From Early Bird To Night Owl

For as long as I can remember, I’ve  been an early riser.  When I was a kid, I was the first member of the family who was up in the morning.  In college, I was never able to sleep in like my friends could.  And once I started working, I established the “early to bed, early to rise” regimen that would have made Poor Richard proud.

tumblr_n0gk0hqryh1qmw1oho1_1280But here’s the thing:  as time passed, I found myself waking up, and going to bed, earlier and earlier.  When it got to the point this summer where I was opening my eyes at 4:30 a.m., with no hope of going back to sleep, I knew I needed to do something.  Those hours might be ideal for a farmer, but they seemed a bit out of whack for me.

So lately I’ve been trying to change from an early bird to more of a night owl.  It isn’t easy.  Working to modify ingrained daily habits that have prevailed for decades is a challenge.  The effort for now focuses on the back end of the day, where I’ve been striving to stay up later than usual.  This means no night-time reading, which will always cause me to doze off, and trying to find some really riveting TV shows — like Peaky Blinders, which Kish and I have just started watching.  Through concentrated effort, I’ve actually been up past 10 p.m. every day this week.  This may not seem like anything to those people who regularly catch the late show on TV, but it’s a significant step for me.

And this morning, I slept in until 5:30.  5:30!  I feel like a slugabed, but progress is being made.

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Stonington Wa

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Our place in Stonington has rocks.  Lots and lots of rocks.  More rocks, in fact, than the mortal mind can imagine in its wildest, rock-filled dreams.

So what do you do with so many rocks?  I’ve decided to get in touch with my inner wa and am trying to develop an ersatz Japanese rock garden along the edge of the creek, in the weedy waste area between the big boulders and the water’s edge.  There’s lots of different shapes and colors of rocks and stones, large and small, some smooth and some rugged, in the down yard.  I dig up and pick up the stones and then place them cheek by jowl, trying to fit them snugly together like a granite jigsaw puzzle.

No doubt expert rock garden developers would chuckle at this weak effort, but it’s been a fun way of addressing the rock issue that allows for some creativity, too.

Ditch Niche

Our place in Stonington features a small stream that runs along the border between our property and our neighbor’s place to the north.  Actually, “stream” is probably not an accurate description.  I think of it as a creek, but some people might view it as more of a rivulet, or even a glorified drainage ditch.  The water tumbles down the hillside to the harbor, rushing by in the winter and wet spring months and when it rains, but otherwise moving sluggishly — if at all — after a few dry days at the end of summer.

Humble thought it may be, it’s still the only watercourse I’ve ever had on a property, and I think it is pretty cool.  The neighbor’s side of the creek is littered with big, picturesque boulders, but our side was definitely lacking in the stone category.  As a result, the second part of my stone-digging project has involved rolling, flipping, or carrying the stones I’ve excavated over to the creekside, to better frame the stream.  I’ve also been working at clearing out the accumulated branches and other debris that has clogged the creek and interfered with the flow of the water.  It’s pretty clear that nobody has paid much attention to it for years.

The goal is to make the creek look more like a waterway and less like a damp spot in the yard.  It’s still a work in progress.

Dig It

My project this week is focused on digging.  Our “down yard” — the part of the yard that spills down a steep slope in the direction of Stonington’s harbor — is choked with granite rocks.  Some are enormous looming crags, big enough that you can lean your shovel against them, some are man-sized boulders, and some are just barely peeking out of the ground.

The problem with all of the rocks is that they make the down yard impossible to mow.  As a result, it has become choked with weeds.  Our yard guy told me that if we can mow the area down low enough, it will kill the broad-leaf weeds, which he says aren’t hardy enough to withstand two or three successive very short clippings.  Grass, on the other hand, is more robust, he says; it will survive the repeated chopping and will quickly move into the void left by the killed-off weeds.  The result will be a nice grassy area among the jutting boulders.

I have no idea whether this is true or not, but his comment produced this project.  The goal is to dig out the smaller, movable rocks so that a lawnmower can navigate between the remaining big boys and do its weed-killing job.

Digging out stones is happily mindless work.  You don your work gloves to avoid blisters, take your shovel, and start chopping away at the soil around the exposed rock, trying to find an edge.  When you do, you use the shovel like a lever, to see if the rock is even movable.  Some are obviously too huge to move.  But if the rock looks to be reasonably movable, you keep at it, digging away and working the rock loose, until you can wedge it out of its resting place and roll or carry it away, clearing a path for next year’s mowing.  Sometimes you need to use additional ersatz tools, like two-by-fours, to brace up a big rock until you can lever it out of the hole — so the work also appeals to the keen tool-making interests of homo sapiens.

So far, I’ve dug and moved out dozens of rocks, large and small, causing Kish to question my sanity and rocky obsessiveness.  What am I doing with them, you ask?  I’ll address that in a future post.

 

Hot Sleep, Cold Sleep

Sometimes you wonder if the federal government consciously does things to make you think it’s out of touch with reality.  Here’s one recent example:  the federal Energy Star program, which is jointly run by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency, has come out with recommendations on how to operate your themostat during the hot spring and summer months.

setting-thermostat-82According to Energy Star, during spring and summer you should set your central air conditioning thermostat to 78 degrees when you are at home.  If you’re not going to be at home, you should set the temperature to 85.  And when you’re sleeping, you should set the temperature to 82 degrees — or higher.  That’s right — 82 degrees.  And, just in case you can’t make basic, practical decisions without federal government instruction, Energy Star also recommends opening the windows on cool nights to let cool air into your house, and closing the windows during the day so hot air doesn’t invade the premises.

According to Energy Star, every additional degree at which you set your thermostat produces a three percent decrease in your utility bill.  No doubt that is true — but has anyone at the Energy Star program actually tried to get a good night’s sleep in a house where the thermostat is set at a sweltering 82 degrees?  The quality of my sleep is directly tied to the temperature of the room where I’m sleeping.  If it’s above 69 degrees, I’m going to be spending a miserable night tossing and turning in hot, swampy sheets.  If it’s 69 or below — as occurs in Maine, where we don’t even have air conditioning and instead open the windows and sleep in delightful cool breezes — I’m much more likely to sleep soundly.  Trying to sleep in the Energy Star recommended 82-degree room would be a nightmare — except I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep to have the nightmare in the first place.

I can’t imagine trying to sleep in 82 degrees, or coming home to a house that where the internal temperature is 85 degrees, or higher.  It seems to me that enjoying the coolness, and getting a good night’s sleep in the process, is the whole point of air conditioning.  So thanks for the tips, Energy Star, but I’ll nix the 82-degree sleep setting, because to me a good night’s sleep is easily worth the additional utility bill cost.  In fact, I’m willing to pay just about anything for a few hours of uninterrupted, cool, peaceful slumber.

TV On Wheels

Yesterday I flew home through an airport in Anytown, U.S.A.  As I walked from one concourse to another to get to the gate for my connection, I passed a woman pushing a stroller.  In the stroller, a little girl — who was probably about four years old — was watching her own little TV and had headphones on so her enjoyment of the program wasn’t disturbed by the surrounding hubbub.  She was oblivious to everything except what was happening on her nifty pink device.

It struck me as an interesting parenting choice.  Going to a modern airport has got to be a cool, interesting experience for a kid.  There’s a lot going on — bright lights, brisk movement, diverse shops and signs, announcements, unknown people, different languages — that would help a child to understand that it is a big world out there with many things to see and understand.  In short, it’s a learning experience.  And if your kid has lived a sheltered life, being pushed through an airport concourse under the watchful eye of Mom is a pretty good, and safe, way to be introduced to the bigger picture.

But this particular little girl was missing out on all of that.  She was in her own lworld, watching a TV program that she had probably seen multiple times already and plugged into her headphones, oblivious to pretty much everything that was going on around her.

In fairness to the Mom, maybe the little girl was exhausted and on the verge of a tantrum, and the path of least resistance was to let her watch her program until she fell asleep. avoiding a full-blown airport meltdown.  If so, that’s a parenting choice that the other travelers, myself included, would applaud.  But it’s also possible that for this little girl, with her very nifty portable TV screen, watching TV programs rather than the world passing by is the default approach whenever she gets into the stroller, whether her mood is good or bad.

We’ve read a lot lately about younger people feeling disconnected, unsatisfied, and at times depressed by the on-line, TV/computer screen world in which they spend so much time.  Maybe the answer is to take away the TV and let kids have a bit more interaction with the real world and the real people in it.  A stroller ride through a busy, bustling airport seems like a pretty good place to start with a device-free approach.

 

Hiking The Tennis

This week Russell, Betty, and I took a hike on the Edgar Tennis Preserve — one of the nicest trails in Stonington. You can walk on the rim of the peninsula, getting a chance to explore the shoreline and some of the tidal areas, or choose one of the trails the cross the peninsula and take you inland through piney forest and meadow.

Whichever way you go, you’ll enjoy lots of fresh air, some beautiful views, interesting colors — particularly at low tide, as it was when we visited — and exposure to some of the diverse ecosystems found on Deer Isle. There are lots of good hikes on Deer Isle, and the Tennis Preserve is one of the best.