Crystal Lake, Manchester, New Hampshah, May 2012.
We’ve had an uncharacteristically warm winter here in Upper Cryogenica. There was a surprise early snowstorm in October, and then…pretty much nothing. A few minor storms kept refreshing the snow layer in the backyard and maintaining it at sledding levels, but we totally missed out on the regular northern New England rock-‘em-sock-‘em, six-inches-of-snow-every-day-for-two-weeks type of storms.
It’s mid-March right now, and the snow has been melting for weeks. This is what the Castle looks like at present:
And the grounds in front of the portcullis:
And our road, being a dirt road, looks like this right now.
The town road crews are valiantly leveling the road and pouring gravel into the worst spots, but it’s warm, the glop is deep, and every time something heavier than a Smart Car drives down the road, there are ruts in it again deep enough to lose a herd of cattle in.
Robin’s Forester has been braving the mud heroically. (It’s about a mile to the nearest pavement.) My Grand Caravan has not yet had to face that challenge, but this afternoon, I have to spend my Dadcation over at the car place to get the leak in the AC system fixed. If you don’t hear from me again, send out some Navy Seahawks with dipping sonar.
We had friends over on Saturday. There was some truly excellent chili, some 15-year-old single malt Scotch, and some ballistic recreation with various devices.
One of those devices was my friend’s Desert Eagle in .50AE. We shot up a sheet metal mailbox, and I’m here to tell you that if you ever get charged by a roving pack of feral mailboxes, the .50 Desert Eagle will do the job just fine. The gun is completely impractical for defense, too expensive to plink with on a regular basis, and good for nothing but handgun hunting and Having A Blast At The Range. (Of course, “because I want one” is a totally legitimate reason for buying one, and all the justification a free adult needs for the purchase of anything.)
At one point, I decided to try it one-handed:
Disclaimer: The Scotch was consumed after the handling of firearms, hearing and eye protection was used at all times, the backstop was completely safe, and the mailbox had it coming. (Unless you’re mikeb3000000n+1, in which case the targets were defenseless minority baby seals held up by frightened first-graders, hearing protection is for Commies and queers, we were completely drunk and wearing Nazi uniforms, and the backstop was a kindergarten playground at recess time.)
Oh yeah, we also had a bonfire with a ten-foot brush pile I had in the backyard waiting for the first snow to cover the ground. Propane torches are big, dirty fun for getting a very hot fire going very quickly.
Propane torches, good food, great company, fine Scotch, and powerful firearms. What better way to spend an afternoon?
Went for a drive yesterday and had to stop and take a few shots. The juxtaposition of the fresh snow and the fall foliage was just too pretty.
The scene at Castle Frostbite this morning. Lovely, innit?
Our county has an old railway trail that has been repurposed as a recreational path by a volunteer organization. It’s in use all year–you can walk, run, or ride your bike in the summer, and use it in the winter for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. The path stretches through most of the county and runs along rivers and through towns. Motor vehicles aren’t allowed, so it’s a great place for taking a walk or exercising without having to watch for traffic, and the scenery is lovely. The trail runs within two or three miles of our house, so I can go out there easily any time I feel like stretching my legs and clearing my head.
Yesterday, I went for a walk along the stretch of it that goes through Enfield proper and along the shore of Mascoma Lake. I now have a way to take spur-of-the-moment pictures and videos any time I want, so I took a few shots. It was already close to dusk, but the camera in the iPhone did pretty well.
You could say we don’t have pretty autumns up here in the 603, but then I’d have to call you a lying liar who lies.
(All taken with the camera on the iPhone 4, which takes better pictures than my old dedicated point-‘n-shoot jobbie.)
It’s October! That’s my favorite month of the year for various reasons.
It’s New England autumn, which is the best place and season combination anywhere. The first frosts of the year kill off the last of the bugs, and there are falling leaves and pumpkins and long drives on country roads through forests that are so bright with color, it’s like nature showing off its entire sixteen trillion Pantone shades available in PlanetShop Pro. We have the pellet stove going (the dogs greatly approve), there’s apple cider in the fridge, and the farm stand out on 4A has those little homemade cider donuts that are terribly easy to eat by the dozen.
Then there’s my birthday at the end of the month, of course.
I was a bit ambiguous about this one, being the big four-oh and all. But the other day I was talking to an old friend from Germany, and I mentioned that I was dreading the 40th just a little. I mean, it’s the onset of middle age, and I don’t even have the cash yet for the Corvette I’m supposed to be buying for my midlife crisis, and how am I supposed to cruise up and down the street in front of the all-girls college with a dirty minivan that has old McDonald’s fries permanently incorporated in the interior?
Well, my friend recently lost his sister to cancer. She was a year younger than I am now. We lived on the same street, so we knew each other pretty well, although I hadn’t seen or spoken to her in fifteen years or so. She left behind a husband and two daughters that are barely teenagers. When I told him about dreading my 40th birthday a bit, he cut right through my silly little bout of self-pity.
"Don’t," he said. "Be happy instead. My sister would have loved to turn 40."
And you know what? He’s absolutely right. There’s not a damn thing wrong with my life. I have an awesome wife and two healthy and happy kids, we have food in the fridge, the bills get paid, the house is ours, and I get to do what I’ve always wanted to do with my life. (Actually, I suspect writing is the only thing I’m fit for, seeing how I’m not a huge fan of manual labor and the thought of returning to corporate Cubicleville makes me break out in hives.)
So bring it on, 40. I’m looking forward to the next decade. If things keep falling into place like they have in my Thirties, my Forties are going to kick major ass.
Team Munchkin Wrangler went to Lincoln, NH this weekend to attend the 2011 NH Scottish Highland Games. For those who have no idea what that is, the Highland Games are a loud celebration of All Things Scottish: caterwauling bagpipes, cask-strength single malt Scotch, men in wee skirts, and delicacies made from the animal parts most other cultures reject as unfit for human consumption.
We had tickets for the Laphroaig Scotch tasting, which was easily the highlight of my weekend, but all the other stuff was neat as well. Here are some snapshots:
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Pipe & Drums, basically the varsity of bagpipe teams.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire, doing their best to approximate the Scottish Highlands, only with more trees and tax-free liquor.
The kids, doing their now-traditional annual ride up the mountain in the resort ski lift gondola.
Your humble correspondent (on the right) in a kilt. The tartan is MacMillan (ancient), and the kilt is a loaner. Next year, I’ll go to the ball in my own kilt, which will be the lovely New Hampshire state tartan.
That “Cask Strength” single malt is quite possibly one of the crowning achievements of human ingenuity.
When we got home earlier today, it was cool enough to fire up the pellet stove. The dogs are currently celebrating the recurring annual ritual of The Lighting Of The Warm Cozy Red Thing.
And just in case you’re still wondering what kind of stuff one watches at the Highland Games, here’s a brief iPhone video I took of the RCMP Pipes & Drums doing what they do.
Well, the storm has passed. The roads are pretty bad, especially out here in the dirt road outskirts of Upper Cryogenica, so Robin had a bit of trouble finding a route home that wasn’t blocked.
The Castle…well, look at this harrowing image of utter devastation:
Rebuilding will begin tomorrow morning…and end about two minutes later. We have a little bit of water in the garage, and one of the windows is a little leaky, but that’s the extent of it. We never even lost power. (Not that I’m complaining, mind you.)