en route to the longest night

i’m really enjoying chore wars. you get to make up the monsters that can attack you while you’re engaged with your adventures. the treasure, too. i just vanquished a mysterious night noise.

this is an online role-playing game that signed us up for. your adventures are household tasks that you input yourself, along with the XP and gold that each is worth, and the various character traits (which have little enough resemblance to their actual English meanings that i remain somewhat mystified about that part). this is the first roleplaying game i’ve ever participated in, but i’m liking it. you do the vacuuming in real life and get points for it in the game. and maybe have to slay a monster to do it.

i’m also really enjoying this protein shake i just made myself—3 scoops of whey (’cause i haven’t eaten since breakfast and i have been doing heavy labor all afternoon and i deserve enough protein to make good on that), two small bananas, handful of frozen cherries, a glug of eggnog, a shake of hot cocoa powder, and enough (whole, local) milk to make it liquid. tasty. not a complete substitute for dinner, but i’m no longer crazy with hunger.

whole milk by itself, while considerably better than 2%, still does not measure up to whole goat’s milk. that was kind of a relief, really. given how much i don’t like cows. and her mom had gone down the street and bought a whole bunch of milk from Rasband Dairy, our almost-neighors. it’s available for retail sale, and therefore pasteurized & homogenized, to the probable detriment of its flavour. i would like to find out if they pasture their cows or keep them penned, though—i hope they’re pastured. at any rate, it’s as local as one can get without the bother of owning the cow. they then took this locally-produced bounty and improved upon it by making a whole lot of soft cheese. it’s incredibly tasty. i had three slices of toast and new-made cheese with spinach for dinner last night.

it took a while to get moving this morning, but once i started, i got a lot done. swept the livingroom and abused the rugs; both much greener now, a film of cathair and yardmud having been transferred back into the driveway. shifted some of the pile-o-stuff from the front yard to the barn/recycling/shed as needed.

then i painted the porch eave, which i’ve been wanting to do since we bought the house. now it’s white, instead of exposed OSB. next step, getting the house numbers up there. (long-term goal [after weather is nice enough that painting ≠ frozen fingers], paint a sunflower up there.) then i set up my yurt roof–just the roof, not the whole yurt–and wrestled the canvas roof over it with ‘s help, and made the final adjustments to the canvas so that except for grommets, it’s ready to set up. while i was under the roof, bad news fell: three MAJOR cracks in the hub. all along seams, of course. mendable, but my skill set for this is really untried. i found the wood glue, and two large clamps, and decking screws and the power drill—aside from actual expertise, i know that’s what i’ll need to fix it. i don’t have any clear idea how to clamp it properly after the glue is in, though. i do know that i have less glue than i’d like for this big a project. but the hub falling on my head is SO not in the plan. and i still want to set the yurt up on the 24th. so i’m going to scrutinize it again, and get some advice from Matt & Don on how to fix it. i have a whole week, though there’s work and the Solstice ceremony in there. hopefully the time will work out. i’m really yearning for the yurt.

so, upset with the cracks and feeling unable to deal with it without getting some advice from experienced woodworkers, i took the roof apart again, then grabbed my pruning saw and hedge-clippers and headed for the ritual grounds. that was around three this afternoon. i made a VERY SERIOUS dent in those elms. mostly it’s a matter of clearing dead and down branches out of the area, and i did a whole hell of a lot of that. but i also started on the scrub elms in the center of the ritual circle and sawed off probably 15 little clumps of them, of varying sizes. i worked until well after sundown, hauling ancient dry cottonwood branches out from under the leaf-loam and dragging or carrying them across the bridge to a new pile (sufficiently out of the way that we needn’t deal with it before the party on the 31st, though at some point i’m sure “coping with ninety seven scattered wood piles” will get higher on our collective list. i may get motivated to organize and chop it them once i’m sleeping in a wood-heated tent. it is COLD out there). :)

there’s more dragging of deadwood left to be done, and plenty more wanton destruction of elms, and a lot of digging-up of elm root balls. i mostly cut them off 3-6″ above ground, so all the former elms are now tripping hazards, but the space is visually and energetically open. given that the ground consists of solid 8-12″ of leaf loam and sticks before you reach an approximation of solid soil, there’s plenty of raking left to do, too. those leaves are wonderful. i covet them for the compost as well as for the soil where they are. one more day of sawing up elms and dragging branches will do it–i put in three hours this afternoon, and did what i estimate to be half of the chopping and dragging, given that we’re leaving the outer ring of elms in place as a privacy screen until we can replace them with fruit trees, starting this Spring. we’ll definitely be ready to do ceremony in there by Imbolc. not to mention Ostara. :)

and tomorrow Jeremy is coming back to finish the tree trimming he started last weekend. the house is out of danger, now, from his previous work. those trees haven’t had any attention in a really long time. i hope he’s able to get everything done tomorrow that we talked about. a couple branches over the utility lines, and then the work on the Grandmother Cottonwood. hanging out back there this afternoon, watching that tree and then finally letting night fall around me while i sat in a crook of her enormous branches, i understood Jeremy’s hesitation about our desire to put a treehouse up there. there’s a lot of deadwood in that tree. it would be nice for all the dead to come out, and all the living remain, even if some of the living is rotting or might fall of its own–if we understand which branches are safe to put the treehouse in (where nothing will fall out from under us nor onto us from above), then we can do that there, and if a branch falls later, well, there are no houses back there to crush, only elms. i hope that the trimming can all be done tomorrow, and i suspect it’s quite a lot to ask of one day. :) we’ll be working on the deck all day—i am really hoping to finish it tomorrow. one layer on insulation, then screwing down all the surface boards, sanding to 100 grit, and the first coat of polyurethane—that’s my hope for tomorrow. i can put the second coat on Friday, and the third next Sunday, and set the yurt up Monday. that’s the plan, Mars in retrograde notwithstanding.

i’m multitasking on my slow net connection, writing this while i do other things…thus: “You stab the high wind for 6 damage. You defeat the high winds. It was guarding a sense of accomplishment and 23 gold coins.”

That was for painting the porch. i think some of what i’m liking about ChoreWars, besides amusing myself wiht text-battles with demons like “high winds” and “mysterious night noises” is that it helps me keep track of how much actual work i do. like i almost forgot already that i swept up this morning, even though we were talking about how much the room needed sweeping over breakfast. but this morning is a whole world away. earlier, the Mysterious Night Noise that i vanquished was guarding a sense of accomplishment. so i get that, too.


mostly from chopping elm trees and hefting foot-thick branches over my head. it is deeply satisfying to sit in that vaulted, leaf-lined clearing now, and look up at the ancient tree and the even more ancient sky, and let the sunset fade all around. crescent moon slipping among the black gnarled branches, and Vs of cranes flying overhead, each one raising her long staccato note, the whole a river of sound, pebbled water running through the sky. the watermelon mountain pinking up, running briefly magenta, and then fading, fading, to a gloaming pricked with stars.

last night i finally wrote the LongDance ritual for next week. this is very late of me, by my usual standards. now to find volunteers to recite the Rumi montage in the dark (okay, with discreet flashlights, in the wintry midnight forest, with a full moon). i thought about pulling together a new one, then went through the existing one in my head and realized there’s no reason it won’t work as well at Solstice as it did at Beltane. it’s about the sacred, much more than it is about the season. works for me. i wrote a whole bunch of other words about the season. :)

at any rate, it’s going to be good. now to get the shopping and real-life details squared away, so the whole event goes well. paper plates, oh, yeah. and potluck. candles, firewood, fortunes, offerings for the fire. good thing this is a small event, as these things go. my focus has not been on it. what with the yurt and the deck and all.

but DAMN it feels good to have opened up the ritual clearing. it’s a temple, the overarching branches knotted and thick against the sky, arcing in vaulted splendor towards the west. deep crunching softness of a hundred years of leaf loam underfoot, and all the life embodied in it. it came to us a sacred space, the only thing we’ve left to do is let it shape itselves through us.

(largely cross-posted to )