Puttering

I’ve been retired from full-time work since Christmas.  Another retired colleague and I  started a private-practice counseling center in our small town.  We each allocate a couple days a week to the practice. This schedule leaves me a lot of time for spur-of-the-moment and random activities collectively called puttering for the purpose of this essay.

My colleague and I both experienced a steep learning curve in the transition from working at a state college where we had the privilege of not needing to ask students receiving counseling for money, to private practice where are trying to earn some.

We spent a lot of extra hours on our “off” days on the computer taking care of obtaining the correct licenses, insurance, legal status, taxes, etc. As most of that has now been accomplished, we are closer to our plan for this business which is to each work two days a week. I enjoy spending time in our sunny office.  It’s great to set my hours, and not work within an institution’s expectations.

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I’ve puttered with a bit more indoor gardening this year.  My house plants are thriving.

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I admire folks who can work full time and read a lot, but as much as I tried, rarely found time to finish a book when employed full time.  In the past, when my book club moved to a new selection, I used to insert a bookmark in the unfinished book and move on to the next one. In the past few months, I’ve finished four of those set-aside books, and am now keeping pace with my fellow readers.

Reading, gardening and even a bit of quilting all feel like puttering.  I’ve also been writing more and sending poems and essays to journals for publication consideration. I’ve used some of this puttering time to organize my writing submissions.  As soon as one editor rejects my work, I sent it out to another.  There are occasional successes.

Initially, there was a bit of anxiety that I wasn’t accomplishing much, but I’ve decided that puttering, as described in this blog, is an OK use of my time.  It’s refreshing to have time to watch sunrises and sunsets like this one. Peace to all of you who find your way to this blog!

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Nature is steering a rocky path this year

I started this post nearly a year ago.  Volatile spring weather is a constant each year and has caused havoc from coast to coast in the past year.  After an extremely cold February and early March, we are indeed marching toward the end of April. A sunny, windy, warm Easter weekend had turned into a cool wet Earth Day.  See my blogs between May 2018 and now in 2019 to follow my decision-making process.

May 2018 remained sweatshirt-chilly for the first two weeks, then catapulted to temperatures near or exceeding 100 degrees over Memorial weekend.  The month wrapped up with a week in the nineties that ushered in wind-wrapped rain and tornado warnings.  High winds earlier this spring tore siding from my house, damaged ponderosa pines, and other trees, and downed power lines for many, although my electricity remained steady.  Trying to determine my future mirrors the weather’s ups and downs.  I think I’m all set, then have a complete change of mind every few days as I investigate options.

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Trees, bushes, and flowers experienced a similar rollercoaster.  Bare lilac branches burst from tightly-curled buds to lovely flowers, to dried flower seed-heads to full leaf in a week.  The branches were bare at the beginning of May and flowers were all gone before Memorial Day.  Many early iris did not bloom. Mid-season tall bearded iris bloomed and died in a weekend, but there were enough of them to decorate family graves.  Looking at each turn of nature teaches me that everything does not have to be perfect for one to move ahead, and many beautiful things are fleeting.

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Shete Boka National Park

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Located on the north end of the Caribbean island of Curacao, the Sheta Boka National Park is, according to their website, an “Area with more than 10 beautiful Boka’s (inlets) where three species of turtles nest. A boka is, in fact, an inlet. Shete Boka stands for ‘seven inlets’. Years ago, the environmental group Amigu di Tera arranged excursions in this area along seven bays. Hence, the name is taken, although in reality there are more than seven coves in this national park. The park begins at the beautiful Boka Tabla where large, unpredictable waves crush against an underground cave. An impressive experience!”  Learn more at https://www.curacao.com/en/directory/do/sights-and-sounds/shete-boka-national-park/

Prevailing northeast winds buffet the island.  Trees on the north end of the island are often bent like the featured image or dwarfed from the wind’s impact.

I visited the park on a tour of the island during February.  It was a restful vacation away from this frigid Nebraska Winter and did wonders for my mental health.  The crashing waves in the first photo were the highlight of the park.  The tour bus also visited a lovely park beach.  Our group had an hour to swim or sit in the sun.  I opted for sunshine, but many dived into the turquoise water.

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The tour bus also stopped at the salt ponds to see flamingos. We were able to walk near a series of protected pools where many flamingos dipped their elegant heads in search of food.  The flamingos have a peaceful existence eating in the still water.

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I noticed unusual water creatures at the edge of the pond.  I’m not sure of their biological identity, but they are quite beautiful.

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Curacao is a destination to consider to get away from northern winters.

Visit to an island

February is as cold this year as a home freezer that has gone too long without defrosting. Frost and ice cycles cover the northern plains.  Snow is stacked in piles around homes and buildings, roads ditches are full, and roadways blow shut again with every wind.  Fields, sky, trees are all shades of grey and white.  Roads are treacherous to drive. We stay at home if we can.  Everyone I talk with is ready for spring.

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In comparison, the colors of the Caribbean are brilliant blues, pinks, yellows, and lavender. I decided to vacation on an island this year for a change from this Nebraska winter.  A friend and I traveled to Curacao, an island in the Caribbean, that I learned about from former students.  It’s a beautiful island with wonderful eighty-five degree sunny days, balmy evenings and fabulous beaches. 20190208_122502

Although the Spanish explored this area early in the 1600s, Dutch warships pushed them out. The religiously tolerant Dutch welcomed Jewish refugees from Europe. Together these diverse groups developed the island’s natural deep-water port into a pivotal shipping mecca.

In the 1800s, the USA donated a floating bridge across the bay that opens to admit huge container ships, oil tankers, and other commercial ships.  The bridge connects two sections of the capital city, Willemstad.

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The photo above shows the floating bridge lit up at night to allow commercial boat traffic to enter the bay.  People could stay on the bridge when it opened and ride along.  We rode along several times.

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This photo shows one of the tug boats that came through the bridge. The tug is heading out to sea to escort a larger ship back to port.   The buildings were designed after those in Holland.  All the house are brightly colored and picturesque.  For example, the Postal Museum was located in a house constructed in 1690.

Cruise ships (as shown in the featured image), visit the island regularly.  There were two cruise ships docked nearly every day during the week we spent on the island.  These tourist visits are vital to the country’s economy.

More about island tours in future blogs.

How to be happy in January

I’ve been thinking about selecting a good topic to discuss this January, but the grey sky, wind chills, and snow are like a blizzard in my brain, obscuring creativity.  Some days, when the sun shines on new snow, however,  my mind clears and I appreciate that nature is  beautiful.

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Many other days are gloomy when the sky is grey, the fields are grey, and even the trees’ brown bark looks grey.  On those days, just a smidge of sunshine through the clouds pinpointing a building is charming. The scene visually and emotionally brightens the day.

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I don’t want to wish away a quarter of my year hiding from cold and waiting for spring.  I venture outside at least twice a day to feed horses, barn cats, and check other critters. The sound of horses snorting as they munch prairie hay improves my mood.

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Sometimes, the very act of walking in crisp January air is invigorating in unexpected ways.  It’s possible to experience beauty in a brief glimmer of the sun at a particular time of day at a specific location. For example,  indoor Christmas lights reflected on this wishing well in late afternoon to create an unusual effect.  I would have missed this moment if I stayed indoors.

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Sunrise is often inspirational in winter, just as finding the photos to create this blog inspires me to spend more time outdoors today, and in the days ahead.  These unexpectedly beautiful moments help me be less worried about cold weather.  Happy January everyone!

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Water

Managing Without Plumbed Water

I’ve been writing this blog to help me think about how and when to retire.  My decision is made.  I’ll be parting from my employer at the end of November, but I’d change that date if I’d have known my rural well was about to fail. I would have worked for a few more months to put some money aside for this emergency.  

I’m including random water pictures in this piece, because I crave running water.

Wyoming stream

Late one evening about ten days ago, I planned to take a hot bath to relax before bed.  I turned on the faucet in the tub, and turned to look for some bubble bath.  An absence of sound drew my attention back to the tub.  The water stopped gushing from the faucet.

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It was the beginning of a cold snap.  My first thought was that the cold air must have frozen the pump.  A friend checked the mechanics in the well pit the next morning.  His repair did not re-start the pump.  Next I called a well repair company  from a near-by town.  They brought a huge truck, and attempted to pull the old pump from the well to replace it with a new pump. 

The  well pit was completely rusted shut.  No amount of pressure over the course of two days budged the well.  I consulted with the company owner about how to proceed.  He recommended drilling a new well.  I choked over the projected costs, then told them to proceed.  That occurred on Friday. Nothing happened over the weekend.

Monday and Tuesday of the next week hovered in the teens and twenties.  The temps finally warmed to the forties on Wednesday. Drilling commenced.

Wednesday: Clay collapsed into the well pit.  Thursday: A steel liner is added to 80 feet.  Friday: The drill reaches 220 feet and finds water.  When the crew attempts to pull the drill out of the well, it hit a rock, and is stuck.

Another weekend and nothing will happen.  I’m now ten days without water.  I invited company for an early Thanksgiving on Sunday.  We will prevail, somehow and have a meal.  Eventually, there will be plumbed water.

Seasons

There’s been a little snow here early this fall after weeks of wet cold, and now late October warm sunshine.  As the season progresses, I’m progressing toward retirement.  I selected a last workday, and turned in a letter to make the retirement official.  It is a really difficult decision to walk away from students and long-term coworkers.  I’m hopeful that it’s the right time to finish this  part of my life and move on to the next stage.

Today  was a good day to scurry around finishing fall chores.  My son built a horse feeder that will make it easy for me to feed the horses this winter.  He is also sawing and splitting enough wood for me to make it through the coldest part of winter.

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The summer garden produced potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, and turnips.  Tomato cages are cleaned and stacked in the garden shed.  I hauled dead tomato vines, pruned branches, and frosted pepper plants to a compost pile. The warm-season part of the garden is finished for the year.

However, the fall lettuce crop is doing great.  Chard keeps its brilliant color through cold nights. There are also volunteer cilantro and dill plants that survived the early snow.

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Harvesting fall veggies made all the summer work worthwhile.  I expect retirement to give me more days to play in the garden.  Gosh, maybe I’ll have time to start garden plants from seed next year. https://www.seedsavers.org/starting-seeds

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onions & potatoes

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carrots

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turnips