Saturday, December 17, 2016

December 17, 2016:  Explaining snow to a southern dog isn't easy. Though this is Sweetie's 3rd winter with the cold white stuff, she is still bewildered by it. After all, the first 7 years of her life were in San Antonio and Miami.

 She likes the pretty pink sweater Godmother Barbara made for her, but seems to be saying, "I do NOT need to go that badly. I'll just wait until I see grass again."


But today's snowfall is already over 6" and still building so, she may have to compromise... at least until Joie takes a break from her classwork to shovel out a few feet of the lawn.

The following was Marilyn's positive thoughts post on FB first thing this morning:

"I'm enjoying a perfect moment. Heavy snow gently falling over the field outside my window, turning the world into a winter wonderland, but because it's Saturday, there's no need to hurriedly shovel walkways and stairs. Sweetie-Pie and all the housemates are still asleep, hot coffee's on my end table, and the only sounds are the new furnace humming and the occasional drag of the snow plow passing. Plus, it looks like we'll all be able to go sledding later today!"

By noon, she was grumbling "Bah, humbug!" and it isn't even Christmas yet. Looks like this will be a long winter.




Sunday, November 27, 2016

November 23, 2016 Winter is coming! Winter is coming! FYI, we do realize we sound like alarmists over something as normal as snowfall but remember, we've spent most of our lives in South Florida, so we haven't yet become blase` about below-freezing temperatures or seeing a winter wonderland in our back yard. (The photo to the right was actually taken last winter by the remarkable Jake Campbell.)

Maybe next year we'll be indifferent, but this year we're still amazed at all the unusual things that happen at the change of each season. Of course, the animal activity is always worth noting...as is the late Fall sound of rifle shots in the woods beyond our property. We try not to think about what that means.

A couple weeks ago, we posted photos of the annual brush hog mowing. This week, the ever-efficient Sokoloski Landscaping team performed the annual Autumn clean-up of fallen leaves and pine needles, which involves a whole crew with a gigantic vacuum and a trailer to haul it all away. Obviously not something we ever witnessed in Florida.


Hello down there Jerry!


Bye-bye leaves of 2016
















Another thing we definitely never saw before we moved to New England was the annual placing of temporary posts to let the plow driver know where the driveway is when the snow is too deep to see it. Whirlwind Fine Garden Design, a local landscaping and stone contractor, is our team of choice for getting those posts set in advance and keeping our driveway and parking areas clear through the winter. Word is we'll be seeing a lot more of them this year than we did last.
This happened yesterday, 11/26.

Sigh. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


November 20, 2016:  How many grad students does it take to connect a treadmill to the internet? The answer is 3 + a mom. In this photo you see Joie adjusting the tread, Chloe following the on-screen instructions and Marilyn donning her reading glasses to give Chloe the passwords to make sure all our favorite channels can be accessed for maximum distraction value. Before snapping the photographic memory, Katherine was interpreting the paper manual.

Actually, it didn't take much time or effort and now no one in the house has an excuse for not getting in some exercise no matter what the weather is like outside Chateau de Joie.



And since Katherine wasn't in the group photo, here she is doing the final quality control test while the rest of the group checked the noise level throughout the house.
If you ever doubted what running can do for you, just take a look at those calves!


By the way, all the product placements in the pics were completely coincidental, but you're welcome to see how many brand names you can identify.


Another pretty thing that lightens the days before winter's arrival is the blooming of our Christmas cactus.


Monday, October 31, 2016

October 31, 2016:  HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Though we didn't move into an area where children go trick-or-treating, we have two housemates --Chloe Spinks and Katherine Fecteau-- who managed to "carve out" some time from their busy academic responsibilities to host a pumpkin carving event for the graduate history students at the University. Joie was unable to attend, so she didn't expect to reap any rewards.

To our extreme delight, Ms. Spinks returned at the end of the day with a reward for us both. Not only did she bring home a carved pumpkin for us to enjoy, she managed to do an amazing job of incorporating the symbol of Joie's favorite super-heroine!

 Surely, The Great Pumpkin will be granting one of her wishes this year for being so very, very good!

Friday, October 28, 2016


October 28, 2016: Signs of Fall coming to a close ... The Sequel.

We ended the last post with a note that there was a chance of snow showers on Thursday (10/27/16). However, Thursday morning's forecast suggested that it might only be rain after all but even if a few flurries came through, no accumulation was expected.




Thus, we were taken by surprise when the flurries started a little after noon, quickly thickened into flakes and continued falling into the evening. Considering what Marilyn took pictures of through the living room window, we're officially labeling it the first snowfall of the 2016-2017 winter.







Fortunately, it all melted within 24 hours.

Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to give the houseful of students a snow day.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

October 24, 2016:  End of Fall signs -- more leaves on the ground than on the trees, night temps dropping below 30, birds binge eating and...the return of the BRUSH HOG! No, that's not a variety of boar, though the way it tears through the wild is pretty ferocious!

This is our second experience with mowing down the thick brush in our back field but it was no less fun to watch! Again, Mark of Sokoloski Landscaping, did a very impressive job of maneuvering the heavy equipment around trees and marshy areas. The icing on this cake was that he was also able to remove the pile of deadwood that was once a fire pit in the middle of our Viewing Circle, a chore that Marilyn has been trying to get done for two years without success.

The process does tend to disturb all sorts of little creatures, which then tempts the larger ones to come out of hiding to take advantage of the buffet. A very scrawny coyote has been hanging around waiting for just such an opportunity. He's out there hunting as this is being written.

To Marilyn's delight, an osprey took a moment's pause close enough to the house for her to see it without binoculars, but, of course, it flew off before she could get a picture (this one is borrowed). She has seen it before in flight or perched atop the radio tower to the far left. Wing span in flight - about 5 feet across!


Left field


Unless the coyote has a major objection, we will be hiking the perimeter later today, if anyone wants to join us...
Center field
Right field with labyrinth















One more little sign of Fall ending that I probably should mention - the weather forecast for Thursday is snow.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

October 21, 2016:  Borrowing a page from Tom Sawyer...

That's right, Joie got two of her colleagues to help paint the fence we built last summer. Adeline, who has helped with many projects before, and Katherine, who is also a housemate, set aside their heavy workloads to help us get this task done before the cold weather set in.



Since it's been a while since we started this particular redo, here's a pictorial reminder --

50 yr-old fence was way past due for replacement.

June, 2015 - Teardown began
Rotten wood gone, ready to build new

Under our contractor Ryan Regan-Ladd's tutelage (and his help selecting, hauling and cutting all the wood) Joie and Marilyn built a new fence around the pool. For the full story & pics, check out the 9/1/15 blog.

Here's Joie, making waves, as usual.
August, 2015 - Construction complete


We learned that pressure-treated wood needs to age for about 10-12 months before painting and we had it scheduled that way on our Reno To-Do List. However, good intentions weren't enough to get the fence painted all summer during the brutal heat, then Joie was back in school and Marilyn was knocked out of commission with a back injury. But she finally got the nail holes puttied and sanded the first week of October, 2016.
 

With the cooperation of a very welcome spell of Indian Summer, the fence was finally finished October 21, 2016! Despite the scholarly kick-off, it took Marilyn 4 full days to finish applying two coats of wood stain to both sides and edges. We chose gray (Sherwin Williams Blue Spruce), which matches beautifully with all the shades of gray, white and aqua around the pool, and will eventually match with the roof shingles when they get replaced.

At the moment, the rest of the color plan is a very pale shade of green siding with doors and shutters done in a deep eggplant.

Sure wish we had a magic wand about now!

Thursday, October 13, 2016





Storm clouds collide w/sunset
October 13, 2016:  Our deepest apologies to Mother Nature! We were disturbed by the excessive heat and drought all Summer, then disappointed over the lack of Fall coloring.
Not on fire - just a Fall sunset
    We actually had started to wonder if Mother Nature was pregnant or menopausal, but it turns out she was only LATE!  
     Look what just happened in our back yard –
 

 




And here's what the back yard looked like ten minutes before...



 
Marilyn under the Willow - See how it's grown!


Close-up of the goshen stone pillars we relocated to the Labyrinth entry.



Friday, September 30, 2016

September 30, 2016: Something is very wrong. The calendar and the dropping temperatures say we are officially in the Fall season. There are even leaves falling off trees. But those leaves are mostly brown.

Here's a photo of the hill behind our house, taken  on September 30, 2014, our first Fall season in Massachusetts.




And here's one with the labyrinth from September 30, 2015 (after field mowing).





And here's the one Marilyn took today, September 30, 2016. We're told the minimal snowfall during last winter, followed by the drought all summer is to blame for the difference. While we wouldn't mind another mild winter, the fabulous Autumn Showcase is one of the magical things about this place.



The autumn indicator that remained the same is the "closing" of the swimming pool. Coming from Florida and Texas, we had never heard of a pool being closed or open. Much to the sadness of Joie, Katherine, Chloe, Chuck and Adeline (who were willing to pose for a group farewell photo but academic obligations made organizing that impossible), here's how it went.

Ah, well, the positive note is that the cover comes off as easily as it went on.

In case anyone noticed that the fence has not yet been stained (like our dear Ryan), we swear it's on the schedule for next weekend...unless Mother Nature has another surprise in store...like a premature snowfall.

Monday, August 29, 2016



Ready for Joie's birthday celebration!
Sweetie searching for a spot of soft grass amidst the straw.
August 29, 2016: In honor of the start of a new academic year, this is our report on "What We Did Last Summer." It's a little long but we put something very cool at the end.

 At Chateau de Joie, the summer of 2016 shall be known as the one with a severe drought and heat so hellish, we barely managed to do the absolute minimum work outdoors. And that's coming from gals who spent the last 3+ decades living in tropical South Florida and desert-like South Texas! We have been told these conditions have occurred before...around 1977, so here's hoping it doesn't happen again for another 40 years or so.

BUT, there was always plenty of wine and delicious food.







 On the other hand, there have been some incredible sunrises!



The only noticeable outside accomplishments were-- (1) the relocation of two (almost) quarter-ton Goshen stones from a random site on one side of the back yard to the entrance of the labyrinth on the other and (2) the removal of the last of the 4x4 post stumps from the old playground equipment.




Huge thanks to housemate Sarah for adding her strength & perseverance to ours!
Wonder Woman had to do the final pull.






At any rate, the last four months kept us busy and flew by without our doing much that was relevant to a rural renovation blog. So, this is really just a post to bring everyone up to date.

MAY – Joie spent every spare minute of the previous school year preparing for her comprehensive exams and (sound the trumpets please) she successfully passed! She is now considered "ABD" (all but dissertation standing between her and the PhD), as are former housemate Sarah (who moved to Boston after her comps) and colleague/renovation dynamo Adeline.

Housemate Chelsea graduated with a Masters degree and moved to New York to start her new job in publishing. New, Ab-Fab graduate students, Katherine, Chloe and Chuck moved into the downstairs apartment and are enjoying the pool enough to make us really happy we got that area renovated last summer.
Unfortunately, we also had a crowd of honeybees trying to move in, which is a very bad thing because Joie is lethally allergic. Marilyn got stung trying to protect her. But because they are endangered, a beekeeper had to be called in. Not one of the summer fun times.

JUNE, JULY & AUGUST – We thoroughly enjoyed the company of family guests, friend guests, overseas guests, former housemate guests, etcetera, etcetera. We were having such a good time, we didn't always get pictures of all the visitors!
First came Joie's super-cool dad, John, and super-talented brother, Jake, from South Florida via Rhinebeck, NY, then came super-fun Lisa and Emily, friends of Joie's from Texas State. Lisa, Joie & Marilyn all celebrated their birthdays in July. And yes, there was a lot of wine involved.

Our next guest was the very lovely Neroli, a former UMass graduate student who came all the way from South Africa.Her visit prompted a visit from good friend Matt, who got his Master's last spring from UMass but is currently working on his PhD at Northwestern. We regret to say, despite the large gathering in their honor, we don't have a single picture of it. However, right after Neroli took a walk in the labyrinth, we were treated to a brilliant double rainbow.

After not seeing each other for a decade, Marilyn's spectacular "kid" brother David came for a long overdue visit. Joie was just a child when Uncle David last saw her. Both being world travelers, they never had to search for something to talk about!

In between day trips and dinner parties and movie nights, Joie read, researched, prepared for her fall teaching assignment, worked on her prospectus (due in September) and read and researched some more (including time at Harvard). Marilyn is pleased to say she also managed to make significant progress on revising and updating her previously-published time-travel romances to get them ready for new e-book releases.

We can't make any promises but we're hoping to get back to doing some reno work, taking more photos and sharing as we go…

Jake made a lifelong friend.

But for now, here's the "something cool" mentioned at the beginning of this post. The summer began with Joie joining her dad and brother at Buttonwood in Rhinebeck, where they got to do a little riding, make a lot of equine friends, and witness the birth of a brand new colt.