Falling

I know this brief New England heatwave has been uncomfortable (understatement) for a lot of people.
But dayam, it turned the crisp September pond into bathtub August, and it gave a few lucky people a chance to relive the summer that wasn’t. My neighbor and I spent more time in the water in one week of fall than we did in July and August combined.
All good things end. I swam last night at midnight beneath a DreamWorks moon, just as the wind picked up and began sweeping the humidity away. I stood on the dock with arms outspread and let that wind flow across my skin, wishing I could bottle up the moment and trot it out in December. Or January. Or March.
I slept with the sound of acorns slamming onto our metal roof and pelting my dad’s new car.
This morning, I walked 3 miles rather than diving immediately into the pond. There were hardly any gnats bouncing off my lips, a sure sign of fall. It’s strange how so many leaves seem to be falling without first changing color.
The water will be a bit cooler every day now, until it gets to where I can’t make myself step off the dock. Until then, I’ll swim the magical waters and close my eyes and make memories.
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Midnight Marauders

We here in the boonies know enough to put our bird feeders away for the summer, because bears will lay waste to them. But a few of us set them out by day and take them in at night, which works well as long as we actually follow the plan and bring them in at night.
 
Yesterday, I hung the feeder in the center of my fenced garden. Last night, I forgot to bring it in.
 
Around midnight, there was a crash. Then there was another crash. Of course I immediately remembered the bird feeder and flew out of bed, down the stairs, grabbed a flashlight, out the door in my birthday suit (plus muck boots, of course)… at which point I sorta crept past the cars in the driveway and shined my weak little beam onto the garden, where I could just make out the bird feeder swinging back and forth.
 
Then I saw three sets of eyes looking at me – one atop the shed, one atop the side of the pipe building that surrounds my garden, and one atop the bird feeder.
 
Okay. Not bear.
 
So I walked up to the garden, finally getting close enough to see the masked faces and disappointed eyes. Two of the raccoons left immediately. The third sat in the watermelon vines trying to look invisible.
 
I said, “I think you should leave now.”
 
He got up and walked slowly down the edge of the raised beds, climbed up the box wire, and was gone.
 
I took the feeder down and shoved it in the kitchen. It’ll go back out this morning, and, God willing, I’ll remember to take it in tonight.

My Brain—Where is my Brain?

My brain is going.

I was supposed to make rolls and cookies for my book club’s party and cookie swap yesterday at noon. I meant to do this on Sunday since I had a dentist appointment yesterday, but I completely forgot.

So, I head out the door at 7:30 and go to the dentist, thinking I’ll be a slacker and pick up rolls at the supermarket (sacrilege!) and maybe even buy cookies (Noooooo!).

Instead, I completely space the party until I’m home, thinking I have hours until my first massage, and yay! Maybe I’ll write. Sit down at the computer for about 12 seconds, long enough to read a message about the party…

SHIT!!!!!

It’s after 10. I don’t exactly live near any grocery stores. So I start making bread, fully aware that 90 minutes (allowing travel time to the party) ain’t gonna cut it. There’s no butter. Okay – walnut oil, then. I double the yeast, turn the sauna up to 120, shove in the bread, and pray it rises QUICKLY.

While the bread rises, I make beef and eggplant Parmesan, because a side dish is always welcome. My kitchen looks like a bomb went off – frying splatter (from the eggplant) and flour dust and mixing bowls with bread remnants and tomato sauce and eggs and millet and more eggs all over the place. Walnuts crunch under my feet. I manage to get it mostly cleaned while the rolls rise for the second time.

Cookies?

I have about a quarter cup of brown sugar, no butter, no shortening – just oils, flour, Halloween candy, one mini-box of raisins, a spoonful of chunky peanut butter … I could toss something together. But I decide not to. I don’t want to swap cookies. I’ll eat them. Eating cookies will mean having to buy new pants before Christmas.

I don’t have a good baking dish for rolls, so I pile them up in a deep souffle dish monkey-bread style, first rolling them in walnut oil and brown sugar and walnuts and wishing I had butter. This, of course, means that they take forever to bake. I keep stabbing them with a skewer and yelling, “BAKE, damn you!” They ignore me for a long time.

In the end, I was 14 minutes late to the party. The rolls were awesome. 🙂

The Day we Bombed New Ipswich (Part Two)

Part One is available here in this incredibly hard-to-see light blue link: Part One

I want to thank everyone who read and shared and commented on Part One of this pipeline series.

Just when I begin to think that most of New Hampshire has been taken in by Kinder Morgan’s propaganda machine, thousands of citizens let me know they are smarter than that. The hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by Kinder Morgan on radio ads and television ads and payments to community leaders, augmented by the rhetoric spouted by our bought-and-paid-for elected officials, have not fooled everyone.

Governor Maggie Hassan, who uses the word NIMBY to marginalize and silence the citizens she’s sworn to serve, has shown herself to be the ultimate NIMBY. She’s happy to welcome the NED pipeline into other people’s backyards (not hers, of course) as long as she builds alliances with those who will fund her future political aspirations.

Thing is, the New Ipswich compressor station has a huge backyard. The pollution vented from this piece of real estate will travel a hundred miles with the prevailing winds.

Maybe more.

It will be in everyone’s backyards.

In Governor Hassan’s latest attempt to appease the public, she asks for “meaningful access for people” by providing more scoping meetings. These are meetings between citizens and FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that FERC is not funded by our tax dollars and does not work for us. It is funded by the fees it charges the entities it “regulates.” Therefore, in this instance, FERC works for Kinder Morgan.

FERC’s mandate is to “assist the applicant through the process,” and they’ve never met a pipeline they don’t like.

It is important to understand that We the People are not part of FERC’s mandate.

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So, below is a bit of footage of a FERC representative, filmed at the close of a scoping meeting. He sat through hours of public comment outlining environmental concerns. Sadly, he failed to hear any of it.

So, thank you, Governor Hassan, for providing “meaningful access” to more lip service while you sit on your hands and do nothing.

Meanwhile, Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen pat our heads and tell us they will FIGHT for TRANSPARENCY! It’s an intelligent-sounding word, being as it has four syllables and all. But what it means is this:

Our elected officials refuse to stand up for our rights. They will not fight for that which is just and fair. They will not bite the hand that will someday slip them PAC money if they play nicely today.

What they will do is use the latest feel-good buzzword that sounds smart and informed, but means nothing. They will make sure we have an opportunity to speak and not be listened to.

Transparency means that we will have our eyes wide open when Kinder Morgan comes to rape us.

Already, affected homeowners are being told by their insurance companies that their coverage may be dropped. They’re being told by their mortgage lenders that their mortgage may be due in full the day that pipeline appears in their backyards.

Darn NIMBY’s, complaining about nothing.

They’re just poor sports.

Right, Maggie?

Kelly?

Jeanne?

Bueller?

Do you wonder why we’re having an explosion of pipelines sprouting up all over the USA? It’s because energy providers are in a rush to extract every last puff of natural gas from the earth, damning the consequences—destabilizing our earth’s crust, increasing carcinogens and other disease-producing particles in our air, speeding up global climate change, poisoning our groundwater, devaluing affected properties . . . the list goes on.

This is because they have to hurry. There’s not much time left to cash in on this bonanza before the world realizes we have outgrown the need for fossil fuels. We have the technology to move forward with clean energy TODAY.

What we lack is infrastructure.

So why are we paying for more fossil fuel infrastructure? Remember the part where we are paying for this pipeline? Even though it is not for us? Just so Kinder Morgan can make billions, increasing the price of this natural gas by bringing it through New Hampshire to the world market?

Wouldn’t you rather see your hard-earned dollars spent on an infrastructure that benefits New Hampshire? That brings clean and sustainable energy to our homes and businesses now? Doesn’t that make more sense than having our money taken from us and used to build an export pipeline that raises our fuel prices and pollutes our land and sickens our people and depletes our national reserves?

If so, then write to your governor and your senator and your state rep. You too should experience the teeth-grinding thrill of receiving a form letter response that addresses none of your concerns. It’s eye-opening, to say the least.

It’s similar to this:

Dear Governor Hassan, I am writing to ask your help in preventing a profound ecologic and financial hardship that is about to forever change our state, and has far-reaching ramifications for the future health and safety of the entire globe.

And she answers with, “I like tennis, too!”

The state of New Hampshire IS New Ipswich’s backyard. This issue adversely affects us all. This is New Hampshire’s fight. This is the world’s fight. Do not remain silent in the face of government-sanctioned profound injustice.

Put up your dukes.

Live free or die.

The Day We Bombed New Ipswich (Part One)

If you’re not caught up in the pipeline controversy here in New Hampshire or elsewhere in the US and Canada, you’re normal. Living your life. Not concerned about things that don’t concern you. Life is busy and hard, and we don’t have time to rally around every cause.

And there have been all these commercials talking about the need for more energy, and the cleanliness of natural gas. So, of course we want it. Right?

I get that. Until people I care about were directly affected, I was pretty much ignorant, too. I have books to write and a garden to tend and massage clients who need things fixed and family illness and all manner of things that lay claim to the too-few hours of every day.

But people I knew and respected were opposed—vehemently so. Out of respect for them, I got informed. I looked at both sides. And the more I learned, the more appalled I became. Because I still thought our government looked out for us. I thought laws were in place for the protection of ordinary people like me.

I was that naive.

And I should have known better. When I was an infant and my mother was pregnant with my brother, we were caught in the fallout from our government’s perfectly safe nuclear testing in the Mojave Desert. There’s a book—The Day We Bombed Utah—that talks about what happened to so many of us that year. Every baby born in our neighborhood had some form of disability. My brother was hit the hardest with a profound intellectual disability that forever changed our lives.

So, here’s what I’ve learned about the NED project that will shortly become part of our landscape. I don’t think it is possible to stop it. Corporations have too much control over our government, including our governor and our state reps. And we have no rights.

The natural gas that will be transported through this pipe is not for us. It is destined for Nova Scotia, where it will be converted to liquid natural gas and exported. So those who believe this gas will lower their energy costs are mistaken. We will be paying world market prices, which are monumentally higher than what we pay now.

But export is good for the economy, right?

Yes and no. Fossil fuels are finite. By exporting our limited reserves in order to line the pockets of the likes of Kinder Morgan, we deplete our resources, making us more dependent on foreign energy.

Pipelines require compressor stations, and compressor stations are ginormous polluters. Their emissions do not have to be disclosed. They do not have to be monitored or managed. Compressor stations are exempt from such regulations. Recent studies of populations in the vicinity of compressor stations show increases in all manner of health issues, from constant bloody noses to cancers to still births.

New Ipswich, NH gets to host this one. Hence the title of this piece.

And this is at the “clean” end of things. The people with the misfortune of living above the Marcellus shale fields have already had their air and water and livestock poisoned, and have had to simply walk away from their now worthless properties. The properties they worked their whole lives for.

Gone.

Kinder Morgan has, in its FERC application, requested that the costs of building this pipeline be passed on to us. Yes, the people who host this pipeline also get to pay for building it, even though the gas is not for us, even though it will dramatically increase our air pollution. This will most likely come in the form of a tariff on the electric bills that the pipeline supporters think are already too high.

Kinder Morgan has to demonstrate NEED by signing on customers. Liberty Utilities has signed on. But Liberty Utilities is a subsidiary of Algonquin, and Algonquin is in partnership with Kinder Morgan in the construction of this pipeline. So what we have here is a game of smoke and mirrors, not evidence of need.

Fixing the leaks in the existing pipelines would, in fact, result in a surplus. Sadly, this is not profitable and will not be considered.

And, while we’re on the subject of leaks, there’s this: all pipelines leak. The pipeline companies have no obligation to fix them, only to identify, categorize, and monitor. Kinder Morgan agrees to do just that in its FERC application. On their website, Kinder Morgan proudly states that this is New Hampshire! Who even lives there to be polluted?

Nice.

Eminent domain will be used to take land where negotiation fails. By negotiation, I mean threat. “You take $12/linear ft. for this easement across your property, or we’ll simply take it from you.” They negotiate like Korben Dallas in The Fifth Element.

There is a very real chance that our aquifers will be altered and possibly poisoned by this process. You know—the underground rivers that supply our drinking water—the ground water that feeds our wells. Kinder Morgan will be fracking as they go. Fracking chemicals are the same ones that travel through the pipeline with the natural gas and are vented at compressor stations. You know—the chemicals that do not have to be disclosed and that cause illness and death. Those chemicals. They could easily end up in both our air and our water.

And Kinder Morgan says no problem! They’ll cover any costs of repairing and mitigating for any affected wells within 200’ of the pipeline.

Wow.

Two hundred feet.

How generous, especially in light of a history of single blastings affecting aquifers 30 miles away.

Southern NH has been deemed a “low kill zone,” so this section of the pipeline will be built using the thinnest, cheapest metal available. It will leak. It will pollute. It could explode, but that’s not a given. The pollution—that is a given.

Kinder Morgan hires locals to speak positively about the pipeline in our communities, and to comment on articles like this. You can identify them easily, because they use terms like NIMBY, and OVERREACTING, rather than showing any real grasp of the issues.

While this controversy plays out across southern New Hampshire and much of this continent, our Governor also gets on board by calling the people affected NIMBYs. One wonders why.

NIMBYs.

That’s just great, Governor Hassan. Say it again into the microphone, please. Because this is a derogatory term used by people who have no rational argument. It marginalizes the citizens who deserve to be heard. And listened to.

And protected.

So, today I say loudly, SHAME ON YOU, Governor Hassan. We all know you have political aspirations that live in Washington and not here. We all know that opposing this project would not help with that. You have sold us in exchange for your future.

We also know that, someday, you will fight an opponent who uses this day against you. And we will be there.

Part Two

Roof Raking

 

SAM_2754This winter started out easy with warm temperatures and almost no snow. Then, things changed. Roofs in the area started collapsing beneath the weight of the snow, so I figured I’d best get out there and do some preventive shoveling.

Here we are (above) with the roof partially cleared. I shoveled it from a ladder. Shoveling is easy. Dragging the ladder through nearly 4′ of snow is not easy.

Today, we cleaned the rest of the roof, and here’s what I learned.

1. When your feet go out from under you, it is possible to hang on by your fingernails, even through gloves.
2. If it’s possible to reach the peak, that’s a good place to start.
3. If it’s not possible to reach the peak on foot, try the breast stroke.
4. The snow at the peak is deeper than it looks.
5. The snow at the peak is shaped like a wave, complete with arch and hollow. I can pretend to shoot the curl. Then I can make an awesome fort. And then I can knock the fort down on my head.
6. I should put my hood up before knocking down the fort.
7. I should have brought my camera.
8. If I start high and work down, there’s a snow bank to prevent my fall.
9. If I’ve already shoveled the lower roof, there is nothing to prevent my fall.
10. Dangling from a safety harness is only fun for the first couple minutes.
11. It’s a good thing I can still climb a rope.
12. I’m Batman.
13. I gotta unclip the harness sometime.
14. Once the harness is unclipped, I can ride my shovel down the roof like a sled.
15. Wheeeeee!
16. Thank goodness for soft landings.

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Where’d my house go?

Is it Ground Hog Day?

Normally we in New Hampshire can say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” But it seems we’ve plunged into a lengthy cold spell, and every day is pretty much like the one before. It’s either snowing or about to snow, and temperatures struggle to creep into the teens by day, not quite topping 0 at night.

We plow and shovel and sand and snowblow. We go to bed with our driveways scraped clean, our walkways wide and snow-free, and our oil fills easily accessible to our intrepid delivery folks. And then we wake the next morning and start all over again.

This is Ground Hog Day. All we need is Bill Murray.

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I like snow. 😀 I especially like this light, fluffy snow that’s easily moved and doesn’t weigh down the trees and isn’t likely to cause power outages. I like wading (or sometimes swimming) through powder. I like the bite of cold on my cheeks and the warmth of good snow pants over insulated jeans over fleece liners over silk long johns. I like snowmobile boots with toe warmers stuffed inside wool socks.

And I like feeding the birds. We have blue jays alongside red bellied woodpeckers alongside cardinals and titmice and goldfinches and red polls and chickadees and downies and juncos, all happily stuffing their beaks, close enough that I can see the feather vanes and almost touch them. This never happens in the summer. The birds stay largely out of sight unless you have lots of time and patience and high-powered binoculars.

This is partly because hey – they have plenty to eat in the summer. It’s also because winter is the only time we can safely feed the birds. If we’re fool enough to leave our feeders out past tax day, the bears will come to call. They might even break a window in their eagerness to take down a full feeder, and worse, they might injure themselves.

But in the dead of winter, bears hibernate, and we get to see the birds. This year, thanks to ongoing construction, I’m using my old refrigerator as a feeder.

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The last storm was especially fun. Jim and I decided to wait until the snow ended before we plowed. We took an entire day to lounge around and be lazy, watching snow pile up while we had ourselves a movie marathon. And what happened?

Neighbors showed up to plow us out, assuming that we must be sick, or our tractor must be broken, or maybe we were dead and somebody ought to get the bodies hauled away before we started to smell bad.

Because that’s what it’s like here in New Hampshire. We look after each other. We’re family. And we’re stronger united than we are alone.