Madyson the Beaver
Saturday, May 14 2022
location: 800 feet west of Woodworth Lake, Fulton County, NY
I hadn't had any caffeine in most of a week, but this morning I broke that fast by pouring myself some ice coffee I'd bought months ago and left in the cabin refrigerator. It gave me a nice little buzz, though not quite as good as I'd hoped the fast would amplify. It was around 7:00am, so I walked down to the lake to see if I'd encounter any wildlife, which tends to be more active early in the day. The moment I reached the lake, I saw a large beaver just offshore, and she kept with me as I walked easward to the place where I will be installing a dock. I continued to the tree dock, where I was able to get some good pictures with my telephoto-equipped Nikon camera. At that point the beaver slapped her tail in irritation, so I walked away, continuing to near the west end of the lake. The midges (or whatever the irritating fly is at this time of year) were growing bolder and bolder, so I eventually had to abandon an effort to photograph a highly-active warbler that kept flitting around in the trees near the trail.
As I walked back to the cabin, I'd come up with a story to explain the large beaver I'd photographed. The beaver was, I decided, a female named Madyson. She things the "y" in her name is stupid, and so do I. But that was the name she was given, and now she has to live with it.
Back at the cabin, Gretchen and I played a collaborative game of New York Times Spelling Bee for awhile as I gradually came up with a list of things I needed to get in an imminent run into civilization. Before I did that, though, I used the table router (which I'd brought to the cabin on this trip) to narrow the edge of a screen door that had warped over the winter and no longer wanted to close correctly.
As I was leaving for Johnstown, Neville decided he wanted to come along. So it was just me and him driving down the Adirondack escarpment into the Mohawk Valley.
Our first stop was at the Noble Ace Hardware in Johnstown. There are some chargers for electric cars in the parking lot there for some reason, and I would've used one, but it seemed to require signing up for a service I'd never seen before, so I didn't actually get any electrons.
By then it was a hot day, so I brought Neville into the store on a leash, though I mostly let him walk around dragging it. He was, unsurprisingly, something of an immediate celebrity as I went around getting things like a hose sprayer (the plastic one I'd had hadn't survived the winter), 2.5 inch drywall screws, a small bucket, bird seed (the chickadees had nearly eaten all of the seed I'd put out for them three weeks ago), and three bags of organic potting soil. As we went through checkout, Neville was surprised and delighted to be offered a decidedly non-vegan treat.
My next stop was at the Price Chopper, where I was forced to leave Neville in the car. I found a half-shaded spot just north of the building and ran in to get the stuff I needed as quickly as possible: 64 ounces of citrus salad, a loaf of bread, vegan bacon, a bottle of lemonade, and four pack of fancy beer (expanding my range, this time I got a porter; I think this was the first time in my life I'd ever bought it from a store).
I'd brought some deck rail planters for the cabin, which was why I'd bought the potting soil. But I also needed plants to plant in that soil. Fortunately there was a nursery along the drive from the Price Chopper that I could stop at. It was a mom & pop place called Parker's Flowers, and flowers was mostly what they had. But they also had some gorgeous tomato plants, jalapeño plants, basil, and lots of lettuce. Lettuce isn't ideal for deck planters, but the other plants were. So I got two tomato plants, two jalapeños, a basil, a morning glory, and some purely-decorative blue & yellow flower. As I ran around getting these things, I let Neville wander around the grounds off-leash. He was, of course, making new friends, though sadly nobody else had a dog for him to meet. The guy checking us out seemed to have some sore of neurological issue, but he was super nice and joked that I could pay for my plants with Neville instead of money.
As I drove around, I was continuining to listen to WEXT, the radio station where Gretchen had identified a worrying gender imbalance among the artists played. That imbalance had been thoroughly rectified; if anything, they might've been featuring a few too many women. Evidently the emails Gretchen had sent yesterday had made an impact.
Back at the cabin, I refilled the bird feeder and then started the weekend's big tiling project.
Gretchen had suggested I first tile the walls around the tub before finishing the floor tile, which would allow us to walk on the floor normally while doing the wall tile. This wall tile was unusual in that Gretchen had bought four different colors of tile, meaning we would have to come up with some sort of pattern. I started out by proposing a simple repeating pattern that never put any two of the same tile where they were adjacent along an edge. But it was clearly repetitive. Gretchen wanted something more random. So we ended up designing a six-by-six tile pattern where two colors were never adjacent along an edge but that looked much more random than the initial pattern I'd come up with. This pattern was also designed so that it could be repeated without two of the same colors being adjacent along an edge. Once we'd determined this design, Gretchen proceeded to pre-sort the tiles for me while I mixed up the thinset and began putting up the tile. As always when tiling, the job was repetitive and tedious, but the results looked good. This was in spite of the fact that the walls weren't all that orthogonal and tended to go appreciably out of plumb at the bottom to get past the tub's flange. This made it impossible to have uniform grout lines; in some places the tiles didn't want to have much in the way of grout between them at all, and in other places the grout lines widened out to as much as 3/8 of an inch.
As we worked, we listened to several recent episodes of This American Life, including the one about the racist treatment of African university students trying to flee Ukraine, the one where a kid displaced by climate-change-exacerbated-fires continues to believe climate change is a hoax, the one about NFTs, and one about two girls who were switched at birth (I'd actually heard that last one before). At some point as I worked, I realized that we had nowhere near enough tile to finish the area around the tub; it turned out we only had a little more enough for tiling just the long wall running the length of the tub and almost none for the walls at either end of the tub. Amusingly, we'd made a similar miscalculation when buying tile for the walls around the downstairs tub, a miscalculation we were sure had informed our tile order for this tiling. Gretchen was, of course, much more dismayed about this than I was. The tile installation had been exhausting with just the part of it I'd managed to do, and there was no way I was going to, for example, now finish the long-unfinished floor.
I should mention that after Gretchen had run out of tiles to pre-sort for me, she and Neville had gone down to the lake for a very long time. At some point during their absence, our neighbor Ibrahim drove up on his four wheeler and chatted a little. I told him that Gretchen and I were still recovering from covid and that he probably shouldn't come inside. So we stood outside and chatted about things like the solar installation, the many incompetencies of Farrellgas, and his challenges digging a hole for a foundation. But, as I'd already noticed, Ibrahim had eventually stopped digging and had now poured footers for the A-frame he will now be building. It looks like it is in the bottom of a hole dug at the base of a steep hill, but if they get the drainage right, it might just work.
A lack of hot water had kept me from doing any tiling for months, but today I was able to get water warm enough to mix mortar with and clean up with by filling buckets many hours before I needed the water and letting the sun beat down on them all day. The water wasn't warm enough to be comfortable as I splashed it on my face, neck, and torso. But at least it wasn't torture.
This evening Gretchen had made a meal for us of gnocchi with tempeh red sauce. My tile work stretched past nightfall, and I wouldn't get a chance to eat that dinner until it was mostly cold.
This evening I took the last three pills of my five-day course of Paxlovid. By this point, I was noticing just a hint of "paxlovid mouth," that lingering flavor the drug somehow puts in the mouths of people who take it. For me, it was a slight bitterness, mostly in the back of my mouth. By this evening it was getting close to being distracting, which made me very happy that I would not be taking it any more after tonight. Gretchen's experience with paxlovid mouth had been much more intense and had caused her to discontinue taking it after only a day or so. Her overall experience with covid has been significantly easier than mine, though it has affected her ability to taste much more strongly. She actually apologized ahead of time about the gnocchi dinner she'd made tonight, saying she had no idea if it would be any good (it was as good as ever). As for me, aside form the trace of paxlovid mouth, the only weird flavor experience I've had came the other day when I went to brush my teeth and the toothpaste tasted like it had been flavored with tea tree oil instead of mint. But, at least according to Gretchen, it was the same old Tom's of Maine. Evidently covid or paxlovid had altered my sense of taste enough for it to taste completely different.
Tonight when I brushed my teeth before bed, the Tom's of Maine tasted like normal mint again.
The bluestone collection in front of the cabin today.
Click to enlarge.
Madyson the beaver.
Madyson the beaver, up close.
The outflow bay of Woodworth Lake, looking east (away from the outflow and towards the lake's only islands).
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