late November fire pit
Sunday, November 29 2020
I made myself a french press of real coffee this morning, and drinking that definitely put a skip in my step as I began my day. I turned my attention the the elephant painting that I've been working on, and eventually had what I thought was a good painting. It showed a mother and baby elephant on an area of red earth with misty blue mountains in the distance.
But I could tell by Gretchen's non-reaction when I sent her a photograph of the painting to that she didn't really like it. She said the landscape looked too barren and "science-fictiony," and she wanted the elephants to be happy in something akin to their natural habitat (to better illustrate the poem it was supposed to illustrate). Fair enough; it was a commissioned painting, so I went back to the laboratory and added a body of water and some green and yellow vegetation to make the landscape look like a lush and inviting habitat for a pair of Indian elephants.
This evening Powerful made a dinner of thick red sauce with rigatoni pasta, and it was delicious. He'd managed to find a use for the most inedible nut loaf Gretchen had made for Thanksgiving, crushing it all up and mixing it with tempeh into some leftover red sauce. Gretchen had had to drive the Prius to work this morning because the Leaf wasn't sufficiently charged. She was distressed to find the car now smelled faintly of ashtray. Powerful wasn't smoking in that car, was he? Over dinner, she brought it up, and Powerful admitted to smoking again, though he insisted he hadn't been smoking in the car. I'm always skeptical when smokers tell me they haven't been smoking in places, because they all seem to think they can lie their way out of the smell their behavior imparts to things. In this way, they're just like other addicts (such as drunks, gamblers, and heroin users). Of course, the fact that Powerful is smoking at all is bad for another reason: we help subsidize his lifestyle while he's living with us. And we don't want to be paying for cigarettes, especially given all his health problems. He takes something like ten different medications a day and is on an electronic heart monitoring system.
The day had been fairly cold, but Gretchen had arranged to have people over for a fire pit, the first in over a month. She'd invited our new downhill neighbors as well as Georges and his wife Hiroko and their kids, the folks whose farm is at the end of the Farm Road. I started the fire up at 7:00pm and proceeded to rake all the leaves around the fire pit so they wouldn't catch on fire. They were wet and probably wouldn't've burned too well, but I threw them in the fire anyway and let the fire dry them and burn them. The rules of a firepit are very different from those of a wood stove. Since nearly all the heat of the burning wood in a fire pit is wasted, it hardly matters if you burn wet material in it. You're also not concerned about creosote. This is another reason I prefer to burn pine in a fire pit. It's better burned there than in a wood stove.
The downhill neighbors were the first to arrive, and they arrived on foot with all three kids. The oldest daughter is already a huge Gretchen fan, and she'd been clamoring especially stridently for another visit. Gretchen had prepared, of course, and had made a bunch of hot chocolate and 20 cupcakes. She also brought out a little bar of booze for the adults, including Kahlúa. I'd also brought out a bottle of Jameson.
Initial conversation was about the wisdom and propriety of posting no-hunting signs. I said that I'm generally opposed to it because of the visual clutter, though allowed that in some cases it might make sense. Neil, the father among the downhill neighbors, had a case in point that seemed to suggest the need for such signs. A hunter had killed and field-dressed a deer on his property in the ravine just below his house, in a place from which the hunter surely should've seen his house.
Ramona and Neville went crazy with barking when George's Tesla stopped on the Farm Road near the trails that come down to our house. Before long, the three downhill neighbors were all playing with George's two kids. They all took turns jumping off the stone wall near our front door, finding it much more entertaining than I would've expected. Meanwhile George was talking about local real estate transactions, including an urgent call he'd gotten from Crazy Dave's wife wondering if there were any houses for sale in the area (since they'll probably be evicted soon by our new downhill neighbors). But real estate is tight and inflated in this area; in May Kingston led the nation in real estate inflation as coronavirus refugees flooded the area. At some point I asked Georges about how much his Tesla's range decreases in cold weather, and he said it was about 30%.
At some point the mother of the downhill neighbors took the kids inside to use our bathroom, something that apparently upset Neville. I was in there briefly while this was happening and told Neville everything was fine and that he should calm down. But evidently he didn't get the message, because he nipped one of the little boys (of the downhill neighbors) on the thigh. It wasn't a bad bite, and the downhill neighbors didn't freak out, but it's not the kind of thing you want your dog doing. We'll have to pay closer attention to him next time people are visiting and he's barking.
Overall, though, the fire pit was successful yet again, showing that even in fairly cold weather it can make conditions comfortable for those sitting around outside.
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