See the California drought in seconds


When my husband and I traveled to visit family in California this summer, the drought was evident in their every day lives as short shower times were requested and dishes were washed with great efficiency.

Matt Stevens from the LA Times reports that the most recent four year drought has left many bodies of water significantly drier. He states that Shasta Lake in Redding, California has levels that are down 59% from normal, Lake Oroville in Butte County is down 48%, and Folsom Lake near Sacramento is down 32%.

The drought has been drying up the state for years, but you can see Folsom Lake shrivel in seconds in this incredible time lapse and watch Shasta Lake shrink in the blink of an eye thanks to imaging from NASA.

We just had several days of rain in Vermont with some areas getting 6 inches. Flood warnings abound. What a crazy world we live in.


The part-time tiny house


The romantic notions of tiny house living can be quite captivating. You think of the simplicity of it all, the coziness, the opportunity to have everything work together with clear purpose, and the cost savings. Then you realize that despite how much fun you think you’d have designing or perhaps building your humble abode from a kit with your own sweat and elbow grease, it challenges for full time living are many. Heating? Plumbing? Electricity? Guest space? Personal time on the toilet? And where would you put all your gear? Why is simplifying so overwhelming? As much as all this simplifying is a healthy goal, perhaps some of the extreme examples of minimalist living can be most helpful to us as inspiration and motivation to get part way there. Even if we can’t shrink our full time lives, maybe we can still get the benefit of solitude, slowing down, and being deliberate in our actions with a part time tiny home – a room, a fort, a shelter, a plot where you can have full control and leave the chaos of your 9 to 5, your errands, sorting the mail, or clicking through another ebill. Maybe it will lead to something more and by that I mean less, but for now it can be a commitment to yourself.

We’ve turned our sugarhouse into somewhat of a part-time tiny house. It’s 16’x16′ and with our procrastination in purchasing our first sugar arch to boil sap into syrup with a couple years ago we got a much smaller system than originally planned. This has allowed us much more room than originally planned as well. And so we’ve added books, benches and, when we’re not boiling, a futon. Our home is simple, but this is even simpler. We play games by lantern light, surprisingly powerful and almost blinding if you look right at it. We warm ourselves by the fire crackling in the sugaring arch. We sleep in silence but at the same time the hum of nature still spins around us as the wind and the leaves toss and turn, the birds and the rodents travel the forest floor and skirt along bark and worn stone, and the creek runs swiftly, carrying with its sediment the stories of its former path. Even if you can’t do it full time, do it part time.

Take an old potting shed, a storage shed, a child’s playhouse, maybe an old camper, and make it into a miniature minimalist space. It can be a place to just sit, a place to do hobbies, a place to read, a place make your favorite music or to do nothing at all. Say you don’t have land, you don’t have access to these structures – take hold of one room in your home and make it a place where you’ll feel the freedom of control by removing the technology, the screens, the beeps and rings, and don’t feel one bit bad about it.

a pallet shed

-“the rock bottom”

airy backyard shelter

readymade bungalow

No more dog days of summer?

The days are shorter and certainly, as I drove to a trail race with temperatures in the high 40’s and a cool rain spitting from the sky this morning, colder.  On our dog walk this evening, noses (human noses, that is) were pink with the chill.

Here are a couple dog things to check out as we transition to fall:

Loki the Wolf Dog – Have you seen this dog? Amazing! Beautiful! His Instagram and Tumblr feeds? Amazing! Beautiful! And see his snowy adventure film below because sooner than we’d like to think there will be snow for us to play in, too. Seems as though canine segments should be included in all Warren Miller, Matchstick, and Meathead Films of the future.

Denali – Seeing the recent press on Loki reminded me of Denali. Ben Moon’s dog Denali was a loyal companion and friend through many adventures and even through Moon’s 2004 diagnosis and treatment for cancer. Another Ben, Ben Knight, helped to create this  award winning and touching tribute (from Denali’s point of view) to the bond between a man and his dog – a true friendship.

and finally Phoebe and Tillie – NPR shares the recent rescue of Phoebe the bassett hound thanks to her friend Tillie the Irish setter spaniel mix who live on Vashon Island in Washington.

Hey, this makes the Pacific Crest Trail look easy!

A 3 minute video takes you along on the 2,660 mile Pacific Crest Trail. While admittedly it’s only showing a second of film from each day of hiking, when I compare these seconds to how things might look on most trails in the East…the PCT = possible cake walk!? I’m sure the thousands of folks who are hiking it, especially with inspiration from Wild in recent years disagree, but it’s a nice video to watch and dream of tame trails and sweet scenery.

p.s. I forgot about the mountain lions. I’ll take eroded Eastern rock and root please.

The perfect breakfast for dinner: ham and cheese waffles


The perfect sweet and salty. The perfect “what do we have in the fridge?” meal. The perfect breakfast for dinner (or breakfast for breakfast). Ham and cheese waffles take the usual breakfast fare and make them an extra hearty meal. I don’t really have a recipe for this. Just make it!

  1. Start with waffle batter – my husband makes the one we use off the top of his head, but if I had to make one, I would go to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and use that one.
  2. Cut up the ham – taking deli ham and chopping it up works well because it’s already nice and thin.
  3. Shred or grate or cut or shave the cheese – we use cheddar, nice and sharp. I found myself in a house without a cheese grater the other night and used a peeler to get the cheese thinly pieced so it would melt well.
  4. Pour the batter into your waffle maker as usual.
  5. Sprinkle ham and cheese on top of the batter to taste.
  6. Close the waffle maker and cook as usual making sure not to attempt taking the waffle out too early as you want it to brown a little bit and cook the cheese so it will release well from the iron.
  7. Add maple syrup on top if you’d like (I like). Make a side if you so choose.
  8. Nom nom nom nom. You’re welcome!
    *****Switch out ham and cheese for anything you’d like – turkey, broccoli, pepperoni, onions, etc. Maybe not tomatoes or anything too wet, but it’s a great platform for emptying the fridge or perhaps the garden.

    P.S. This just in – Mark Bittman is no longer writing for the New York Times.

Cleaning advice for problems you’d rather not have



Cleaning is rarely fun, but reading about it can be.  Jolie Kerr can help with relatively common and frequently talked about cleaning issues with things like her Laundry School where she reviews types of washers and cycles, detergents and fabric softener (she says don’t use it) but Kerr also has a knack for cleaning the less talked about items and areas (yes, she helps with dirty people, too). Her hilarious hints for pit stainssmelly bathroomsFifty Shades of Grey messeskeeping a frat house cleanthe ol’ fridge and microwave, and the always challenging hockey gear will provide you with valuable information and entertainment.

Kerr’s book is My Boyfriend Barfed in my Handbag…and Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha.

You can listen to NPR’s 2014 interview with her here.

Various sites around the web feature cleaning columns by Kerr, but for the most up to date and complete collection, including her “Ask a Clean Person” podcasts, go here.

An Awfulizer Goes Camping…Alone

I was nervous as I passed the sign reading “Hazen’s Notch Camp 0.1mi” and turned off Vermont’s Long Trail toward the shelter. Tonight was an experiment. Along with the shelter, a man with very short or very receding (or maybe both) hair came into view. “Oh, well that’s good, I’m not alone,” I thought to myself then quickly realized, “Oh, no, I’m not alone.” The gentleman, likely in his 40’s, was getting himself settled in front of the shelter with his stove, a mug, and a pot for dinner preparations. We said brief hellos and he asked if I was “staying in here tonight?” I replied that I wasn’t sure yet (I was 99.9% sure that I would not be staying in the shelter with him that night) and went inside to check out the trail log. A variety of notes, illustrations, warnings, and gratitudes filled the white lined pages as I flipped through them. I was comforted by all the people who have been here before me. They had survived. I think. Most likely. Probably.


My new camping companion asked me where I had come from and I informed him of my arrival from Route 58 just 1.6 miles from the shelter. Then I shared with him that Continue reading