Wednesday, October 15, 2014

farmhouse in autumn

I've mentioned before that my family has a farmhouse up in Vermont. We spent time there most summers when I was a kid, and this time introduced us little desert rats to humidity, mosquitoes, black flies, the concept of it not cooling down at night, and the outhouse in the barn which was clearly the origin point for all the earwigs in the world. Although the forests were excellent for games of Robin Hood, everything else about the place was ill-suited to a child whose idea of heaven was her other grandparents' house, at which children were encouraged - nay, expected - to sit silently in the giant soft armchairs and read all day.

As an adult, I mostly put up with going there because it was where extended family congregated, and because the bathroom finally functioned. I started to have some fondness for the ancient wooden floors, and to worry less that the ceiling was going to fall on me in my sleep (ironic, given that the ceiling is probably more likely to fall on someone now than it was thirty years ago), but my visits there were always about the people, not the place.

Berowne fell in love with the property the moment he set eyes on it. The house is his idea of perfection: enough work to keep him busy for quite a while, but with solid and charmingly shabby bones. And the land! The opportunities for gardens! The barns full of ancient tools! He probably married me for the place. (Kidding! He married me because I got pregnant.)

We started talking about spending some time up there in the fall, and this year managed to make it happen, getting in just under the wire before it was shut up for the winter. We piled as much of our household as would fit into a small car and headed north (if you ever find that merely adding a baby to a road trip doesn't slow you down enough, I can recommend including a dog too neurotic to be left alone in the car at rest areas), and eventually arrived at a cold dark house possibly full of bats and I freaked out and started calculating how much coffee I'd need to get my child and dog back safely to Boston that night. Then Berowne got a fire going in the kitchen stove and all was well. If he had to evict multiple bat squatters, he didn't tell me.

The weekend that followed was utterly lovely. Nights were cold, but Berowne got up every few hours to feed the stove, and having Perdita snuggled into bed with us was fine except for my realization that co-sleeping past the age when babies are helpless swaddled potatoes is for parents with the ability to sleep through being punched in the face. But since we didn't have to do anything with our days but sit in a cozy kitchen, wander around the gorgeous property, hang out with our Vermont friends who were able to come visit, and nap occasionally, pugilistic nights were acceptable. I got a fair amount of reading done, and Perdita wore some seriously adorable hats. Monday morning, packing up under an overcast sky with the leaves suddenly falling fast and hard, we both wished we could batten down for the winter and stay.

Never mind that a lot of work would have to go into the house to make it habitable through winter. Never mind things like finding jobs up there and the state requirement that we buy a Subaru. You have to admit that if I, who am definitely a suburban mouse used to a certain amount of comfort and not-bats, was suddenly living in rural Vermont restoring an old farmhouse, that it would make a hell of a blog. And I probably wouldn't even die, because Berowne knows what he's doing! Together we could make it through anything, barring the bathroom plumbing failing. Shudder.

Ah well. These are the dreams that drive you out to whatever version of Walden Pond you can find, when the commute from day care to work feels longer every day* and your neighbors are building a giant house on your already-cramped little street. Almost everyone in my family has dreamed about living there at some point: my brother and his partner make it their summer retreat for about six weeks every year. It's a good spot, and I'm glad I can finally see that.

The reading I've done lately:

Riveted, by Maljean Brook. The third, and the one I liked best by far, in her romance steampunk series. Set in Iceland, with mechanical contraptions that don't feel gratuitous, and a likable hero and heroine who are, remarkably for romance novels, emphatically non-white. (Although Brook features characters of color and mixed race a lot, which I like.)

Any Duchess Will Do, by Tessa Dare. Slight romance novel in a Pygmalion vein. I like Dare in general, but couldn't warm to this one's heroine, who loses her rustic accent in something like half an hour of tutoring and goes on impossibly from there.

The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling). Mystery with no characters I really liked. I have no way to compare this to Rowling's other writings, because I never got farther than a quarter into the first Harry Potter book. The pre-Hogwarts stuff I liked, because it's very Roald Dahl, but once he got to Hogwarts I became bored to tears. Anyway, won't be checking out the rest of Rowling's books for adults either. 

Haunted Ground, by Erin Hart. This gets an emphatic meh. So much clumsy infodumping about archaeology that would insult any listener who ever watched "In Search of the Trojan War", let alone one who's supposed to be a brilliant fellow academic, but of course when our hero does it it's supposed to be all kinds of sexy and our heroine (the aforementioned brilliant academic) sits there wide-eyed instead of being like, "Dude, keep up the mansplaining and you're getting a trowel to the balls." 

The Claverings, by Anthony Trollope. Didn't like it. Our hero just doesn't deserve any of his good fortune, including the two nasty people between him and an inheritance going on a conveniently doomed yachting trip (though I laughed and laughed when it became apparent that's what was going to happen - very Kind Hearts and Coronets).

May you all have bright autumn weather and places to batten down in when the leaves fall.

*It IS longer every day, because it goes through Salem, which becomes impassable during the month of October. It will ease up a little come November.


  1. Actually I thought the second Not!Rowling mystery was better than the first one, and I enjoyed it a lot, except for a HORRIFIC corpse-discovery scene. But it was fun.

    Every time you pop up in my feed I think, delighted, "There she is!" and there you were in VT, with your husband and baby being happy. In my feed. That was awesome.

    1. Every time you pop up in my feed I think, delighted, "There she is!"

      Aw, yay! That made my day.

    2. I would recommend that you not read the second Rowling mystery. It is better than the first, but there is a suffering dog.