Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunrise soak / Morning thaw

We have enjoyed our wooden hot tub since December 2008, but admittedly, not often enough. After a windy night and a long work week, the lure of soothing cedar-scented water helped us overcome the gravitational pull of our comfy couch and large TV. (House Hunters International: "Have we seen Nicaragua?" "Um, yes we have." "France?" "Yup.") The air was still, the lake was frozen and the water was a perfect 98 degrees F. Great setting for a 40-minute soak!

Seductive steam on Saturday morning.

A view across the hot tub to the frozen lake.

Matt watches the sun paint the sky.

Here comes the sun!

Sunday's sunrise reveals a surprise:
The lake has mostly thawed. 

The air is above freezing, at 35 degrees F.

A lovely January morning!
Time for breakfast.

And ready for the day and week ahead.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The horrible Asp

Delightful neighbors; dreaded tree.

Looking down from the front door to the back yard in
July 2006, the thick trunk of the neighbor's tree is on the right. 
The sweet, fluffy tree is a River Birch that Matt and I had 
planted in honor of our "wood" anniversary in 2001.

The tree drops annoying seeds on our deck. "What the heck are these?" we ask our friends, Karen and George, early in our residency at the lake shack.

With the Asp Tree on the left, here is our 
home in February 2007, in all its "before" glory.

"Asp seeds," answers Karen with the definitive air of an expert. So that is why we feel Cleopatra's pain--Casa de Roo is troubled by the horrible asp!

The Asp Tree in June 2007.

In fall, the Asp Tree also covers our deck with leaves.

In August 2007, the tree looms
over our 20 leaky skylights.

And branches.

The Asp as viewed from street.

Then bigger branches.

The Asp Tree as seen from what serves
as the lower deck in February 2008.

This becomes ever more worrying once we begin renovating Casa de Roo.

The house starts taking shape in 2008.

So we make a proposal to our neighbors: "How 'bout we chip in on removing this dying deciduous danger?"

The base of the Asp isn't the only part
showing signs of decay in July 2010.

They say: "We like the shade." We say "FRAK!" (Under our breath, of course.)

Granted, the Asp looks less horrible from a distance... 

And so, the horrible Asp continues casting a menacing shadow on our dream house.

February 2011.

I keep a wary eye on our nemesis, never missing an opportunity to shake my fist at its shaky branches. "Aaaaahhhhhhssssssp!"

The moon casts a shadow on just one of
many sticks on the roof on March 19, 2011.

Then, after a dramatic boat ride, Matt and I come home to find that my arboreal ageda has become fully justified.

On July 13, 2011, Matt and I take an after-work cruise.
An unexpected storm--complete with a micro-burst
of wind--yields a rainbow over the community clubhouse.

The sun beckons us home, illuminating 
a path directly to our property. 

You know that thing? That thing when the air fills with the surprising smell of fresh wood? Well, we experience that thing as we approach our dock.

The Asp drops an enormous branch, thankfully not on
our new porch, but sadly on our beloved anniversary Birch. 

Matt doesn't miss a beat. He grabs the nearest saw and gets right to work.

Matt saves the day as our neighbor looks on.

A bird's nest and porcupine-like seeds
are among the broken boughs. 

Matt makes a lot of progress during this first 
of many branch eradication sessions.

I grab my iPhone and call the neighbor, trying to keep my inner bitch on the inside. Over time, we are in agreement: The tree (which turns out to be a Beech, not an Asp, but is nonetheless horrible) must come down. 

A spike remains where the branch used to be.

It does, on August 23, the day of the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rocks not just folks in my office, but millions of people from Georgia to Canada. Thankfully, when the tremor hits, no one is up in a tree, above my house with a chain saw. Hurricane Irene hits a few days later. Could we have gotten any luckier to be without this tree?

I get home from work on August 23 and--
wow!--an improved view of the lake. 

We agree to save money by allowing the service to leave us the the felled tree. 

Looking off the deck that evening, I realize I had
underestimated just how much wood there would be. 

Our theory? Free fire wood! The neighbors take some logs, too. 

 An example of the rot eating away at the tree trunk

The remaining stump of the offending Asp/Beech.

At a big box store to buy an ax, I convince Matt not to purchase the heaviest one so I can help him. Respectfully, he agrees and I look forward to chopping some wood.

At home, he explains the technique, demonstrates it artfully, and I give it several tries. As the blade bounces off the log and back at me for the umpteenth time, Matt wrestles the ax from my still live, warm hands and takes over.

My attempts at swinging this tool effectively
leave me saying: "Vive la difference!"

My enthusiasm for summertime firewood creation diminishes. I figure: "Well, the logs are neatly stacked and out of the way. Maybe, if I ignore them, they will go away."

The October 30 nor'easter adds further
injury to our Asp-abused River Birch. 

The nor'easter leaves us without power for four days. We end up buying manufactured and natural logs to keep warm. 

Mini Cooper as pick-em-up truck.

I feel silly: We have a lot of wood in our own back yard. It just needs to be transformed!

Matt swings the ax on December 10, moving
with the grace of a major league baseball 
player hitting a home run. Log after log shatters.

Then the firewood needs to be carried up to the front of the house. This is my job. 

The first set of 30 steps I traverse with load after load of logs.

Matt has two brilliant ideas today:
  1. Build a funicular.
  2. Market a new experiential work-out program. Instead of going to a gym, you come to our house, pay us, and we coach you on chopping, carrying and stacking wood, along with the aerobic benefits of stair climbing.

The second set of steps.

The resulting stack of firewood from three
chopping-schlepping sessions.

The challenge? The remaining logs are ginormous. 

And the reward is obvious: a cozy fire on a cold December night. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Super Moon in March

We catch our first glimpse of the so-called Supermoon after dinner and head home to the deck to do some moon bathing and hanging out. It is a balmy, wonderful night for a moon dance and a couple of drinks. I take my first moon shot at 7:17 p.m. on Friday, March 18.

Supermoon casting super moonshadows around 8 p.m. as our resident skunk, raccoon and muskrat listen to Pink Floyd and forage for food.

Yes, via CD. How old school. But how many of us also have this concept album as a cassette—or even vinyl? We reminisce about the fabulous concert we saw in November at the Meadowlands and look forward to seeing Roger Waters The Wall Live in Europe this summer. So that, my friends, is why we didn't spin the more obvious Pink Floyd choice, Dark Side of the Moon (which we saw three times in concert during 2006-07).

And then the clouds come in at 9:29 p.m., just as The Wall ends... But our night on the deck continues. This is exactly why we did the renovation in exactly the way we did.

I share some of the better Supermoon shots via Facebook and see what my Twitter timeline has so say about the event. Neil deGrasse Tyson (Director of the Hayden Planetarium and a Research Associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History) tries to set the record straight: "Full moon Sat. nite. Rare? Once per month. Moon closer to Earth. Rare? Once per month. Both together? Once every 2 or 3 years... Last time was December 2008." So, not 1993... The truth doesn't reduce the beauty of the still-super-to-me Supmermoon.

I take a Supermoon photograph at 2:40 a.m., enjoying the reflection off the metal roof over the screen porch, and then get back into bed.

Supermoon Part Deux — moon rising over the lake. But brrrrr cold tonight (40 degrees F and falling), so we enjoy the event from the couch.

Bright and beautiful, the moon at 8:08 p.m.

Indulging in ongoing moon watching at 8:59 p.m., I quickly run out on the deck to snap a quick shot of the Supermoon...

...and even more quickly run back into the house to warm myself by the fire as Matt enjoys March Madness. (For me, my husband explains while crumpling up a mysterious bracketology-based piece of paper and tossing it into the blaze, this was a bracket-busting game.)

As with its Friday night predecessor, Supermoon II: The Lovenator is a social media event, as Facebook friends again post and comment on each other's photos.

High in the sky at 11:25 p.m., the moon fills our bedroom with light and draws me momentarily out on the deck.

Still 99 percent visible, the almost-full moon at 2:38 a.m. on Sunday, March 20, completes its trip across the lake and heads for the hills.

Shakira's She Wolf fills my mind: "Nocturnal creatures/Aren't so prudent/The Moon's my teacher/I'm her student."

"Enough lunacy," my shivering skin says, admonishing me for covering it with nothing more than a (super sexy [not!]) flannel nightgown.

As signs of spring, swans glide across the lake on March 20 at 5:36 p.m., the Spring Equinox less than two hours away.

A spring storm dumps more than seven inches of snow on us during Wednesday, March 23, as seen here at 10:48 a.m. as I work (diligently) from home. My "glass half full" side says, "pretty." My glass overflowing with winter weather side says, "enough already!"

What a difference a week makes: Saturday, March 26 at 4:09 a.m. the moon—reflecting off the grill and lake—is in its last quarter (per Moon Calendar site) and the temperature is below freezing.

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