Friday, March 29, 2013

wild nights...and talking with food in our mouth

Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!
Emily Dickinson

Why do these things always seem to happen late at night?

There we were, Jonathan and I, trying to rush through a few things before we were able to go to sleep. Battie, our wonderful little adopted cat from the shelter down the street, started to meow.  It was a strange sort of meow, not sounding like her typical plaintive can I please have some breakfast in the morning or help!  I am trapped again in the basement meow we jump to respond to because otherwise she is going to get serious.

It sounded a bit, as Jonathan put it, like she was muffled.

Or, a bit like she had something in her mouth.  As I was already in bed, I felt justified..ahem...asking Jonathan to go see where she was.  Before he had a chance, she arrived in the doorway between our bedroom and the kids' playroom.  All three kids' bedrooms open into this playroom.

And...there was a tail sticking out of Battie's mouth, flicking back and forth.

And I swear, she had a look about her that I recognized.  When I looked deeply into her eyes, she seemed to be saying Holy gizzards!  Help me!  There is a mouse in my mouth!!!

I recognized this expression, because I think I saw it in Julia's eyes from way across the lacrosse field, earlier in the day.  During her lacrosse game she was passed the ball and she happened to be standing 5 feet in front of the goal, and her coach and team started shouting Shoot!  Then began a full minute, or maybe ten, of her running, stopping, considering, weaving, stopping, thinking, hesitating, and eventually throwing and getting her first ever lacrosse goal.  It was a great moment.  And so truly Julia in its process.

But in that first instant of looking at her lacrosse stick and seeing that unfortunately she had caught the ball when it headed toward her stick?  Her expression looked a lot like Battie's.

Oh dear.

Back to Battie.  I think I screamed.  I have recently buried all sorts of beheaded creatures and also just-heads of creatures due to backyard predators.  I set free the mice from under the kitchen sink into the woods.  I deal with the squirrels and groundhogs and chipmunks and moles that live in our garden shed from time to time, running across my bare hands as I reach without looking into bins.  These things never seem to happen when Jonathan is home, so I have learned to be okay with it.  I am not squeamish.  With the right amount of squinting my eyes so that I can see enough, but not too much, I can handle it.

But this was a bit more than I was ready to handle at bedtime.  A mouse.  In our cat's mouth.  Alive, for now.  But on the brink of a potentially gory death.  In the room that all three sleeping children were just off of.

I must pause in the retelling of this event to tell you that I am not one to write about my cat.  I am not even a cat person, never having had one until Battie.  But I do have to say that the serious, um, emotional/odd/neurotic behavior of this feline, gotten for our youngest who just really wanted a pet that he could carry around and not have to worry about eating his clay creations (yes, I am talking to you, Labradors) has won me over, even if it is mostly in a this cat's behavior intrigues the psychologist in me kind of way.

She and I developed an understanding one morning a few months ago.  Apparently her time spent homeless and on her own in the world had resulted in a feisty girl of the streets attitude...and a serious case of dermatitis.  Several trips to the vet later and a pretty ugly bald spot and wound on her back that would not heal due to her compulsive licking behavior (I mentioned the neuroses), we were struggling to get the wound to heal so we could...look at her again without wincing and yes, being a bit disgusted.
Undersized street cats also, we learned from Battie, have a hatred of the cone of shame that the vet had put around her neck to keep her from being able to reach the spot.  Her short stature made it catch on the floor as she walked and made it impossible for her to reach her food and water.  It was really pretty pathetic.  She retaliated by lying motionless and not eating or drinking for days, until I removed it and she would hop up, eat and drink and then bolt and hide, whereupon, before I could find her, she would lick and destroy any healing her skin had achieved.  Determined to craft my way out of another pricey trip to the vet for this free cat, I found salvation in the bottom of my fabric scrap bin.  And crafted her this out of Julia's faded and too small bathing suit top.

We had some, um, words.  Blood, mine, might of been lost.  Tears, mine too, might have been shed.  But I got her into the svelte and fashionable outfit.  Her outfit said I am an pretty pink butterfly, but her stance said I hate you.  In no time at all, she had been able to move about the house and her skin healed and her fur returned.

So we have history, she and I.  I mean really.  I sewed for her.  It's good, right?

Miss Battie, named for our favorite member of the Penderwick family, despite her hours holding vigil in the kitchen, head cocked to one side, listening to the scratching that is often coming from behind the bottom cabinets and vents of the heating system, seems to have no idea what a respectable cat does if in fact she is unfortunate enough to catch the source of the sound.  I love her all the more for her lack of whatever gene it is that guides her toward killing the mouse, despite her innate drive to try.  But I do wish that once in this predicament, she would sit still, let me walk toward her, pick her up and carry her outside whereupon, like a Pez dispenser, she would open her mouth, and drop the mouse to be off on its way to find other house outcasts.  I think they have a camp in the woods by the river.  And then we could high five over saving life and ridding our home of rodents and head happily off to bed.

This is, of course, not what she did.  Instead, she bolted once Jonathan made a move toward her and ran into Elliott's room and jumped up on his bed, sitting next to his head.  Oral tail went flick flick.  Jonathan whisper-screamed No!  Not Elliott's room!  And I hopped out of bed and ran for the kitchen for something to catch the mouse, or maybe the cat, with.  Returning with the only clean large dish I could find (it had been a long and tiring day in the garden, folks), a large saucepan, I found Jonathan in a bit of a stand off with Battie, who was now crouched in Nicholas' doorway, mouse tail still twitching.  And more of the mouse's body exposed, perhaps it was a slippery one, because she was gently holding on to it about the ears now.  Jonathan took a step toward her, not looking like he actually wanted to get her really, and she bolted into Nicholas' room and under his bed.  At which point I started giggling.

There ensued shenanigans that can only be explained by our exhaustion, efforts to be quiet, and what turns out to be a pretty intense fear on Jonathan's part of small furry creatures crawling across one's bare feet.  Battie, now running circles in and out of the kids' bedrooms, occasionally spitting out the mouse and batting it a bit with her paw, Jonathan actually tossing the large saucepan in an attempt to cover the mouse, Battie picking up the poor thing and running for cover, she was clearly having a grand ole time.  I was laughing at this point, and Jonathan turned to me.  What is so funny?

The mouse ran away from Battie and into the kids'  bathroom, Jonathan and saucepan ran in after it, and I slammed the door behind them, grabbed a piece of fabric from the cloth area and shoved it into the crack under the door.

Then, Jonathan an unfamiliar high pitched tone.  It makes me giggle to write this. Something, which he refuses to discuss with me, happened in there that involved bare skin and little feet.

Being the supportive wife that I am, I began looking about the playroom for things to help him.  I shoved a play spoon from the kitchen set under the door.  I am not sure why I chose this item.  It was within arms reach and it fit under the door.  Perhaps I thought it might be useful with the saucepan?  He could prop it up like Elmer Fudd and attach a string?  I found a discarded butterfly net, and also slid that in.

You ok?

Silence.  It's a bathroom.  It is not that big a room.

A few moments later he said, I need Battie.

I scooped Battie up and opened the door, plopped her in and shut the door quickly.

And started laughing harder, because the expression I had seen on Jonathan's face, clutching the large sauce pan in his boxers was only matched by the expression Battie gave me once plopped on the floor.

Perhaps it was the sound of a heavy duty saucepan being thrown on wooden floors over and over again.  Or an unknown woman screaming.  Or me laughing hard while crouching on the playroom floor stuffing a piece of fabric under the bathroom door.  But sure enough, Nicholas, hair standing on end and squinting, arrived in the playroom.

What are you two doing? he asked in his best preteen you guys are so weird tone.

Now, this is a 11 year old boy who just finished 5th grade health class, and is now, in his opinion, way too informed about what mommy and daddy might be doing in the middle of the night.  And he really does not want to talk about it, thank you.  But this?  What he saw upon entering the blinding light of the playroom?  It was not something he ever thought we might be up to when considering our night time activities.

For all the faint hearted, you will be happy to know that the mouse disappeared down the space between the sink drain and the bottom of the cabinet.  Jonathan left Batttie in the bathroom for a bit.  I think she may have used the litter box and had a snack of kibble.  It had been a big night.  And I snuck back and released her once Jonathan was snoring, taking pity on the scaredy cat who was again meowing, this time unmuffled with a possible meal.  But I am quite sure that that mouse is just fine.

As I left for school this morning, the neighbor's driveway was filled with three, yes three, vehicles from a local "pest management service."  Well.  We know who is getting more sleep in the neighborhood than us...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

keeping and sharing

We are still waiting on our bees.  Apparently the spring has been slow to come to the south, where we ordered our two packages of Russian honeybees from.

And this year, due to our entry into the beekeeping world, I am noticing even more than usual the emergence of Spring here, with the light green tinge that the trees take on as the leaf buds emerge and the blossoming bulb flowers and forsythia and just this weekend, the dandelions, begin to open.

We have two forsythia bushes just outside a picture window in our family room.  The other day, I noticed...activity...flying between and around the bushes.  I looked more closely and realized, that despite my weeks of beekeeping school and the seven beekeeping books that lie upon my nightstand these days...because I am following my cousin the beekeeper's advice:

Read lots of beekeeping books.  Then read them again.

That this activity, this movement, was bees!

But despite this self-education system, it took me a few minutes to actual believe that those were bees outside my picture window.  They somehow seemed too small, too uncolored, too, I don't know, unbelievable.

And really difficult to capture on camera.

You know how when you are learning about something new you start to notice things related to that topic everywhere?  The other day I was out walking with Nicholas and we noticed bee boxes in the backyard of a house just up the street from us.  And when Elliott and I took an early spring walk in the conservation land's trails a few weeks ago we spied a good sized bee yard backing up on all that urban foraging goodness.

We were at friend's for brunch last weekend and our friend asked us if we knew anything about a new beekeeping business in the city, the same place I had quietly taken my beekeeping classes for the past month or so.

We are not alone.  And the amazing thing about bees is that, unlike the plants we are putting in as we try to patiently wait for our own pollinators, they do not stay in your yard.  They are going to be foraging here, but also anywhere that they find sustenance within a 3 mile radius.

I am mindful of just what this means.  Here in an urban environment with a small area to fill with forage for them, they are going to look elsewhere, find things more attractive, or in better supply when what we have here runs thin.  And we will not be able to control what they find, what they experience, whether what they bring back to their hive boxes here is healthy, infused with pesticides or other things that might harm them, or change them in ways we would not have chosen.  We hope that on her one trip out into the world, our queen finds her drone, and not a hungry bird.

And this morning, with my three children off at school, I am thinking about how this is not all that different from parenting children.

They naturally move outward.  They desire to move outward, there is goodness out there.  Lots of it.  They get out there what we cannot provide here.  Friendships and amazing educators and grownups and experiences and activities.  And we have to trust that as they bring these things back and layer their foraging into their minds, the gain is worth the risk.

Oh.  I know it is.  But just as I wish for a kinder gentler more sustainable world for my children to see in these delicate years, I wish for the same for my soon to be bees.  And I will tend here for my own, and for those of my three mile radius neighbors.

Friday, March 22, 2013

besmirched...and also why I love our urban hardware store

oh, mud season in Maine.

When we were at out most recent parent teacher conferences I got the distinct impression that I was being tested when our son's teacher mentioned the condition of the students as they were released to their families each day.

Well, the kids have certainly been enjoying the warm weather at recess, she said.
Yes they have!  we both agreed.
It is causing quite a bit of mud on the playground.
Oh yes!  we said.  We are washing the outerwear almost every night.  
Um hmmm.  

Oh.  I get it.  We were having a standoff.  She was employing my therapeutic technique of meeting someone with silence...making them just uncomfortable enough, for just long enough...that they...spill their beans (or deepest darkest secrets in my former line of work).  She was probing how we felt about their lack of rules about playing in the mud during recess.  Were we of the pro or con parent group of getting messy.

Now, let me be clear.  I am a firm believer in messy play.  But she does not know this about me.  Clearly this teacher does not know what is going on at home right now.

Because we here at ye olde homestead?  We are maine mud season dirty.  We are, as they say here, wicked dirty.  And happily so...well, mostly.

So how do I know it is mud season here?

Well, let's see.  So far, on two separate nights, we have left the dogs out in the yard a bit too long.  Long enough for them to get into trouble.  With a white striped stinker.  And both times, because apparently we have trouble learning from past mistakes, we have let our dogs come in to the kitchen without assessing their...aroma.  Now, have you ever smelled fresh...truly fresh, like just sprayed right outside the back door fresh skunk?  It is not the smell that I would expect.  And it takes me several moments to identify it.  Apparently it needs to breathe, waft, and aromatically ooze for a bit before it takes on that odor that we all can identify.  And both times, moments after letting the dogs in for the night, noticing a smell, wondering, denying, getting angry, and accepting that they did get sprayed process occurred right in our kitchen as they wiggled their happy greeting to us in front of the kids' prepared back packs, lunch bags, and outerwear.  By the time they were rushed back outside and a temporary home had been prepared for them in the barn for the night, the smell was everywhere in the house.

Speaking from experience, there is such as thing as growing used to the smell of skunk, despite how terrible and strong it is.  The first night we were skunkified, we did our best to deodorize and fret. But it was late and we went to bed soon after, hoping that the smell would lessen...disappear during the night.  And when we woke up, it seemed it had done just that.  Poof!  Like magic.  How did we get so lucky?  So we happily went about our morning routine, took a few extra sniffs of our parkas and backpacks, loaded into the car, and headed to school.

And then it started.  Standing next to Julia as she took off her parka and stuffed it into her locker I heard it.

Ew.  What't that smell?

Oh dear.

And I must say that nothing makes you feel like a fabulous mommy more than sending your three delightful children off to school, well breakfasted and prepared for almost any kind of springishly unpredictable weather, smelling bad.   And having them return to you telling you all the ways in which the kids at school told them that they were sporting a disgusting smell.

Another sign of mud season in Maine?  How many dustpans of dirt I fill up each time I sweep the kitchen.  Yesterday's count, if you exclude the wood stove area which created one pan full of ash, was 3.  Three dustpans full of dried mud.  Also known as dirt.  In my kitchen.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that our clothes washer was stopping mid cycle, which I did my best to ignore, but sadly it began to happen more and more frequently.  Having rooted around in the coat closet for that bin that holds all of our appliance manuals, I eventually found it (but aren't you impressed that I have said bin?), and I looked up the error message we were getting.  Blocked drain.  Hmm.  So I used the machine for a few more days of course.  Denial is a very good strategy.  And then one night I went to open the machine's front loader door.  And out gushed a wave of dirty, soapy, and COLD water.  OK.  Time to get serious.

The next day I stopped by the hardware store after dropping the kids at school.  I love this place.  Their service is amazing, as for example it includes strolls out into the parking lot together to see how a paint color looks in the sunlight, and many times we leave with advice that works, without having spent anything.  I mosied about the plumbing section for a bit, looking at snakes and other things to declog, having really no idea what I was doing.  Eventually the very knowledgeable employee found me and came to my rescue.  After an amazing series of questions that helped him determine what our problem was, what he needed to know about our washer, and timing of our kitchen's most recent renovation, he took me to the piping section and told me just what we were dealing with in terms of equipment and just why what I planned was not going to fix my problem.  He sent me home with advice, suggestions...and kindly suggested that if it was easier, I could just snap a picture on my cell phone and bring it back to show him.

The advice I was given was a bit daunting.  It included a garden hose, baking soda, vinegar and a rag.  And I was to be sure I really had a good seal on the garden hose/drain hose connection.  I did what any competent and intelligent woman would do.  I decided to wait until Jonathan got home.

After the kids went to bed, I finally had a chance to tell Jonathan about the chemistry experiment we were about to undertake.  I started to dig around for a large bucket and some towels.  Jonathan, looking tired and overwhelmed suggested we try the hardware stores's first piece of advice before we undertook anything quite so...explosive.  He headed to the basement.  There were some unexplained noises for a bit.  And then, well, look at that!  He had found a carefully installed drain catch valve, meant to actually be opened and cleaned out!  Well.  Wonders never cease.

A bucket full of a terrifying ooze of dog hair, filth, and sludge later and the machine was back in business.  For now.

A few days ago we had a particularly warm day and the river bank was sunny and dripping with the melting run off.  Julia and Elliott came running to ask, can we play in the mud?  As I have said, I am a strong supporter of the messy play. I aim my children toward puddles instead of around them.  So I said sure!  

A few minutes later I wandered down the hill toward the sound of giggling.  And found them in a patch of mud created by one of the areas into which water collects and then runs in little rivulets down to the river.  They were completely covered in mud, top of head to Bog covered toes, and Elliott was sitting in a hole, filled with muddy cold water that their splashing, jumping, and kicking had created.  They were having a very good time.  And I smiled.  They looked, as Elliott's teacher had described the children at school, chocolate dipped.

I said little, and exaggerated my smile, because I could tell they were watching my face to see just how serious I had been about it being ok to get messy.  I headed back to the house to make dinner, and they followed a few moments later, not so smiley, the cold having finally reached their senses.  They sat on the back step and pulled off their wonderful and completely waterproof boots.  And poured muddy water out of them onto the ground.  Apparently they are waterproof from the outside in and from the inside out.  Good to know.

I wished for a laundry sink in the basement as I rinsed out their Bogs and placed them upside down on the woodstove's hearth.  I sent the kids, their hair and faces speckled with some really rich and lovely colored mud, up to the bathtub.  I squeezed their clothes into the kitchen sink and rinsed them and popped them straight into the washer.  I pressed the power button and wondered how long it was going to be until we needed to empty the basement drain again.

So, how do we feel about messes in our house?  Afraid of mud, things that smell now, or even things that may smell later (because believe me, those boots?  Two weeks later? They were the source of a very foul stench)?  Not us.

Despite the dripping backpacks, the torn snowpants knees, and the incessant washing and resulting clothes washer damage, I must admit.  I like my kids chocolate dipped.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


We live on just under three acres.  Though in my dreams we could live on a piece of land from which we could supply and gather our own wood to burn, this is not realistic here.

The kids have a running joke that I see firewood everywhere we go.  It is true.  After our first winter here, one spent raiding the old brush piles and splitting the logs that had been cut from fallen trees and stacked throughout the property by previous owners, not only was I an experienced and more muscular wood splitter, but I also was well aware of the need for dry burnable wood.  

I also learned it is possible and kind of satisfying to chop wood in a skirt.  

I often arrived to pick up Elliott from school at lunchtime feeling as though I had a secret. I was pretty sure that most Mommies I ran into at pickup had not spent the morning working out at the large slab of wood in the backyard, where I had created an elaborate circuit using an ax, a sledge hammer, a wedge and a very heavy duty pair of work boots...just in case. My own version of a gym membership. I fantasized about tucking the ax in my shoulder bag and bringing it along, just to see what kind of comments I might get.  

But the wood we chopped that first year was limited in supply and had not been...ideal. After watching us boiling our sap on wood from the brush pile and coughing from the resulting smoke, a friend commented on the difficulty of actually getting it to burn. "You know," he ventured, "there is probably a reason why that wood was on the brush pile and not on the woodpile."


Ever since that first winter, whenever we are out walking, I can't help noticing fallen trees.  I imagine kayak powered log drives during which I pull the precious logs -- left behind by beavers with teeth bigger than their bodies -- back to our dock.  I dread the northeast winds that blow through our property here for their potential damage to our 250 year old maple, Sylvia, but a part of me wouldn't really mind if one of the old dead ones, the Not-Sylvias, just toppled over gently and came to rest somewhere close to the kitchen door where we could sizzle it up.  Providing heat.  From our land.

I call it sizzling, a neologism that continues a long tradition in my family of making up words if you are uncomfortable or are feeling too forward about asking something. It is how the Stetsons verbally soften the blow.  My mother snitches a bite of food in the kitchen before the meal is taken to the table.  She sozzles dirty dishes in warm soapy dishwater. Here, we get scrappy when we need to scrape the bottom of the proverbial barrel.  Elliott, in an unnatural falsetto, asks for a teensie bit more dessert. Sizzling it up is my way of asking my Scarsdale-raised husband to put on his orange chaps, work gloves, goggles, hard hat and boots and risk his life and appendages to chain saw me up some heat.  

These orange chaps are donned much to the amusement of our children, but I think the chain saw terrifies all of us.  Yet it allows us to clean up our own property and turn blow downs into usable sized pieces.   I realize it is one of the many ways in which we live here that is very different from those we spend our days with.  It is work we can do ourselves that is less expensive than hiring others, and allows us to touch and tend our yard, becoming covered in its beauty. And in its messy grit.

We recently had a father drop off his children here to play.  His first comment to us as he walked from the driveway toward the house was: Every time I come here you have more firewood.  What are you doing with all of this wood?

It took me a few hours of thinking about his confusion and comment to realize what was behind his question.  He did not understand why anyone could need this much wood.  He does not use wood to warm his home.  And he certainly does not see fallen trees as warmth and nature's way of providing.

My simple answer to him should have been heat.

We use all that wood for heat.  In our home of eight fireplaces, two with wood stoves, wood heat is part of our effort to live authentically in this house.  As I look about the kitchen and the living spaces, and especially in the basement where you can see the substantial brick arches built to support the masonry work above -- the central chimney is rumored to have been constructed from 26,000 bricks -- this is a home that was designed around heat and around how to orient the occupants of each room toward it.  It feels right to us.  It also feels right to limit our use of fossil fuels as much as we can.

Last summer we purchased six cords of firewood and we pushed back the start date for firing up ye olde wood stoves for as long into the Fall as I could bear it. Then I watched anxiously as the winter months passed, and the six cords of wood dwindled, the pile getting smaller and smaller until a few weeks ago, after a week spent chiseling out the last remnants of the bottommost pieces, each of which came out with moist soil and pill bugs still attached, were gone.  Then began the hard weeks, weeks in which like a starving animal, I looked around at dead trees in our yard, making comments to Jonathan like, do you think you can get out the chain saw and sizzle me up some wood for the week?  We boiled our sap on branches and blow downs from the winter mostly.  It was all a bit too scrappy in my opinion, and a bit too cold. So this year we will order more and will do the work to stack it and eventually to carry it into the house when we need it.

And, I found, after a winter spent together in the house organized around our two wood stoves -- a magnetic force that brought us all together and into close proximity, all facing the glow like an audience at a performance of Mr. Heat Miser -- that I had come to depend on this wood heat for warmth and for centering.  As Jonathan and I discussed what to do about our dwindling supply, we laughed at ourselves and admitted that yes, we could just walk over to that box on the wall that some may call a thermostat. But I call it a direct line linked to the plug in our bank account, a plug that is pulled each time the shiny oil delivery truck appears in our driveway. 

We use our oil furnace to keep the house's temperature above pipe freezing potential, especially when we are away from home, and also to heat our hot water.  We hope to change this system some day, but for now, it is what we have.  But somehow a room with evenly distributed heat seems wrong to me these days.  That would allow the kids to be off in the corners of the room or worse yet, in their bedrooms, or for me to be off in my office instead of huddled in the kitchen close to the fire as the kids biddlebop about. Without our firewood, we would not physically experience the changes in seasons and weather, the arduous but now routinized process of bringing in wood, collecting kindling, using the bellows, sweeping up the ash. Experiences which we each have now found our place within.

Friday, March 15, 2013


We have a dangler right now in the front yard. The arborists call it a widow maker. I am doing my best to ignore this term's meaning. A large top of a tree has snapped off and become tangled and held high up in the trees by some invasive vines -- Asiatic Bittersweet according to the Maine Cooperative Extension -- that have flourished in our overgrown hedge. Our tree guy, who has also provided us with our respectable firewood piles for the past two winters, estimated $1,000 to take it down. OK. Not an option. So alternatively, we are yanking on it biweekly and hoping for one of those stiff northeast winds to bring it down so we can sizzle it up. 

We could, it seems, do something more creative with the bittersweet.

Gerri Hirshey, The New York Times
But we aren't feeling quite that adventurous.

So this dangler, hanging on for a bit too long like one of our children's first baby teeth, the one they were afraid to wiggle for fear that it might hurt or worse yet...come out, is hanging on with all its might. We hack out the bittersweet that we can reach from the ground and which may be providing the branch with some arboreal support. And yesterday Jonathan did this.

Please know, this picture makes it look like Jonathan is actually under
the branch. He is not, he is safely behind it and not in the way should
it fall. We are using our family branded abundance of caution.

Of course, as is true to our scrappy misadventurous style, he went up without any tool to cut with. So Nicholas was kind enough to deliver an actual cutting device to Jonathan in his perch. And let's not talk about the fact that, in that moment I was not able to find an appropriate saw so Nicholas delivered a carpenter's hand saw. With this ill-suited tool, Jonathan worked to release the branch from the vine's clutches.

It's still up there. Stuck. But, as we do with so much here, we are slowly working away at it. Resolving our problems ourselves as best we can, often with the wrong tools and a bit of carefully controlled danger, throwing our best efforts at them.

And waiting for wind. Does anyone have an orangutan?