OFF ON A TANGENT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Tangent

The tangent is a line that touches a curve or curved surface at a point, but if extended does not cross it. It’s also the line between the two arms of an equilateral triangle. How it came to also mean in common speech a completely different line of thought or action., or as we like to say, “a digression,” no one knows. I’m pretty sure most people have no idea what the word originally meant unless they are in fifth grade and learning the rudiments of geometry. I actually did very well in geometry — the only math course that didn’t lose me the first day in class. At least I could see what you might use it for. It was very useful when I was trying to measure the floor of my tepee.

A digression or tangent coming right up.

Tepees look round, but are more “egg-shaped.” It has to do with the positioning of poles. This is a bit of a measurement conundrum, so you have to visualize in segments and measure each, then add them together. You have to put a tepee on a deep layer of gravel to encourage drainage, but gravel is not comfortable. So one puts layers of coverings inside until it’s soft and cozy. I used an indoor-outdoor rug at the base and that piece needed to fit the tepee closely.

That is when everything I’d learned in geometry got used for the one and only time in my life, not counting sailing and figuring out how to configure the sail to the wind. One wet finger didn’t do it for me (second digression). Geometry let me figure out how big a rug I’d need before trimming. If you have enough money, you can buy all of this stuff, but we were shoe-stringing the project. Other than the canvas and instructions, it was a project of (for us) epic proportions.

More tepee construction

In a bigger tepee, (I would have liked a big one and could have gotten a huge one for free if I could acquire the poles), poles are not easy to come by. Buying them was not expensive, but trucking them across the U.S. from Washington to Massachusetts cost more than the entire project times five. Maybe more.

We don’t live in an area of lodge-pole pines. Our trees, while sturdy, are all whorls, kinks, and miscellaneous lumps. You don’t know how truly crooked a sapling is until you try to turn it into a lodge-pole. Moreover, for obvious reasons, the bigger the tepee, the bigger the poles need to be — and you also need a lot more poles. It was difficult enough finding 18 poles for a small tepee. 27 poles of twice the height? Not likely.

We never had a properly smooth tepee because oak and sassafras won’t produce straight poles, no matter how much you trim them. They stay lumpy. Moreover, we have no flat land and it turns out, you can’t build a tepee that is going to stand more than overnight without a flat piece of ground under it. If it’s a temporary overnight construction (say something to stay in while you’re hunting), you can slapdash it together, but if you want to live in it, flat ground is a mandate.

Thus we had to create a flat piece of ground. We built what (had it been surrounded on three sides with water), a peninsula of land poking into the woods off the back west corner of the yard. That’s where our land drops off from sloping and dives down about eight feet, then slopes for another few hundred feet, after which it drops off another dozen feet. After which there is a flat area.

But we could not get there on foot without felling a dozen or more big red oaks and bringing in a plow to create a path. Even inside the flat area, there was a mighty oak in its center which would have caused construction issues.

Owen designed our spit of land. Our construction crew — Owen and Garry — determined that a 12-foot teepee was about as much as they could manage. Owen designed it with old railroad ties (from an old railroad … there were a lot of them and those ties are as close to eternal as any wood product could be) as the walls. The guys then filled it with dirt and sand. It was then covered with a dump-truck full of gravel, all of which had to be hauled down one wheelbarrow at a time from the top of the driveway to the edge of the woods.

Owen and Garry grew very muscular that summer.

All of this was followed by painting (my job). I had grand plans but eventually settled on painting the door flap, with an exterior of a buffalo headdress and an interior that was all our hand-prints. I copied the design from pictures. It came out better than I expected.

From the rear of the teepee, the day is ending in mid Autumn.

I would have liked to paint the whole thing, but once it was up, it stood more than 18 feet high I designed an interior cover for insulation. By this point, I was on my own, but it was fun. I also built a fire pit and learned to get the fire blazing in under three minutes. When it’s mid-winter in New England, getting that fire roaring fast is important because after that, your hands are frozen and you can’t manage the matches. The fire was big for the 12-foot tepee but it was super cozy.

The tepee was completed and dedicated in October. For five years afterward, we had the coldest, snowiest winters anyone remembered. Many evenings I spent with a blazing fire, sitting by the open flap because the tepee sometimes (often) got a bit sauna-like Sitting in the doorway watching the snowfall with the fire behind me was everything for which I had hoped.

The tepee stood for six years, all year round, after which it came down because the poles began to rot. Also, a bobcat had moved in and had a litter of kittens there. She did not want to leave. Still, it was a great five years, pre-bobcat.

So now, you’ve gotten the tangent as geometry plus a tangent as a digression. In one post! And welcome to the tepee.

BRIGHT HIGHWAYS #14 – Marilyn Armstrong

Bright highways

The road goes ever on and on …

We are forever on the road. Local road, railroad, highway, byway.  Some golden roads seem to exist just to remind us that the world is sometimes better than it has been lately.

On the way home …

The road by a stone fence

BIRDS DU JOUR AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

I have good days and bad ones for bird photography. Some days, the birds decide I’m okay, so I get pictures. Other days, they decide my camera is a gun and I’m going to shoot them. The last couple of days have been pretty good. Also, I improved the food. The same food I used to feed them. There is no high-quality cheap birdseed. Sometimes you get lucky (there’s a sale somewhere), but usually, it costs a lot more than seems reasonable.

Nuthatch and Frog

This picture of the Nuthatch and the Frog was a bit dark, but not out of focus. I thought it would look good in monochrome. Then I added a bit of graphic treatment to brighten it up. I really like the way it came out!

Vertical Goldfinch

Goldfinch in the air and another on the feeder

Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker sharing a bit of lunch

Freefall for a Goldfinch. These little birds like to play and do some exciting, fun flying

Fluttering Goldfinches and a Rose-breasted Titmouse

Of all of the birds, the most fun to watch are the little birds: the Chickadees and various finches. They don’t take off from the feeder. They fall off, only opening their wings just before they hit the ground. They also fall out of the trees and are inches from crashing when they finally open their wings. Owen says they used to roll off his barn roof and fall until right before they hit the ground.

Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker

It can’t be accidental, either. They obviously have fun flying, so when they aren’t raiding a feeder, they like freefalling from trees and railings. Do they have to dare each other? Are there prizes for those who get closest to the ground?

Photobombing woodpecker?

The previous picture was funny. There were two Goldfinches on the finch feeder, but this nosy Downy Woodpecker wanted to see if maybe there was something delicious for her to eat. Mind you the holes in this feeder are too small for a bird of her size. I’m pretty sure it’s a girl because she has no red patch on her head and she also looks like she’s carrying around a few eggs.

Portrait of a hungry Goldfinch

SPRING IN THE VALLEY – CEE’S FUN FOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Spring Scenes and flowers of the day

We don’t have much of a spring season here. It tends to stay cold until suddenly in May, the leaves pop out of the trees and everything blooms during one, sunny midday. The process takes just a few hours. It’s amazing. One year, it was winter when we went into the grocery and summer when we came out.

Autumn to winter can be like that too. Garry and I went out for lunch in Boston wearing tee-shirts and shorts,. Two hours later, we came out and it was near freezing, We ran home — which, fortunately, wasn’t very far.

We do get spring flowers, though. And birds. I hope that will count because otherwise, I’m just out of luck!

Harbinger of spring – our purple crocuses

Columbine

More yellow daffodils

The Goldfinch turning bright yellow for mating season.

Spring along the river

Our last Tulip.

More bright Goldfinch

Baby oak leaves and a very blue sky

Along the fence, Forsythia flowers

And the House Finch turns brighter too

Spring on the Mumford River

Solomon’s Seal

Springtime on the Commons