Sunday, September 27, 2009

Home Improvements, Cape May Vacation and Uncle Oscar...........

The one constant about living in a circa 1870 farmhouse, is the need to endlessly repair, renew, remodel and refresh. Earlier this summer we replaced the downstairs floors with porcelain tile. We are now in the process of replacing the 38 year old siding on the east and north sides of the house and extending the ground level wrap-around porch to cover an open air patio on the garden side of the house. It is hard to believe we are redoing work we had originally done when we first moved to the farm back in the early 1970's. I guess that means we've been here a long time, though of course it seems like only yesterday.

We bought Jolico Farm in November of 1971 after a lot of searching for the perfect place. This farm, in far-from-perfect condition, was just what we envisioned. We wanted a working farm with 50 to 100 acres all on one side of a rural road, with a year-round running spring-fed stream, a livable house and a usable barn and outbuildings. After farm-hunting for 3 years we saw this farm and bought it within 4 days. That was 38 years ago and we have been fixing it up ever since.

Our contractors, Rick Lloyd and Marty Swintosky, have done all of our work for the past 20 years. A later than anticipated start on our siding project this year caused them to be working here during our planned 4-day vacation to Cape May, NJ. We decided to go anyway and trust that the job would progress just fine without our constant hovering.

So, off we went to Cape May on Sunday morning, 9/20 - Max, Art and Moses! We had a grand time, walking for miles on the beach, riding bikes around this beautiful Victorian town, eating great seafood and soaking up the abundant sunshine. We had perfect weather with blue skies and cool breezes and very few vacationers this late in September over the autumnal equinox of 2009. In fact, the Boardwalk at Wildwood NJ was downright deserted, with most shops only opening on the weekends during the fall. One evening we took Mo out to dinner with us at The Ugly Mugg, a dog-friendly establishment, where we dined alfresco on huge steamed shrimp, fresh shucked oysters fried to perfection, and grilled chicken for Mo, whose discerning palate doesn't trust fishy things unless they are from his own lake at home. We stayed at The Blue Fish Inn, a great little motel in a quiet section of town, where they made us very comfortable (evidenced by the picture of Art and Mo relaxing in front of the bedroom TV!) Here are some highlights of our trip:

We took our leave of Cape May early on Thursday morning, 9/24, via the Cape May/Lewes Ferry. We rode on the ferry, Twin Capes, with lots of other cars, trucks, campers and motor homes. To Mo's delight there were also quite a few dogs making the 17 mile trip over to Lewes Delaware, and he was kept so distracted by all the people and pets on board that he forgot to get seasick - a miracle! When we disembarked we headed to Rockville, MD, a 3-hour drive, where we stopped to visit with our favorite uncle, Oscar Hoffman
and Oscar's daughter and our cousin, Barbara Kelsky. Uncle Oscar is 98 years old and is Art's mother's brother. He is the oldest and the only surviving member of his immediate family which included Art's mom Lillian, Aunt Syd and Aunt Mame. Oscar and Art worked together in the clothing business at Standard Sportswear in Pittsburgh many years ago. We had not seen him since his 95th birthday party three years ago, so this visit was a very heartfelt one for us all.

Another 3-hour drive and we arrived home, road-weary but safe and sound! Home is such a fantastic place to be, we always wonder why we want to leave. Mostly we have to force ourselves, thinking that we haven't been away in a while and that we should have a change of scenery and experience the wonders of travel.........only to find that there's no place like home.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day, Summer's unofficial demise? and other 'stuff'..........

Labor Day 2009. The day dawned but never turned into a sunrise, such as those to which we've become accustomed for the past 2 weeks or so........the extent of our summer for this year. The long-running warm weather system moved eastward during the night and the day has remained gray and cool, reverting back to the seasonal pattern of the past 4 months. Too bad for us, the summer-seekers, we who wait all year to revel in the heat of this short season here in the mountains. Summer means donning shorts, tank top, sandals and nothing else! when we can pop early out of bed and wear these skimpy clothes all day and into the warm night! Aaahhhh! So we are sad to bid farewell to this summer that wasn't and, hope springing eternal as it does, we decide that it was just a global warming fluke and set our sights on 2010, knowing that next year will definitely be better, if we can just wait for it.

Good sized pears have grown this year with all the moisture we've had and so I picked some early to ripen more fully on the kitchen porch table. They have begun to ripen over this period of sun and warmth, and we will soon be poaching pears and freezing pears and eating as many as we are able, as nothing is better than a sun-warmed pear picked ripe from the tree, its luscious juices running down your arm as you bite into its sweetness and savor its fragrant flesh.

Nothing is BETTER than a sun-warmed pear, but vine-ripened tomatoes are right up there at the top of the food chain! Surprise! we were able to save some of our plants from the viral blight by cutting off all the green leafy parts, encouraging the denuded plants to pump their lifeblood into the remaining uninfected fruits. We were rewarded by being able to harvest about 100 perfectly healthy and divinely delicious tomatoes. Those we can't manage to eat fresh, we're making into juice and sauce. Though not enough to see us through until next summer, we are grateful for what we could salvage.

New friends, old friends, those just passing through and some returning to stay, August was a month of movement for loved ones into and through our lives. It was so wonderful to see Alyx Mazerov Yuasa again after so many decades. We last saw her as an 8 or 9 year old girl and were so pleased to be able to spend a special evening together on the eve of her return to Japan and her new husband Eiwa. After so many years, we finally had the pleasure of meeting Martha Mazerov, Mike's step-mom and Alyx's grandma, a most delightfully happy and beautiful lady who we look forward to spending more quality time with!

Mike and Connie Mazerov are home now, living and working in Pittsburgh again after decades spent in Houston Texas. I think the heat and the hurricanes and the Texans finally won out! We will have many opportunities to enjoy the love and company of these old and dear friends, residing only 50 miles from us now instead of 1100!

It was indeed a pleasure to meet a new friend, Jonathan Bronitsky, the nephew of David Ginsburg. He and David stopped at the farm for dinner and a break from the road on their way from DC to Pittsburgh this week. Jonathan is relocating to Cambridge UK to study for 3 years and earn his PhD. His Uncle David, induced by the promise of a free 42" LCD TV, drove to DC to help Jonathan move his earthly belongings back home to Michigan. How's the TV working David, and how's your back?

MIMI IS BACK!! and Mo is sooooo happy! Mimi's pretty happy too, and everybody is sleeping very soundly at night with all the hard-charging exercise they are getting. The cooler weather is giving them even more of an energy boost and they run and play until they drop! Art and I only have to adults are needed in this game of "chase me, catch me, steal my toy, eat some poop, sniff a frog, chase a cat". I wish I had their stamina, endless energy and pure joy of the moment. At my age I know I will never have the stamina and energy, but I can certainly work on attaining the pure joy of living in the moment......and I shall.