetics of his bees is very good.
Anywho ...
Below you see the Warre hive on the right. The new Langstroth hive is red. If you look closely you can see a flat red board on top of it with the center cut out in a square. After this photo was taken, Adam lifted the 3 Warre boxes and put them atop the red Langstroth box. For this, the angry bees made him pay with four stings.
Over the winter the bees move up in the hive (for warmth; heat rises). So the bees are in the two top Warre boxes. In summer the bees move down in the hive. They will move down into the red box since it's on the bottom. In a couple of weeks, after the hive has drawn comb in the red box, he'll remove the top Warre box, full of honey. He'll feed that back to the hive, but remove the box to squeeze them downward. Eventually he'll transition the whole hive into Langstroth boxes.
Phew! That's a lot of info!
Meanwhile, on the back porch, the radishes are coming along.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Growing Things

Our yard right now:
Camellia, pink:
and red ~
A plant I bought last fall. I forget its name.
The gardenia is thriving.
My mums are coming back well.
Oregano looks good.
And mint ~
And thyme ~
Radishes are up, in spite of a bunny rabbit churning the dirt up one night.
I've put radishes, spinach, beans, and lettuce in the little garden bed, and I simply can't have a bunny digging it all up each night. So I looked online. I put egg shells in the bed, plus hot pepper flakes and a hefty sprinkling of my soap slivers. All of that should be stinky enough to keep Peter Rabbit out of the garden ... I hope. It worked last night, anyway!